Of course, it’s the offseason. That said, when Vancouver Canucks fans look at the new players who have joined the team, it’s hard to think the 2019-20 season won’t be an improvement over last season. In fact, this club might even have the potential to be really solid.
The defense has improved and the young players are a season older. There’s an infusion of offensive possibility, which leads to a reasonable hope that goals will be more plentiful than they were during the 2018-19 season.
New players like JT Miller, who came from the Tampa Bay Lightning, will surely help. In addition, Micheal Ferland might add 20 goals himself if he stays healthy and plays on the team’s top six, which he should. And, I expect the team’s young stars, like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, to improve.
Perhaps the Canucks’ biggest improvement will be on their defensive corps, which is much stronger than last season, now including Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg. Given these improvements, my optimistic analysis is that it might be a good season to be a Canucks fan.
The only big, anxious question I have now is when will Brock Boeser sign?
Given this stance of general optimism, I want to look at some of the news that’s emerging from the team in this post.
Item One: Canucks Have Two Prospects Ranked in Top 50 by Sporting News
Rumors are that
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In this year’s draft, Benning picked up young Russian Vasili Podkolzin (number 10 overall). In the 2018 Draft, he picked up Hughes (number seven overall) and in 2017 he stole Pettersson (number five overall). He found Boeser (23rd overall) in 2015, and chose Thatcher Demko (36th overall) in 2014. That’s a nice core of young players.
Benning’s ability hasn’t gone unnoticed, and when Steve Kournianos of The Sporting News listed his top 50 NHL prospects for the 2019-20 season, both Hughes (12th) and Podkolzin (15th) made the list. Kournianos, who creates this list every year, aced it last season by ranking eventual Calder Trophy-winner Pettersson as his first choice. He also had Hughes (28th) and Demko (30th). Hughes moved up and Demko is no longer considered a prospect.
In fact, is there a chance the Canucks could win the Calder Trophy two seasons in a row? Hughes, a world-class skater and great puck-mover, certainly should be on people’s radar as a Calder Trophy candidate as he enters his first full NHL season.
Sadly, Canucks fans will have to wait a couple seasons to see Podkolzin, who has two years left on his KHL contract. One can hope that the Canucks team he joins in 2021-22 will already be a regular participant in the NHL’s postseason.
Item Two: NHL Network Names Elias Pettersson as One of the Top 20 Centers
Early this week, the NHL Network listed the top 20 centers in the NHL, and Vancouver Canucks’ Pettersson was named to that list. A year ago, who would have thought the young Swede would have reached this status?
Now, he’s the reigning Calder Trophy winner, who had a great season in 2018-19 (28 goals, 38 assists, and 66 points). There’s every indication he might even be better in 2019-20. First, he’s older and has gained experience. Second, he has stronger line partners. When Boeser eventually signs, Pettersson might have both Boeser and newcomer Miller as goal-scoring wings.
I’m looking for the young center to become a point-a-game player, at the least.
David Satriano of NHL.com, who did the rankings, ranked Pettersson number 20 on his list. It’s no surprise that Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins were ranked numbers one and two respectively. They’re generational players.
As a Canucks commentator and fan, I’m hoping to see Bo Horvat have a great season and eventually make Satriano’s list. I’m also hoping this is the season Horvat is finally named team captain.
Item Three: Pettersson Chosen for NHL 20 Swedish Cover
The Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine was named the cover athlete of EA SPORTS NHL 20 in Finland. By being recognized with this honor, Laine becomes the first hockey player to star on EA SPORTS NHL covers for two years in a row.
The honor suits Pettersson, who loved video games as a youngster
In fact, Pettersson noted, “As a lifelong fan of EA Sports NHL, it’s a tremendous thrill for me to appear on the cover of the NHL 20. Playing in the NHL has been a dream come true, and it feels great to follow up my rookie season with this huge honor.”
By the way, Pettersson is not the first Canucks player who has been on the Swedish cover. The Sedin twins and Markus Naslund also made the covers.
The next piece of the Canucks puzzle to be set into place is the signing of Boeser. But that might have to wait until the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner is signed. He seems to be the tipping point for restricted free agents around the NHL, and the signings have been going slowly this offseason because he has not agreed to terms yet with his team.