Hello Canucks fans and welcome to the first roundtable of the season! Even though the season isn’t technically over yet, we thought it would be a fun exercise to give our takes on who should receive the ever-popular team awards. So join the Canucks staff of Matthew Zator, Landon Kapusianyk, Sartaaj Bhullar, Noah Strang, and Tyler Halsey as we reveal our picks, and to make things even more interesting, we also delve into the ideal playoff opponent and our most memorable moments of the season so far. Enjoy!
Canucks Team Awards
Team MVP – Cyclone Taylor Award
Landon Kapusianyk – Jacob Markstrom
The Canucks were fortunate to have several MVP-calibre players at each position this year. Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes have all had stretches where it looked like they might take over the team. However, this season has belonged to Markstrom.
If there was any doubt before, Markstrom’s injury put his questioned value to rest. During the big Swede’s absence, the team lost five of eight games and fell out of a playoff spot. With him out, it seemed as if the world was ending for Canucks fans – before it did for the rest of the globe. He was so valuable to this team that the fanbase was praying that no more games would be played without him – a bit ironic looking back now.
Sartaaj Bhullar – Jacob Markstrom
I would give Markstrom the Canucks MVP this season. He missed a few games before the stoppage and it was pretty obvious how important he is to the team. Pettersson, Miller, and Hughes are runner ups for this award.
Noah Strang – Jacob Markstrom
I think the biggest case for Markstrom being the team MVP may be looking at what happened after he got injured. The Canucks allowed plenty of shots and dangerous scoring attempts the entire season but were often saved by Markstrom making big stops. He’s an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this offseason and they will need to make a decision but I think he really solidified himself as one of the league’s best goalies.
Matthew Zator – Jacob Markstrom
Markstrom was the biggest reason why the Canucks were in the playoff hunt at all this season. The number of games where he had over 40 shots against was staggering. He also bailed them out multiple times in third periods when they struggled to carry the play. The highlight reel was full of spectacular saves that harkened back to the days of Roberto Luongo, who ironically was the goaltender he was traded for.
Miller definitely should be in consideration for this award as well with his amazing debut in a Canucks uniform, but Markstrom was the last line of defence, and he had to be just that many times this season. The fact that they underachieved without him between the pipes is proof enough. Backup goaltender Thatcher Demko did a good enough job in his absence, but he was definitely not the man they call “Marky”.
Tyler Halsey – Elias Pettersson
I know Markstrom will (and rightfully so) get a lot of love for this award, but Pettersson was the true hero for this team. He was everything for the Canucks this season. He was their workhorse – as their primary offensive generator while being an overall responsible defensive player, he essentially carried the team’s forward group.
Pettersson’s even-strength and powerplay numbers were fantastic without sacrificing scoring chances against. The franchise centreman actually generated the second-highest Goals Above Replacement in the NHL, only behind New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin (according to Evolving-Hockey). Pettersson had an incredible sophomore season.
Unsung Hero – Fred J. Hume Award
Landon Kapusianyk – Adam Gaudette
Adam Gaudette, Jake Virtanen, and Tanner Pearson all deserve some praise. I believe that Gaudette flew under the radar the most especially since he started off the year with an early stint with the Utica Comets, having to play his way back onto the team.
Tyler Halsey – Adam Gaudette
This was a tough one to call, but the sophomore American centre gets the nod. Gaudette’s emergence as a legitimate third-line centre helped create much-needed depth in the Canucks’ lineup. It allowed Brandon Sutter to drop to a fourth-line, checking role, while the third line became more of a scoring threat alongside a revolving cast of wingers.
While the underlying metrics suggest Gaudette’s defensive game has a long way to go, he has proven he belongs in the NHL and has allowed the Canucks to have a deeper lineup, something that was severely needed as they pushed for the playoffs.
Sartaaj Bhullar – J.T. Miller
Miller has stepped in and has proven his worth so far this season. He leads the team in points and is tied for the lead in points with Pettersson. Besides his offensive contributions, he’s been a great leader for the younger players like Virtanen.
Noah Strang – Alex Edler
Alex Edler had another quiet but productive season with five goals and 33 points. He is a calm force on the Canucks back end yet Canuck fans have become so accustomed to having him on the team that I think he has become underrated. He is one of the greatest defenceman in Canucks history and put in another good season this year.
Matthew Zator – Tyler Motte
Tyler Motte has been a warrior for the Canucks ever since he arrived in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Tomas Vanek. He fought his way into the lineup in 2018-19 and has now become the lynchpin on the fourth line. When he was injured, head coach Travis Green tried multiple players in his place with little to no success. It was only when he returned that the line looked complete again.
