The Vancouver Canucks have made multiple key additions this past offseason. The team made a big trade with the Arizona Coyotes, adding Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson for Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, and three draft picks. They also made a trade with the Dallas Stars for Jason Dickinson. The Canucks have rookie Vasili Podkolzin joining the team this year while they signed defenceman Tucker Poolman. Here is how all five players should fair in their first season with the club.
Garland was one of the biggest additions to the Canucks’ roster this past offseason. A few days later, the 25-year-old signed a five-year extension with an average annual value of $4.95 million.
With the Coyotes, he’s posted 47 goals and 96 points through 164 games. He produced at a first-line rate in each of his first three seasons while the Coyotes ranked in the bottom five in the league for goals for per game throughout his career (from ‘Canucks continue to go all in: Inside the Braden Holtby buyout and Conor Garland extension,’ The Athletic, July 27, 2021). What makes Garland impressive is his goal-scoring production at five-on-five would lead all Canucks players over the past three seasons.
His production should increase with an offensive Canucks team, especially since he will get an opportunity to play with talented forwards in Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. In each of his three seasons, Garland was on pace to score 20+ goals in a full 82 game season, the highest being a 27 goal pace in the 2019-20 season. He has the potential to finish with 25+ goals at the very least. Meanwhile, his points per game pace have also increased. In 2018-19, he was on pace to post 31 points, then in 2019-20, he was on pace to post 47 points and finally, he was on pace to post 65 points last season. It is fair to expect him to be on pace to reach the 60 point mark with the Canucks this season.
Projection: 29 goals, 35 assists, 64 points
Joining Garland from Arizona was Ekman-Larsson. The 11-year veteran has slowed down in recent years, which made his addition a controversial one. Along with his decline in production, he came with a pretty high cap hit of $8.250 million, which the Coyotes retained 12% of.
Still, some believe the fresh start in Vancouver could lead to a potential bounce back for him in the short term, at the very least. Most players see a decline at 30 years old, which is the age of the veteran defenceman, but there are a few cases where a declining defenceman sees a resurgence in their play at the age. The Athletic’s Harman Dayal uses a few blueliners who bounced back, including Drew Doughty, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Martinez (from ‘The case for an Oliver Ekman-Larsson bounce back and what could Bo Horvat’s next contract look like? Canucks mailbag,’ The Athletic, September 17, 2021). Dayal also uses P.K. Subban as an example of a player who’s declined and continues to slip. The Canucks are hoping Ekman-Larsson follows the footsteps of the others and not Subban’s.
Ekman-Larsson will be playing in a top-four role alongside Tyler Myers and on the power play. He will likely be expected to produce from the blue line while he and Myers will be used as the go-to d-pairing at five-on-five. He will also play on the second power-play unit, as Quinn Hughes will continue to quarterback the first unit, which means there could be a slight dip in his offensive production.
Outside of his career-high 55 points in 75 games in the 2015-16 season, Ekman Larsson has scored at close to a .5 point per game rate. He’s seen a dip in his goals production over the past two seasons as well, scoring nine goals in 2019-20 and three goals in 2020-21. If he does see a bounce back this season, he could score close over 10 goals.
Projections: 11 goals, 31 assists, 42 points
Entering his rookie season with the Canucks is Vasily Podkolzin. The 2019 first-round pick joins the team after spending the last two seasons with the KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg, where he played limited minutes. With the Canucks this season, he will start off by playing on the fourth line. The team likely expects the forward to ease himself in and get comfortable with the NHL game. Podkolzin slowly found his game throughout the preseason, as he showed off his skills and IQ in the second half. As the season goes on, he could find himself in the team’s top six while playing on the power play. He should be able to net 10+ goals and finish with close to 30 points.
Projection: 15 goals, 20 assists, 35 points
The Canucks traded a 2021 third-round pick to the Dallas Stars for Dickinson. Dickinson will take on the role as the team’s third-line centreman. Not much should be expected from the 26-year-old center on the offensive end, as he does his best work on the defensive end.
Along with his shutdown role at 5-on-5, he should be used on the penalty kill. He averaged 1:41 time on ice while shorthanded with the team in 2020-21. In the last two seasons, he’s been on pace to reaching the 10 goal mark through 82 games. In 2019-20, he was on pace to post 26 points, and last season, he was on pace to post 24 points. Seeing Dickinson finish with 20+ points is likely, while he nears the 10 goals marking.
Projection: 9 goals, 13 assists, 22 points
Poolman is more of a shutdown defender than an offensive blueliner. Throughout his three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Poolman posted five goals and 19 points through 120 games. Aside from the 2019-20 season, where he scored four goals and posted 16 points, he has struggled to put up points. In his rookie season, he scored a goal and registered one assist through 24 games, while last season, he had an assist through 39 games. He should be an important piece on the team’s penalty kill this season.
Projection: 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points
Canucks New Pieces Should Improve Team
Garland, Ekman-Larsson, Podkolzin, Dickinson and Poolman should improve different aspects of the Canucks this season. Garland should be a key piece of the team’s top six as he improves the club’s top-six. Ekman-Larsson’s potential bounce-back season would give the Canucks a mobile blue line, and if he regains his form in the defensive end, he can form a shutdown d-pairing with Poolman.
Podkolzin has the potential of being a key piece to the franchise’s success, and if he gets used to the NHL quickly, he can have a better season than expected. Meanwhile, Dickinson and Poolman should be helpful in the defensive end and on the penalty kill. Nonetheless, the team’s newest addition should improve the Canucks’ performance after a disappointing 2020-21 season.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.