Now that we know Brock Boeser will likely be out the rest of the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks need to have players step up in his absence. Despite having just two points in his previous 11 games before the injury, he was a productive piece of the offence and key part of the top-six. In 56 games, he has 16 goals and 45 points, which is currently tied for fourth on the team. That’s a huge chunk of the offence gone for at least the next eight weeks. So who will it fall upon to replace those numbers? Let’s take a look at three players that will be expected to do just that.
The pressure will be on the minute Tyler Toffoli steps onto the ice with his new team. With Boeser gone from the top-six and the power play, he will be expected to fill his shoes in both areas. Traditionally not a strong man-advantage skater with only 33 power play goals in 515 career games, he will need to up his game to support a unit that has struggled recently to generate anything positive.
As for even-strength play, Toffoli is known for being a strong possession player with a career 55.9 Corsi-for percentage (CF%). Currently, he is batting above his career average with a 57.4 CF%. If he stays on the top line with Elias Pettersson and JT Miller, like he was in the last game against the Minnesota Wild, he should thrive. Both of them are also positive possession players with a CF% above 55. As a line, they should have the puck more often than not, which should translate to a lot of points for the trio.
If Toffoli can hit the ground running and start generating points right away, that will go a long way to softening the blow of losing Boeser from the first wave of attack.
This season is turning out to be Jake Virtanen’s coming out party. He’s already hit career highs in goals with 16 and points with 32 and the inconsistency that’s plagued him throughout his career looks to be a thing of the past as well. Recently he’s gone a little cold with only two goals in the past ten games, but he still has been noticeable every time he’s stepped on the ice.
Related: Canucks Virtanen Turning a Corner
With Boeser out, Virtanen will have to continue his upward progression and remain a threat at the bottom of the lineup. For the time being, Toffoli has taken his spot on the top line, but the way head coach Travis Green juggles his lines, he will probably find his way back there soon enough. If he does, he needs to step up his game and start producing or the Canucks risk becoming a one-line team once again.
Just like Virtanen, Gaudette is having a season to remember. He’s all but solidified his spot as the third-line center with a career-high ten goals and 27 points and has blossomed into a solid NHL player. So much so that general manager Jim Benning thought that Tyler Madden was expendable. He still needs to improve on his faceoffs to fully arrive, but his offensive instincts and power play presence have shown everyone that he’s here to stay.
If the Canucks hope to navigate through the injury maze that seems to haunt them every season, Gaudette needs to be a key player down the stretch. If he can supply offence from the third line, other teams will have to stand up and take notice. If the bottom of the lineup is dangerous every game, it takes the pressure off the top-six and opens the ice up for them.
Every team needs a good third line to make it through the playoffs, and the Canucks have the makings of a very good one with Gaudette, Virtanen and Antoine Roussel. They could potentially be the difference in a series, especially when the top players are checked to death. If Boeser continues to be out when the playoffs roll around, Gaudette and his linemates will need to supply the secondary offence that has helped carry the team to their current spot in the precarious Pacific Division standings.
Can the Canucks Replace Boeser?
Even though these three will be expected to up their production, it is ultimately up to the team as a whole to replace Boeser’s presence in the lineup. Technically Toffoli is a replacement, so he is not going to be an upgrade on the current top-six. If he had been acquired when Boeser was healthy, then that’s a different story. As luck would have it, that’s not the case, and the Canucks are once again forced to navigate through an injury to a key player.
In previous seasons, injuries have killed the postseason dream, but this season is different as the Canucks have plenty of offensive depth to weather the storm. Offence by committee will have to be the team’s motto from now until the end of the regular season. Hopefully, they can get contributions from throughout the lineup, and make it to the promised land that has eluded them for the past four seasons.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.