Motte is the perfect utility forward. He can forecheck, kill penalties and bring a very effective physical game to the rink. His energy rubs off on his teammates, that’s why his line performs better with him on it. If the Canucks are smart, they would make it a priority to re-sign him this offseason. He is the definition of an unsung hero for me.
Most Exciting Player – Pavel Bure Award
Landon Kapusianyk – J.T. Miller
Miller has brought it every night for his new team. Exemplified during his Feb. 27 performance against the Ottawa Senators where he nearly single-handedly put the team on his back. Since his very first game with the Canucks, he has become a household name. The team’s leader in goals and points put his skill and razzle-dazzle on display every night with his 1.04 points per game. His ability to win puck battles and his ferocity are what set him apart from the rest.
Credited with a team-leading 123 hits, 61.46 CF% (Corsi For), and 54.90 HDGF% (High Danger Goals For), Miller’s grit paired with his skill is what makes his brand of hockey the most exciting. This is not an easy task when you are teammates with flashy players like Pettersson and Hughes.
Matthew Zator – J.T. Miller
I was between Miller and Hughes for this one. Ultimately I am going with Miller for the sheer volume of exciting plays he was a part of. The consistency of his game was very impressive too, as he was held pointless only 23 times this season. His 27 goals and 72 points were career highs, and I can count on my one hand the games that he was not noticeable in. The way he’s influenced this team in his first season is mind-boggling, and he will probably go down as being part of one of the best trades in Canucks history.
Surprisingly, Miller is already being talked about in decade teams and all-time lists. That’s almost unheard of for a player who hasn’t even completed a full season with his new team yet. He hasn’t just been dominant on the ice, he’s been dominant in the dressing room as well, mentoring 23-year-old Virtanen to a career season. It’s been quite the ride watching him become a core member of this team.
Sartaaj Bhullar – Quinn Hughes
Hughes has been exciting to watch in his rookie season. This may be the first time Canucks fans have seen a defenceman like him. He has great skill with the puck on his stick and his ability to handle the puck makes him really special. As for runner ups, Pettersson is a close second for me.
Tyler Halsey – Jake Virtanen
Something about Virtanen has the city of Vancouver buzzing. Every time he touches the puck, you can feel the anticipation in Rogers Arena. Everyone is ready to celebrate with “Shotgun Jake” and the craze truly took over the city. This season, he took off offensively, potting a career-high 18 goals and 36 points. His blazing speed, wicked shot, and amazing nickname made him the Canucks’ most exciting player this season.
Noah Strang – Elias Pettersson
There was no sophomore slump for Petey as he had another spectacular season. He was a threat to score every time he touched the puck and had many highlight-reel plays. My favourite may have been his solo effort against the Blue Jackets where he sped out of the box onto a breakaway and scored. One of the most exciting players in the entire league.
Best Defenceman – Walter ‘Babe’ Pratt Award
Landon Kapusianyk – Quinn Hughes
Hughes is an easy pick. Shortly into the season, the sensational rookie usurped a spot on the top power play unit from Edler (the Canucks’ all-time defence scoring leader) and the rest is history. It may not be long until he cements his place in history and steals that top scoring spot on the all-time list from Edler too. I would expect that this is the first of many years that he is the Canucks top defenceman.
Matthew Zator – Quinn Hughes
This one was the easiest to choose as Hughes has been a revelation on the Canucks blueline in his rookie season. The way he moves the puck is sublime, and he makes it look so easy when it clearly is not because if it was, every defenceman would be doing it. His skating is simply elite, and his edges are smooth as silk. He also commands the power play like an elite quarterback commands his offence. Throw it all together, and you could have a future Norris Trophy winner on your hands.
This may all sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it’s not. All you have to do is watch Hughes play one shift. Over the course of the season, he simply has become one of the Canucks’ best defenceman, averaging almost 22 minutes a night and rarely breaking a sweat while doing it. His eight goals and 53 points not only led the Canucks’ defence, but it was also tied for fourth in the entire league. His defensive game needs a little work, but over time that can be corrected. No disrespect to Chris Tanev and Edler, but Hughes is hands down the winner of this award.
Sartaaj Bhullar – Quinn Hughes
Edler and Tanev have been pretty good this year as well but what Hughes has been able to do offensively makes me lean towards him. He was on pace to break the all-time single-season points record for a Canuck defenceman. So he’s helped a lot from the backend.
Noah Strang – Quinn Hughes
Easy pick here. Hughes changed the team the moment he first touched the ice as he offers something that Canuck fans have never really seen from the back end. He was my second choice for most exciting and he was clearly the best out of all Canucks defenceman.
Tyler Halsey – Quinn Hughes
A slam dunk pick, Hughes was everything and more for the Canucks. He emerged as a true number one defenceman in his rookie season; he ate minutes against tough competition while continuously scoring and creating offence. Not only is he already the Canucks’ best current defenceman, but he’ll also likely emerge as their best defenceman ever soon enough.
