The Vancouver Canucks announced Brock Boeser is set to miss three to four weeks after undergoing successful hand surgery. Boeser hurt himself at practice on day three of the club’s training camp. He will likely miss five to seven regular season games.
During training camp, head coach Bruce Boudreau said the Canucks will ice the lines they are hoping they will have for opening night. J.T. Miller was centring a line with Tanner Pearson and Boeser, while Elias Pettersson played alongside Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev, and Bo Horvat played with Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin. With Boeser out for five to seven games, a few players will have to step up and replace his goal-scoring ability, as well as, take his spot in the top nine.
Nils Hoglander wasn’t among the players in the top nine for the Canucks when training camp started. Addtionally, he didn’t crack the club’s expected fourth line, which included Dakota Joshua, Jason Dickinson and Curtis Lazar. Instead, he played alongside Nils Aman and Linus Karlsson, two players who will likely play in Abbotsford when the American Hockey League (AHL) season starts. After the injuries to Boeser and Mikheyev, Hoglander played alongside Pettersson and Kuzmenko at practice on Tuesday.
Even if Mikheyev returns once the season starts., Hoglander has shown that he should crack the opening day roster.
Despite a disappointing sophomore season, Hoglander has impressed Boudreau in training camp.
“I was going to say, let me talk about Hogs because I think he’s the best player on the ice right now,” Boudreau said Friday after the second day of camp. “He looks so much faster than he did last year. Determination. He’s definitely, you know, he’s definitely ready. Last year was a little bit of a setback for him and he doesn’t want it to happen again.”
Boudreau also said Hoglander has seen the players the Canucks added up front in the offseason and showed up to camp ready to fight for a spot. President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford was also impressed by the forward, noting if he plays better than someone else, he will get in the lineup. With Boeser out, Hoglander has an opportunity to solidify himself into the lineup. He’s shown he has great offensive abilities and should be helpful while playing alongside one of the Canucks’ top three centres.
Podkolzin is looking to take the next step in his development, which should be producing more in the offensive zone. Last season, he tallied 14 goals as a rookie but was also a healthy scratch after a 16-game scoring drought. With Boeser out of the lineup, Podkolzin may not replace him on the line with Miller, but any additional scoring from him would be helpful for the Canucks early in the season. In Sunday night’s preseason game against the Calgary Flames, the Russian forward showed he is capable of scoring for the club.
The forward looked confident as the season ended, scoring three goals in the final four games. Podkolzin is looking to build off that finish while playing with Horvat.
“Way more confidence, that’s the most important thing,” Podkolzin said. “I’ve got great linemates right now. I know these players, Garly and Bo, so it’s going to be easier for me.”
After a disappointing start to the 2021-22 season, Pettersson finished the season off strong. He finished with 32 goals and 68 points in 80 games. However, Pettersson is one of the club’s top forwards and is expected to be at the top of his game from the start of the season to the end. With Boeser out, Pettersson will be expected to start the season strong and help carry the offence. His slow start last season hurt the team, but his hot finish under Boudreau brought them back into the playoff race.
Pettersson should be able to help cover some of the goals the team will miss from Boeser. He has either hit 30 goals or been on pace to reach the mark in an 82-game season. Pettersson is one of the team’s cornerstone pieces, and a hot start to the 2022-23 season could lead to a career year from the Swede.
Tough Break for Boeser
Boeser seemed motivated to bounce back from his 2021-22 season this upcoming season. The forward noted this will be the season he scores 30 goals as he’s been close to doing it before. However, a hand injury could make it difficult for him, even when he returns in three to four weeks. Furthermore, a slow start could affect his confidence, but Boeser has shown his ability to bounce back as he did last season after Boudreau’s hiring.
As for the Canucks, the club has two second-year players who will likely get an increase in their roles to start the season. Also, the organization will look for Pettersson to be productive from the start to the finish of the 2022-23 season. Other than the three players mentioned, a few other players may have an opportunity to establish themselves early in the season. At Tuesday’s practice, Kuzmenko took Boeser’s spot on the first power-play unit, while Lazar jumped up to Horvat’s line as Boudreau slotted Garland on Miller’s right wing.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.