Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning did a lot of tweaks to the roster this offseason. When the dust settled, he added two top-six forwards and two very capable National Hockey League defencemen. Time will tell if these additions prove to be fruitful. As we all know, injuries and a lack of chemistry sometimes get in the way.
Until the regular season finally commences, all we can do is look forward and make predictions. With that said, it’s time to set some expectations for the new kids on the block of Pat Quinn Way.
Benning wasted no time in improving his roster for the 2019-20 season. Moving quickly to take advantage of the Tampa Bay Lightning cap crunch, he acquired J.T. Miller on the day of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Miller is projected to be in the top-six this season with either Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson as his pivot. However, since he can play that position as well, it would not be a surprise to see him in the middle of the third line at times too.
Look for Miller to get first unit power play minutes, as he replaces Sven Baertschi as the bumper forward on the unit. Last year with the Lightning, he accumulated 20 power-play points which included four goals. In total, he only scored 13 on the season. His average ice time was also a little over 14 minutes a game. If he plays with Pettersson or Horvat regularly, I would expect that number to be closer to 20.
With the added ice time and power play exposure to the wizard that is Pettersson, Miller should be able to exceed his totals from last season. Barring any injuries, 25 goals and 55 points is a reasonable expectation. That puts him close to his career-high of 58, which he accomplished in the 2017-18 season.
With the addition of Ferland, the Canucks served notice to the rest of the Pacific Division that they are not going to be pushed around this season. As a result, team toughness should not be a question in 2019-20. Ferland not only brings physicality and a fear factor to the rink, but he also puts up points. Coming off back-to-back 40 point campaigns, penalty minutes and hits won’t be the only thing he is on the scoreboard for. In addition, he is an analytics darling as he put up a 54.2 Corsi for percentage as well.
All these talents could be used in multiple places for the Canucks. With his versatility, he could play with Horvat, Pettersson or even Brandon Sutter. Early projections, based on nothing but speculation, put him in the top-six. Ferland has shown in the past the ability to play with elite players, so expect head coach Travis Green to align him with Pettersson.
If that happens, Ferland will hit career highs in goals and points. With the attention Pettersson demands, he could have the opportunity to score a few more goals than he is used to. Reasonably, we can expect Ferland to surpass 50 points for the first time in his career.
The first defenseman added in free agency by the Canucks was the 6-foot-8 behemoth, Tyler Myers. Rumored to be joining the team days before July 1, he was probably the worst kept secret in Vancouver. Despite mixed reviews from the faithful, he is going to bring size and mobility to a backend that badly needs it.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the defense pairings play out in training camp. Green will probably try Myers out with all the left-shot defensemen, to see where a potential fit might lie. Whoever his partner ends up being, he will see top-four ice time. He will also most likely be one of the defensemen on the second power-play unit, as his big shot could be an asset there.
If all goes to plan, Myers could see an uptick in his production. An expectation of 10 goals and 45 points should not be an unreasonable ask for a defenseman of his caliber. If he ends up playing with the dynamic Quinn Hughes, all bets are off as he will see a lot of offensive zone starts. He could also be the beneficiary of a few magical passes from the budding star.
One of the more unexpected free agent signings this offseason was Victoria, B.C. native, Jordie Benn. He could become the most underrated as well. Hidden behind the news of Myers, Benn signed a two-year deal with the Canucks. Presumably added to provide grit and defensive prowess from the blue line, he also could add some offense.
Early predictions say that he will play on the third pairing with Troy Stecher or Chris Tanev. With either of these two defensemen, Benn could be used in a shutdown role to match against the opposition’s top lines. If this occurs, don’t expect much offense from him as he will start much of his shifts in the defensive zone. Regardless, he does have the ability to put up some points evidenced by the 37 he has had over the past two seasons.
In the end, any offense from Benn is a bonus as his skills lie in the defensive zone. He is going to be a reliable second- or third-pairing defenseman who provides a physical game from the blue line. He is basically an upgraded version of Erik Gudbranson. The kicker is that Benn will also provide at least 20 points this season. That’s something Gudbranson could never do in a Canucks uniform, or in the NHL for that matter.
As you can see, expectations will be high for the new class of Canucks. The good thing is that they are not unreasonable. If they can all stay healthy and play to their strengths, the Canucks will be knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup playoffs next April.