From the start to the finish of the 2020-21 season, Brock Boeser was the Vancouver Canucks’ best player. He was able to string together an impressive season offensively, leading the team in goals with 23 and points with 49. He had a point per games played of .88, which was the second-highest in his career. His production this season is even more impressive as he was able to keep it up without his star centre Elias Pettersson, who missed 30 games this season.
His 23 goal season was huge because he had struggled to score at a similar rate the previous season. Boeser, who was drafted due to his goal-scoring ability, saw a drop in his scoring ability over the past two seasons. In his rookie season, he scored a career-high 29 goals in 62 games on a shooting percentage (S%) of 16.2. In his sophomore season, he scored 26 in 69 games on a 12.4 S% and last season, as he scored 16 goals in 57 games on a 9.5 S%. Not only did he score 20+ goals this season, but he also registered a career-high 16.3 S%.
Part of why Boeser struggled with scoring over the past two seasons was a season-ending back injury he suffered in his rookie year. After the season opener, when Boeser scored two goals, it seemed like his shot was back to where it was before the injury.
“I was pretty excited to come into a new year and now have a fresh start. Especially after my back injury… that gave me a lot of problems after. It was pretty bad injury I’m feeling confident and I feel like my shot’s back where it was in my first year… when I shoot I think it fuels my game and it gives me confidence.”Boeser said about his back injury after the season opener.
Since Boeser struggled to score last season, he had to develop his play-making skills. This season, with the resurgence of his goal scoring, he became a complete offensive player. He registered his second-best assists per games played this season as well. It was important for Boeser to step up offensively for multiple reasons.
First, the club lost Tyler Toffoli in free agency, a top-six player who scored 28 goals with the Montreal Canadiens this season. Secondly, they lost Pettersson for more than half the season. The Swedish forward usually leads the team offensively, and without him, Boeser had to pick it up. Lastly, the Canucks were hit with one of the worst COVID outbreaks, but Boeser was one of the few players who didn’t test positive. So when the team returned to play, he was relied on heavily by head coach Travis Green.
Additionally, he took a bit more responsibility in the defensive zone, improving his two-way game. He played more defensive minutes this season than he had in the previous years (from ‘Canuck Brock Boeser’s best came in the worst of seasons for the NHL club,’ The Province, May 25, 2021).
“I definitely think I’ve taken strides each and every year, I think you guys have seen that and now especially this year I feel I rounded my game out a lot and I felt that I played well not just offensively, but defensively. I think that’s a huge part of being a part of a winning team in this league.”Boeser said after the season.
Moving forward, Boeser will need to continue improving in the defensive zone, taking more responsibility as a two-way player. Additionally, as a goal scorer, he should attempt to crack the 30 goal mark, a milestone he has been very close to eclipsing. He should have a good chance to do it next season, as he is comfortable with his shot once again, and as long as the Lotto Line remains healthy, they should continue to produce offensively.
Overall Grade: A
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.