With the holiday season now here, PHR continues its look at what teams are thankful for as the season heads towards the midway mark. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. Let’s take a look at what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Vancouver Canucks. Click here for the other articles in this series.
What are the Canucks most thankful for?
Many people had the Vancouver Canucks listed to be among the two worst teams in the NHL this season after an offseason that saw stars Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin both retire, leaving the team with a nucleus of young players. While some of those players like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser were expected to lead a new wave of talent, few expected Vancouver to be a competitive team this season as many felt the franchise had a chance to compete for the No. 1 overall pick this season.
Halfway through the season and Vancouver is far from one of the worst teams in the league. In fact, the Canucks are actually one point away from a wild card spot as the team carries a 19-18-4 record for 42 points, just a point behind the Dallas Stars. While it’s a long season and much can change, the Canucks have shown the ability to play well as a young group with a sprinkling of veterans throughout their lineup.
Who are the Canucks most thankful for?
While Boeser looked like the star of the future and continues to put up solid numbers, the team got the star power they needed, much quicker than they expected as Elias Pettersson has dominated in his rookie campaign and looks like an obvious choice as a Calder Trophy candidate, barring injury of course. The 20-year-old had an impressive season in the SHL last season, breaking numerous records and while the team had planned to ease the rookie into their lineup, Pettersson has had other plans. He has 19 goals and 39 points in 35 games, good enough for a point per game production and looks to be the face of this franchise for many years.
What would the Canucks be even more thankful for?
While the team has had quite a bit of success from a number of young players, including Nikolay Goldobin, Jake Virtanen and recent addition Josh Leivo, several of their veteran players have been hampered by injuries and have seen little action this season, including Sven Baertschi, Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter. Baertschi finally returned to the lineup Saturday after being out since Oct. 24 with a concussion. Beagle missed almost two months of the beginning of the season and is only now earning solid minutes after the team handed out a four-year, $12MM deal to him this summer. Sutter has yet to return to the team after suffering an upper-body injury in October. Combined the three players have played a total of 41 games combined. If the team can get some consistency from those veterans, that should only help the team fight for a potential playoff spot.
What should be on the Canucks’ Holiday Wish List?
The team needs defense and are salivating while watching the World Junior Championships as defenseman Quinn Hughes, the team’s first-round pick (sixth-overall) in the 2018 draft has dominated and looks to be ready to join the Canucks immediately after his season at the University of Michigan ends. Scouts say that Hughes should make an immediate impact once he arrives and with the struggles of former top defensive prospect Olli Juolevi up in the air (he’s out for the season after undergoing knee surgery), Hughes should be able to walk in and take over quarterbacking the power play and providing some offense from the blueline, something that Vancouver has struggled to do the last couple of years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.