The Vancouver Canucks appear to be a much better team on paper this season. With the unusual 2020-21 campaign in the rearview mirror that saw them face every Canadian team at least eight times, they might have an easier time making the playoffs too.
Now back in the familiar Western Conference with the likes of the California teams, the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, and Chicago Blackhawks, it should be interesting to see how they deal with players and teams they have not faced in over a year. Over the next few weeks, I will be doing a 2021-22 season preview series that looks at each opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and how they match up with the Canucks. Starting with the Anaheim Ducks, who always give them trouble regardless of the quality of their roster and their place in the standings.
2020-21 Record: 17-30-9 (43 points, missed the playoffs)
Notable Additions: Brogan Rafferty, Greg Pateryn, Buddy Robinson
Notable Losses: Danton Heinen, Ryan Miller
2021 Draft: Mason McTavish, Olen Zellweger, Sasha Pastujov, Tyson Hinds, Josh Lopina, Sean Tschigerl, Gage Alexander, Kyle Kukkonen
2019-20 Season Series: 0-1-1 (outscored 7-2)
The Ducks have not been a good team for a few seasons, yet the Canucks manage to make them look like a powerhouse every time they play them. Their last matchup was back on Feb 16, 2020, when Adam Henrique scored two goals en route to a 5-1 win. We will see how the new and improved roster of the Canucks does against Ryan Getzlaf and his young posse of Trevor Zegras, Max Comtois, and Jamie Drysdale when they stroll into Rogers Arena for their first matchup on Nov. 9.
Ducks’ Offence Hinges on Zegras
Even though Getzlaf is still on the Ducks’ roster, all the focus will be on the 21-year-old Zegras. Recently named The Hockey Writers’ second-best NHL prospect behind only Quinton Byfield of the Los Angeles Kings, he will be tasked to lead the offence this season. With next to no additions to the roster, they are hoping that he can continue the production he saw at the end of last season when he put up three goals and 13 points in 24 games.
Riding shotgun with him on the top line will likely be Comtois who finished last season as the Ducks’ leading scorer with 16 goals and 33 points. He is only 22 years old and could become a 20-goal scorer alongside the playmaking marvel that is Zegras.
The Ducks still have Getzlaf, Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell, but considering they only put up 34 goals between the four of them, it’s difficult to see them as a threat. Having said that, the hockey gods always seem to reward them whenever they play the Canucks. In 128 career games, they have combined for 87 points with Getzlaf leading the way with 15 goals and 51 points in 54 games.
How Do the Canucks Match Up?
With the Canucks firepower and increased depth that now includes Conor Garland, Jason Dickinson, and Vasily Podkolzin, the Ducks are clearly outmatched when it comes to their forward group. Zegras is good, but he’s only one man. The Canucks can come at you in waves with the Lotto Line of Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser and the grit and determination of Nils Hoglander and Bo Horvat. On paper, at least, they are by far the better team when it comes to forwards.
Ducks Defence Is Good on Paper, Not on the Ice
When you look at the Ducks’ defence on paper, they appear to be a solid group. Unfortunately for them, hockey is not played on paper. Led by Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, they should be good defensively considering they are two of the better defencemen in the NHL. However, that has not been the case as they have struggled to suppress chances and prevent goals. Last season, the Ducks finished 23rd in goals against and gave up the fourth-most high danger chances. Definitely not a recipe for success.
Beyond Lindholm and Fowler, the drop-off isn’t that bad with Kevin Shattenkirk and Josh Manson. Again, looking on paper. Promising young blueliners, Drysdale and Jacob Larsson round out the core, but unless they all play better as a group on the ice, the Ducks are really going nowhere this season.
How Do the Canucks Match Up?
Both the Ducks and Canucks were horrible defensively last season. The Canucks gave up the second-most high danger chances in the NHL and finished 26th in goals against. They may have improved offensively with the addition of Oliver Ekman-Larsson but lost a lot on defence when Alex Edler left to join the Los Angeles Kings. Olli Juolevi and Jack Rathbone are not known yet for their stout defence and Tucker Poolman is no Chris Tanev. So basically, the Ducks win this round by virtue of experience and better two-way defencemen within their core.
