The Vancouver Canucks made a splash at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with a blockbuster deal that saw them acquire Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes. Both players are big additions to the team; however, adding Garland will have a profound impact on the Canucks’ forward corps. He will solidify the team’s top nine and should allow the team to boast a deep lineup. With him, they should be able to dress a lineup of:
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|J.T. Miller||Elias Pettersson||Brock Boeser|
|Nils Höglander||Bo Horvat||Garland|
|Tanner Pearson||Jason Dickinson||Vasily Podkolzin|
|Tyler Motte||Matthew Highmore||Jayce Hawryluk|
If the Canucks were to roll with these lines, they could create four unique units that could each play pivotal parts in Vancouver’s success next season. Obviously, some tweaks would occur to the lineup, but using this as a starting point, the Canucks may have built a blueprint for success via their forward core for the 2021-22 season.
First Line: The Lotto Line
The Lotto Line of Miller, Pettersson and Boeser needs no introduction. This trio has been highly effective since being put together in the 2019-20 season. During the said season, Miller posted 72 points in 69 games played, Pettersson nabbed 66 points in 68 games, and Boeser rounded out the trio with 45 points in 57 games. In total, they combined for 183 points throughout the 2019-20 season. They played in 194 games, which puts their points per game clip (P/G) at 0.94 P/G. Afterward, Vancouver made a surprise playoff run in 2020, taking Vegas to seven games in the Western Conference Semi-Final. In the playoffs, they racked up a combined 47 points in 51 games played, meaning the line combined for a 0.92 P/G. During the playoffs, both Miller and Pettersson were above a P/G as both had 18 points and skated in 17 games.
In the 2020-21 season, Pettersson potted 21 points but was limited to skating in just 26 games due to an injury. However, the other two members of the Lotto Line spent much of the season together. Boeser averaged 19:19 of time on ice (TOI) per game, which ranked first among the Canucks’ wingers, and led the team with 49 points in 56 games. Miller led Canucks’ forwards with an average TOI of 20:57. In 53 games played, he posted 46 points, ranking second on Vancouver.
The Lotto Line drives offensive at a fantastic level. Over the past two seasons, when the trio plays together at five-on-five, they control the game at an elite level. They have posted a Corsi for (CF%) of 56.37 percent, a shots for (SF%) of 55.18 percent, a goals for (GF%) of 60.53 percent, and a scoring chances for (SCF%) of 55.04 percent. All of these statistics highlight how this line controls play by generating the majority of offensive opportunities. The line also has the talent to capitalize on the opportunities they generate, as evidenced by their point production. Overall, this line will be the offensive powerhouse for the Canucks next season.
Second Line: Höglander – Horvat – Garland
This is a line that would have a mixture of everything. Garland, 25, is a speedy winger, who chips in goals, has good hands and can make plays. He cemented himself as a full-time NHL player in 2019-20, where he netted 22 goals and produced 39 points in 68 games with the Coyotes. In 2020-21, he produced 39 points in just 49 games; however, he only scored 12 goals. His point totals ranked fourth (2019-20) and third (2020-21) among Arizona in each respective season, while his 22 goals led the team in 2019-20, and his 2020-21 output ranked fifth.
On the other wing is Höglander. He finished eighth in Calder Trophy voting following his successful rookie season in 2020-21. He is an extremely hardworking player who always battles for pucks in corners, has great hands and showcased strong offensive ability. He scored 13 goals (ranked fourth on Vancouver) and posted 27 points (fifth on the Canucks). Rounding out this line is Vancouver’s captain Horvat. Known for his two-way prowess, he is a perennial 20-goal scorer who wins the majority of faceoffs. Since entering the league, he has a faceoff percentage (FO%) of 53.1 percent. Furthermore, in his seven-year career, he has never finished a season below 50 percent in faceoffs. He scored 19 goals in the shortened 2020-21 season; however, he scored 20 or more goals in the previous four seasons.
