Canucks 2019-20 Predictions: Pearson, Leivo & Baertschi

The Vancouver Canucks are looking forward to next season. There’s no choice really because this season saw them miss the playoffs yet again. Still, with this season’s exciting and talented rookie Elias Pettersson and two great young forwards in Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, there’s good reason for hope in Vancouver.

The Canucks have good top-line players, but they’ve had a problem over the past two seasons with secondary scoring. It hasn’t been there; and, if the team expects to make the 2020 Playoffs, it simply must generate more scoring from somewhere other than from Pettersson, Horvat, and Boeser.

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In this post, I want to suggest three possibilities where the Canucks might find next season’s scoring and predict what that scoring might look like.

Prediction #1: Tanner Pearson

It’s not like Tanner Pearson hasn’t experienced scoring success in a past life; it just wasn’t last season. In fact, Pearson’s game went south so quickly that he was traded twice during the season. Still, when he landed in Vancouver from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade for Erik Gudbranson, in his short time with the team he regained the scoring touch that had all but abandoned him.

Canucks left wing Tanner Pearson
Vancouver Canucks left wing Tanner Pearson (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Although Pearson had once scored 24 goals with the Los Angeles Kings, he had only nine goals and 14 points in 44 games with the Penguins before moving to Vancouver. That’s a 16-goal pace over 82 games, and far below what he’d been putting up with the Kings. Furthermore, with the Penguins, he was playing with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, so it wasn’t like he was on his own.

Fortunately, for the Canucks, Pearson played better than expected. Perhaps that’s because people had few expectations. I’m guessing Benning was more interested in dumping Gudbranson than he was picking up Pearson. So, nine goals and 12 points in 19 games was probably a nice surprise.

Stretch that scoring pace over a season, and it would be about a 40-goal pace for an 82-game season. One has to doubt that pace is sustainable for Pearson; however, that sample does offer hope that Pearson can provide the secondary scoring the team desperately needs. If he did, that would be a nice addition.

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Pearson also looks good on Horvat’s left-wing because he can play a north-south style. He can set up shop in the front of the net and finish plays, but he can also score on the rush.

Prediction: A realistic point total for Pearson would be 25 goals and 50 points next season. That is value added especially if he continues to thrive as Horvat’s sidekick.

Prediction #2: Josh Leivo

Like Pearson, Josh Leivo came to the Canucks during the 2018-19 season. When Benning sent Michael Carcone to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Leivo came back. Rumors I heard suggest that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas promised to trade Leivo if he didn’t fit into the team’s plans, and Dubas was good to his word. It was a good trade for the Canucks.

Lucky for the Canucks, Leivo played well and looks to have a solid future with his new team. He has already provided energy and needed secondary offence. In truth, after the top tier, it would be hard not to believe Leivo was the best of the rest of the Canucks forwards during the 2018-19 season. From what I have seen, there’s no reason to think Leivo’s pace will slow.

Vancouver Canucks' Josh Leivo
Vancouver Canucks’ Josh Leivo (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Similar to Pearson, Leivo turned into a solid right-wing partner with Horvat. Does there seem to be a pattern here? Horvat, who seems like he’s been playing with a cast of thousands, might now have two linemates who could actually build a decent and reliable partnership with him. If that’s true, it’s really good news.

Leivo, although he was only here since December, scored on a pace that would have given him close to 20 goals. The Canucks were happy with that.

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Prediction: Leivo will continue to improve, especially he becomes a regular line mates with Horvat and Pearson. If so, he should score 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points.

Prediction #3: Sven Baertschi

There was a time when it seemed Sven Baertschi might never play in the NHL again. And, that would have been a shame for two reasons. First, he’s a decent young man, who works hard and deserves better. When injuries cut any budding career short, that’s sad. Second, Baertschi has shown great strides and has become a fan favorite.

I’m hoping Baertschi can play a full season, which is something he’s never done with his concussion history. However, when you look at his scoring over the past few years, Baertschi’s trending upwards. In 2016-17, he played 69 games and had 28 points, and each season since he’s slowly but surely become a better player. Given last season’s small sample of only 26 games, many of which he played at less than 100 percent, Baertschi would have been on pace for almost 50 points.

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Those kinds of numbers add to the Canucks scoring. Baertschi is finding his game. If he could remain healthy, he’d play on the Canucks top-six. He showed what he could do in 2017-18, when he played with Horvat and Boeser on the “Killer B’s” line. But, again with an injury, Baertschi’s year was cut short with a broken jaw.

The Canucks appreciated Baertschi with a three-year, $10.1 million contract. They hope he will be with them for the long haul. For Baertschi next season is all about simply staying healthy. If so, we might see him producing bigger scoring numbers than expected.

Prediction: Let’s assume the offseason is good to Baertschi. If it is, and he enters the 2019-20 season completely healed and plays almost every game, he’s likely – based upon projected numbers from previous seasons – to record just over 20 goals and 20 assists next season. That helps.

Where Does That Leave the Canucks?

Obviously, one can never accurately predict what might happen during any hockey season, with any team, or with any player. However, if my predictions are close with these three young Canucks, they could provide sufficient secondary scoring to carry the team into the playoffs.

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We’re pretty sure what Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat can do. It’s the rest of the cast that potentially holds the keys to unlocking a strong season. If the team can add secondary scoring to what already promises to be a strong top line, watch out for the Canucks.