The Below the Ice crew brings you; NHL: 31 for 31
This year as the clock ticks down towards the NHL season, the writers here at BTI will be bringing you our preview of all 31 NHL teams, in 31 days.
The journey through the Pacific division takes another stop in Canada as we take a look at the Vancouver Canucks.
7th in the Pacific, 14th in the West, 31-40-11 (73 points)
Not much was expected of the Canucks last season, predicted by many to compete for the first overall pick as compared to a playoff spot. After a slew of free agent signings which included Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto, the Canucks once again had the mentality that they could compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It didn’t start off all that bad for the Canucks, kicking the season off with 6-3-2 record in October. Eventually the Canucks fell back down to earth and finished the season at the bottom of the standings. What was different about the season was that the Canucks weren’t being lead by the usual suspects Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They were being lead by fourth year pro Bo Horvat and breakout rookie sensation Brock Boeser, who lead the Canucks in goals with 29 and tied for first in points last season with 55, despite missing the final 16 games with a back injury.
Injuries once again plagued the Canucks throughout the season. Derek Dorsett had to end his hockey career after he suffered a set back to a previously injured neck. Horvat missed six weeks with a fractured foot, which lead to the Canucks going 4-12-2 in his absense. Loui Erikson fractured ribs in late February and missed the remainder of the season, and of course the previously mentioned Brock Boeser.
- April 8, Daniel and Henrik Sedin announce retirement from the National Hockey League.
- May 25, Signed 2017 first round pick Elias Pettersson to a entry level contract.
- May 31, Signed 2017 third round pick Michael DiPietro to a entry level contract
- June 22, Select defenseman Quinn Hughes from Michigan University with the seventh overall pick in the NHL draft.
- July 1, Re-signed Sven Baertschi to a 3-year deal 3.36 AAV .
- July 1, Signed Jay Beagle to a 4-year deal 3.00 AAV.
- July 1, Signed Antoine Roussel to a 4-year deal 3.00 AAV
- July 25, Former team president Trevor Linden and Canucks agree to mutually part ways.
Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Elias Pettersson
Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jussi Jokinen
OFFSEASON GRADE: D
It was a bit of an up and down off season for the Canucks. There was the good singing Petterson to his entry level deal and selecting Hughes in the draft. Then there was the head scratching, signing Beagle and Rousell to respective four year deals, the players in the deal aren’t so bad, it is the length and AAV that is the isssue for the Canucks. It seems the Canucks once again think they can compete for a playoff spot instead of embracing the rebuild. These two signings are the alleged reason behind Trevor Linden wanting out of Vancouver, as he and ownership were not seeing eye to eye on how the team should look going forward.
44 GP: 24G, 32A 2017-18 SHL: Vaxjo HC
Pettersson is the Canucks newest prized asset. Selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, the Canucks were heavily scrutinized at the time of selecting Pettersson. Many fans wanting the Cnaucks to take Cody Glass or Casey Middelstadt. You don’t hear many fans complaining now a days, as last year Pettersson made the jump to the men’s league in Sweden and as a 19 year old lead the league in points with 56, surpassing Peter Forsberg for the most points as a under 20 player in SHL history.
It looks like Pettersson will start his NHL career on the wing, centered by either Brandon Sutter or Sam Gagner. The Canucks still do view Pettersson as a center in the NHL but want him to develop his skills before taking on the best in the game today. Pettersson will likely start on the second or third line with some power play time. If Pettersson improves in the face-off department throughout the year he could potentially move up and be the running mate along with Brock Boeser.
2018-19 Prediction: 15G, 40A
75GP: 10G, 10A
This could be the make or break year for Jake Virtanen. Originally drafted 6th overall in 2014 draft, Virtanen has failed to develop into the power forward the Canucks had hoped for. Last season was Virtanen career high in points after collecting 13 in his rookie season and splitting time between Vancouver and the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League last season.
With a potential spot open in the top six this season, Virtanen will have no better opportunity to turn his career around, being on a potential line with Pettersson or even Horvat and Boeser. Virtanen was given and extension which will keep him around until 2021 with a AVV of 1.25 per year. If Virtanen can turn it around this year and continue his success he may be in for a pay day come contract time.
2018-19 Prediction: 18G, 27A
DUE TO REGRESS:
GP 70: 6G, 28A
Last season saw Alex Edler reach the 30 point plateau for the first time since the 2014-15 season. This is out of the ordinary for Edler as he has hovered around the low 20’s in terms of points since is career high of 49 in 2011-12.
15 of Edler’s 34 points came on the power-play which was surprisingly good for Vancouver last season. With the Sedins gone this year the Canucks power-play percentage is bound to fall with less goal scorers on the team. Along with Edler almost certainly missing time with injuries during the season his point total is bound to take a dip.
2018-19 Prediction: GP 64: 6G 16A
8th in the Pacific, 15th in the West, 76 points
The Canucks do have some very good prospects close to making the jump to the NHL. For now the Canucks are stuck in the basement of the Western Conference.
The Canucks could be a fun team to watch with Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko all possibly cracking the opeing day roster. With Horvat and Boeser still improving their game their still is plenty of reason for Canuck fans to tune in this season. But the Canucks scoring, and defensive depth along with suspect goaltending the Canucks will be no where near the playoffs.
With the draft in Vancouver this season the Canucks should embrace the “Slack for Jack” or Lose for Hughes” movement and do whatever it takes to select Quinn Hughes’ brother Jack Hughes first overall in the NHL draft.
Come back tomorrow for the continuation of our 31 in 31 series where we look at our 8th and final team from the Pacific Division; The Vegas Golden Knights.