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Gibson Still Leads the Ducks in Goal
Despite the chaos in front of him, John Gibson is still one of the best starting goaltenders in the NHL. He has the ability to steal games and frustrate opponents even when his team is not playing well in front of him. Even though his numbers have not looked good over the past few seasons, he is still keeping his save percentage above .900, which is surprising considering the number of shots he has to contend with.
Gibson also loves playing the Canucks. Just look at these numbers, 1.77 goals-against average (GAA), .937 save percentage (SV%), three shutouts, and a 10-2-1 record. Ever since he came into the league, he’s been nearly unbeatable when it comes to the Canucks. In fact, he even recorded his first NHL shutout to begin his career against them.
How Do the Canucks Match Up?
The Ducks have the better goaltending, at least for now. Gibson is usually lights out against the Canucks and looks like a Vezina Trophy winner every time he plays them. Thatcher Demko will be the better goaltender in the long run, but Gibson still edges him out, especially when you consider his numbers and exceptional record. Jaroslav Halak is a better backup than Anthony Stolarz though, so if there ever is a battle of backups during this season series, the Canucks will have the edge there.
Head Coaching Matchup: Travis Green vs Dallas Eakins
Both Travis Green and Dallas Eakins are relatively new to the coaching scene. Green, however, has seen a lot more success when it comes to wins. With more talent on his roster, he has 42 more regular-season wins and 10 more playoff wins including two series victories. Eakins on the other hand has not experienced the playoffs and has never had a winning season in either Edmonton or Anaheim.
Message From Enemy Lines
On paper, it looks like the Ducks will have a hard time matching up against the Canucks. Ryan Getzlaf is no longer the elite playmaker he once was and the Canucks can use Bo Horvat to effectively neutralize Trevor Zegras & Co. The addition of Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the Vancouver blueline will cause trouble for the Ducks as they’ve struggled with containing offensively-minded defensemen in the past. Probably the only area where Anaheim has an advantage over the Canucks is in net, but Gibson can only do so much compared to the players in front of him.Derek Lee, The Hockey Writers
Ducks Prospect Corner
Every season there are unexpected contributions from rookies and prospects. Here are some that could potentially come up from the farm and surprise everyone.
Jacob Perreault, Centre
After a modest season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the San Diego Gulls that saw him score three goals and 17 points in 27 games, Jacob Perreault might see time in the NHL this season. With the center depth consisting of Zegras, Getzlaf, Henrique, and Sam Steel, he could find himself in a battle with Steel at training camp. Unfortunately, since he is still 19 years old, he will have to make the team in order to stay in the NHL. Otherwise, he will be sent back to the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Brayden Tracey, Left Wing
After spending 12 games in the AHL with the Gulls then returning to the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Victoria Royals, Brayden Tracey is now ready to turn pro full time. He might not have put up any points in the AHL, but he did use that experience to become nearly a point-a-game player in the WHL with the Royals. The skilled puck handler from Calgary, Alberta will look to translate that production to the AHL this season and eventually to a callup from the Ducks.
Brogan Rafferty, Right Defence
After a dominant 2019-20 season with the AHL’s Utica Comets, Brogan Rafferty seemed poised to make his mark on the NHL. Unfortunately, Green only used him in one game then banished him to the taxi squad for the rest of the 2020-21 season. Now he’s with the Ducks on a two-way contract ready to prove to everyone that the Canucks made a mistake. His defensive game lacks polish, but if he can transfer even a little bit of his 45 AHL points in 57 games to the NHL, the Ducks will be happy. He at least will be a good callup if injuries strike.
- Nov. 9, 2021 vs. Anaheim Ducks
- Nov. 14, 2021 @Anaheim Ducks
- Dec. 23, 2021 vs. Anaheim Ducks
- Dec. 29, 2021 @Anaheim Ducks
2021-22 Season Prediction: 8th in Pacific
The Ducks just have too many holes to compete in the Pacific Division. Zegras might have a chance at the Calder Trophy and Gibson might steal them some games, but I don’t foresee them making much of a splash beyond that. By the trade deadline, they will be trying to auction off some assets to get some valuable draft picks for the 2022 Draft that is shaping up to be one of the best in years.
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.