After some recent struggles, the Vancouver Canucks look like a team ready to be in the hunt for a wild card this season. Here’s everything you need to know about the the Canucks heading into the 2019-20 NHL season:
Despite some strong young offensive players, the Canucks were 26th in the NHL last season in goals per game (2.67). They’ve added some pop to their forward group and their defense corps in the offseason that should help address that. Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko can be a solid goaltending battery.
The pieces are starting to come together under one of the NHL’s best young coaches in Travis Green, but can the Canucks level up and contend for a playoff spot?
The biggest offseason news was the controversial signing of Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers to a five-year contract ($6 million average annual value) with a full no-move clause; that’s a big contract for a player who many feel didn’t warrant it. A better addition was the signing of dependable Jordie Benn for their bottom pairing.
Up front, the Canucks added some versatile players with offensive upside in Micheal Ferland (four-year deal with another no-move clause) and J.T. Miller, for whom they traded a first-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning. GM Jim Benning got forward Brock Boeser in on a good bridge deal ($5.875 million AAV for three years). The Canucks are capped out and have 16 players under contract for next season.
The Canucks kiss the playoff bubble in the Pacific Division, provided they stay healthy.
A hugely talented 19-year-old rookie defenseman that’s earned some comparisons to Scott Niedermayer‘s skills set (though he doesn’t share his size). He’ll likely pair with Chris Tanev on the blue line, and could be in the Calder Trophy conversation with his brother Jack in New Jersey; make a note on your calendars for Oct. 19, when the two square off in Newark.
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The young core. You could feel the franchise shifting under the skates of Elias Pettersson last season, when the rookie sensation had 66 points in his first 71 games. He’s 21. Boeser, with 116 points in his first 140 games, is 22. Hughes is 19. Old man Bo Horvat is 24.
There’s an energy buzzing through this franchise that many didn’t expect would be there this quickly, post-Sedins. But it’s building.
Depth. As we’ve seen in the last two seasons, this team becomes quite ordinary if any of those elite talents are out with an injury. Boeser’s yet to play 70 games in a season, and questions about Pettersson’s durability are going to dog him. Health is the key to the season.
41. Elias Pettersson, C
A team with as many shortcomings as the Canucks should not be capped out, and that’s reflected in our panelists’ grades for the team in cap/contracts (No. 29) and owner/GM/coach (No. 30). The NHL roster is ascending, but still not great (No. 24), while the prospect pool has some notable gems but is middling overall (No. 13).
4. Quinn Hughes, D
23. Vasily Podkolzin, RW
79. Nils Hoglander, LW
91. Thatcher Demko, G
There’s much to like about Vancouver’s new top line, made up of Elias Pettersen, Brock Boeser and Tampa export J.T. Miller, assuming Boeser recovers in short-enough order from his current concussion. If all three former first-round draft picks can stay healthy, this trio should rival other top units around the league, resulting in Pettersen and Boeser averaging a point per game, with Miller nearing that pace.
Tossed in head first, rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes is not only tasked with serving top-four minutes, but also playing the point on the Canucks’ No. 1 power play alongside Pettersen, Boeser and Miller. With three assists earned through all of five NHL games, the soon-to-be 20-year-old could reach the 50-point plateau before wrapping up his rookie campaign.
Jacob Markstrom is a solid starting netminder for a young, talented club on the upswing. After winning 28 of 60 appearances this past season, while posting a 2.77 goals-against average and .912 save percentage, Markstrom should enjoy a slight uptick in 2019-20. Backup Thatcher Demko is available to step in if Markstrom falters. — Victoria Matiash