This would be a fast line that has three players who can effectively shoot or dish the puck. The line is also filled with workhorses who are responsible with the puck. In three NHL seasons, Garland has always had more takeaways than giveaways. In his rookie season, Höglander had 42 takeaways compared to merely 20 giveaways. Additionally, Horvat has had more takeaways then giveaways in five out of his seven seasons in the NHL. In 2020-21, all three skaters had positive takeaway-to-giveaway ratios, and their combined ratio of 101-61 is highly impressive. Due to all three players ability to steal the puck and not give it away, alongside Horvat’s incredible skill in the faceoff dot, this line should be able to maintain possession of the puck for large periods of time and has the talent to shine offensively.
Third Line: Pearson – Dickinson – Podkolzin
Assuming Podkolzin comes straight from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) to the NHL, this would be a good line for him to slot in on. The 20-year-old was drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 2019. Standing at 6-foot-4, he utilizes his frame to bulldoze his way through the offensive zone, delivers crushing hits, and is known for his ferocious forechecking. After captaining Russia at the 2021 World Junior Championship and posting 11 points in 16 games during St. Petersburg SKA’s playoff run, he seems poised to play in North America.
Joining him on this line should be Pearson and the recently acquired Jason Dickinson. Pearson is a speedy veteran and a former Stanley Cup winner who brings tons of NHL experience. Despite his down season in 2020-21, where he had a measly 18 points, he is only one season removed from a 45-point effort, which inspires hope for a bounce-back season. Dickinson will be Vancouver’s top defensive centre and will help this line control play. During the 2020-21 season, Dickinson had a CF% of 56.23, a SCF% of 59.56, a SF% of 57.28, and a high-danger chances for (HDCF%) of 57.80. He threw 1.5 hits per game and blocked 0.96 shots per game in 2020-21. Moreover, he can chip in some offence, as he produced 15 points in 51 games played last season.
This line could be a dangerous trio. Dickinson will ensure it has a strong defensive centre, Pearson is a speedy winger who can chip in offensively, and Podkolzin is poised to be a net front presence who forechecks and plays with an edge. Overall, this line boasts a mixture of a little bit of everything.
Fourth Line: Motte – Highmore – Hawryluk
The fourth line is a checking line that can contribute some offence. Fan favourite Motte chips in offence, kills penalties, and plays a strong defensive game. In 2020-21, he racked up nine points in 24 games. In my article reviewing his 2020-21 campaign, I highlighted how he is the Canucks most physical player:
“He threw an amazing 100 hits (70 of these came in the first 15 games he played before sustaining an injury), which is equivalent to just over four hits a game. To highlight how impressive this total is, he ranked 70th in total hits thrown this season, despite missing over half of the year due to injuries. He led Vancouver in hits, throwing 10 more than second-placed J.T Miller”.Canucks’ 2020-21 Season Report Card: Tyler Motte
Joining forces with Motte on this fourth line are Highmore and Hawryluk. In 2020-21, Highmore played in 42 games (18 with Vancouver and the rest for Chicago), where he produced seven points and dished out 43 hits, just over a hit per game. Although he spent the season as a winger, he has been a centre in the past, hence him being penciled in as the fourth line centre. Hawryluk completes this trio, and in 30 games played with Vancouver in 2020-21, he chipped in five points and threw 43 hits. All three of these players can chip in some points, are very physical and should mesh well together due to their similar playing styles.
Overall, the Canucks can roll four good lines heading into 2020-21. The Lotto Line is one of the best offensive lines in the league. A second line of Höglander – Horvat – Garland could become a fantastic, well-rounded trio. The hidden gem of this team could be the third line, as Dickinson should hold down the fort defensively, while Pearson (bounce-back potential) and Podkolzin (tons of potential as a rookie) could be a great line that does a bit of everything. Finally, the fourth line could be a checking line that contributes some offence and energizes the team.
I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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