Most Memorable Canucks Moment of 2019-20
Landon Kapusianyk – Markstrom’s 49-save shutout over the Chicago Blackhawks
This was a toss-up between Markstrom’s 49-save shutout performance against the Blackhawks or the dominating 9-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Both are rivals that share history with the Canucks. Apparently, I tend to wipe out all memories involving the Bruins – good or bad. Therefore, the Blackhawks game is the most memorable moment of the season for me. This is easily one of the best goaltending performances in the club’s history given that it’s the most shots a Canuck has faced in a shutout performance as I have mentioned before.
Sartaaj Bhullar – Markstrom’s 49-save shutout over the Blackhawks
The most memorable moment for me was Markstroms 49 save night against the Blackhawks in February. This was a special night in Vancouver because the Canucks were retiring the Sedin twins’ jerseys as well. Markstrom stepped up with a lights out performance to get the Canucks a win on a big night.
Matthew Zator – Sedins jersey retirement / Alex Burrows Ring of Honour night
This season was full of ceremonies and wonderful moments. The two that immediately come to mind were the Sedins’ jersey retirement and Burrows being inducted into the Ring of Honour. Mostly because I grew up watching their entire careers. The memories brought forth on both those nights were special and exciting. Yes, there were ups and downs, but ultimately we were very lucky to watch these three for over a decade, despite not winning a Stanley Cup with them on the team. The fact that Markstrom had a 49-save shutout and Antoine Rousell scored in his return to the lineup was just icing on the cake on two nights that every Canuck fan will never forget.
Noah Strang – Home opener versus the Los Angeles Kings
The home opener was a good one as the night kicked off with Bo Horvat being handed the “C” and ended in blowout fashion with an 8-2 win. Hughes showed off his cannon of a slapshot with a great goal and the team rolled over the Kings. It was a great way to set the tone for the season and for Bo’s captaincy.
Tyler Halsey – 9-3 victory over the Boston Bruins
This was a game that just felt different. It felt as though the Canucks emerged as a legitimate playoff threat; a team that could tussle with anyone. Coming off two straight losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild, this game felt like one they had to win, and they did more than just win. They dominated the Bruins, the best team in the NHL and old nemesis. It was also Tyler Toffoli’s second game as a Canuck and he came up big, scoring twice in the win. This was a major day for the city and the team.
Ideal Playoff Opponents for the Canucks
Landon Kapusianyk – Nashville Predators
In my dream scenario, I would have the Nashville Predators as my ideal playoff matchup that is currently in playoff contention. Traditionally, this would be unlikely to happen, especially in the first round, given that they are in the Central division. However, I have a feeling the NHL might stray away from the typical playoff format to make up for the lost time if the playoffs were to return. They have an awful penalty kill, the Canucks have an amazing powerplay. Highlighted on Nov. 21 when they scored on five of six powerplays. The Canucks have won all three matchups thus far this season.
Sartaaj Bhullar – Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames
The ideal matchup for the Canucks would be either the Edmonton Oilers or the Calgary Flames. Those are two teams I believe the Canucks would have the best chance to beat and it would help grow the rivalry between the two teams.
Noah Strang – Calgary Flames
What better way for the Canucks to re-enter the playoffs to get revenge on the team that last knocked them out. No one knows how the NHL will design this year’s playoff but if the Canucks can draw the Flames it would make for a great series. While the Flames did beat the Canucks in their last meeting 6-2, I think it would be a great chance for the Canucks to re-enter the playoff scene.
Tyler Halsey – Edmonton Oilers
This series would be electric. Pettersson in a head-to-head against Connor McDavid? Sign me up. This series would be all offence and so much fun to watch. While the series wouldn’t necessarily be an easy win, it would be too much fun to not pick. Plus, it really is winnable, and I’d rather the Canucks play the Oilers than, say the Vegas Golden Knights or St. Louis Blues.
Matthew Zator – Edmonton Oilers
To echo Tyler, I agree with the excitement that an Oilers matchup would bring. Yes, there’s always the threat of the two-headed monster of McDavid and Draisaitl, but the Canucks have stars of their own too. They are obviously not of the same caliber, but a team game can definitely beat the one-line team of the Oilers. The defence is questionable in Oil Country and the goaltending is still a mystery, while the Canucks have Hughes and Markstrom. Bottom line is, of all the teams they could face, the Oilers present the best matchup.
Related: Canucks’ 4 Best All-Time
There you have it! Now we turn it over to you Canucks Nation! Who do you think should take home the team awards? What was your most memorable moment of the season? And who do you want to see the Canucks face in the first round of the playoffs? Sound off in the comments below, and we will see you around the next roundtable!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.