Canucks Weekly: Boeser, Miller, Gaudette & More

Welcome to Canucks Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 2019-20 season. From trending topics to news and notes, this is your weekly update on all things Canucks.

Preseason has finally begun and hockey has returned to Rogers Arena and living rooms across British Columbia. Battles were won and lost as roster cuts were completed after each game. The Canucks had a pretty successful first week. First, the news that Brock Boeser had re-signed with the team, then winning three out of the five preseason games they played.

The wins had an Alberta flavour to them. First, the Canucks turned in a 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames in the first of two split-squad games. They then dispatched the Edmonton Oilers twice by 4-2 and 6-1 scores. Losses came against those same Flames in Victoria and the Los Angeles Kings in Salt Lake City by 4-3 and 7-5 scores respectively.

Here are some notable stories and headlines that came out of the first week of the preseason.

Boeser Returns

The Flow has returned. The biggest news to come out of this week was the announcement that Boeser had signed a three-year deal with the team. A collective sigh of relief swept over the province the minute it happened. There were mixed feelings on the term, as a lot of fans wanted a long term deal. But the important thing is that he is back where he belongs, wearing the Orca on his chest.

Canucks fans weren’t the only ones happy to have him back in the fold. I’m sure head coach Travis Green is thrilled to have his sniper back flanking Elias Pettersson on his top line. The Canucks are a much better team with Boeser than without. Now they have two legitimate offensive lines that can match up well against a lot of teams.

Related: Perfect Storm Caused Boeser, Canucks to Settle on Bridge Deal

Boeser made his preseason debut in the final game of the week versus the Kings. It looked like he was battling some rust in the first period, but appeared more comfortable the rest of the game. He skated well and even set up Josh Leivo’s goal in the third period. He will have three more games to further refine his game before the season opener next week.

Horvat-Miller Chemistry

We finally got to see Bo Horvat and newcomer J.T. Miller play together in a game. The early signs are good, as they combined for the tying goal in one of the split-squad games against the Flames at the beginning of the week. Miller showed off why Jim Benning acquired him in the first place. His exceptional vision and ability to start rushes stood out in both games he played in. Fans have been clamouring for a winger that would match well with Horvat. I think the Canucks may have found him.

Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat Josh Teves J.T. Miller
Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat celebrates with defenseman Josh Teves and forward J.T. Miller (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s early and it’s preseason, but Miller has looked comfortable on that line as well as on the power play. Look for him to start the season alongside him. He may not play with Horvat on the man advantage (more on that later), but he looks like the perfect winger for the future captain.

Horvat himself has looked stronger to start the 2019-20 campaign, scoring two goals using a pin-point accurate wrist shot. If Miller can become the playmaker on the line, we may see Horvat eclipse his goal total from last season. It may be too early to say this, but the Canucks could have the makings of two top offensive lines that will score a lot of goals this season. The acquisition of Miller could turn out to be more important than we think.

Gaudette Making a Case

Adam Gaudette has been given every chance to make the Canucks out of training camp. He has dressed in every game of the preseason, been used in every situation and for the most part, has looked good doing it. He started out slow, but in recent games has turned it up a notch. Despite some questionable defence in the last game versus the Los Angeles Kings, he leads the Canucks in goals in the preseason.

Canucks forward Adam Gaudette
Canucks forward Adam Gaudette (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

He is definitely making a case to take one of the spots on the roster come opening night. His contract, however, could prove to be the reason he does not. The fact that he can be sent down to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League without the threat of waivers may be too enticing for Canucks’ management to ignore. Having said that, Gaudette could do what teammate Tyler Motte did a season ago, and push someone out of the lineup.

Gaudette must be taking notes, as he is matching the same work ethic Motte has shown throughout the preseason. If he cannot push a veteran center like Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle off the roster, maybe he can shift to the wing and force a trade of Sven Baertschi, Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen. Regardless, his work ethic and offensive output have made him hard to ignore this preseason.

New Power Play Formations

This week also saw the unveiling of some fresh power-play units. The usual suspects were on the first unit, except for Horvat, who was dropped to the second unit. No one should view this as a demotion, but a sign of the team’s depth going into 2019-20. In previous seasons, he could never be dropped to the second unit without making the first unit less of a threat.

The first group saw Leivo (Micheal Ferland when he returns from illness) join Miller, Boeser, Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. The second group featured Horvat between Baertschi/Goldobin and Tanner Pearson with Tyler Myers and Alex Edler manning the points.

The surprising thing about the first unit, apart from the absence of Horvat, is the addition of Hughes as the lone defenceman. It’s great to see Green put his trust in the 19-year-old before seeing him take to the ice for the regular season. It appears he has changed his tune from last season when he refused to place him in the top group. Hughes is difficult to ignore on the ice, especially with how comfortable he looks on the power play with the big guns.

Other News and Notes

NHL-Ready Hughes

After the five-game appetizer, it appears Hughes is ready for the 82-game main course. Throughout training camp, he has displayed the many skills that will make him a marquee defenceman in the National Hockey League. From the ease he exits the defensive zone to the creativity he shows in the attacking zone, Hughes looks poised to take the league by storm in 2019-20.

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you weren’t convinced already, there should be no doubt after seeing him set up Gaudette for his second goal in Salt Lake City. Hughes’ creativity and edges were exceptional, especially on this play. He makes a great read at the blueline, dancing around Kings forward Martin Frk, before feeding Gaudette for the easy tap in goal. The Canucks have not had a defenceman like Hughes in a long time. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, he is going to revolutionize the Canucks defence.

Related: Countdown to Puck Drop – Day 43 – Quinn Hughes: Key to Canucks’ Future

The Bubble: Standouts and Standbys

Preseason is never about the wins and losses. It’s always nice to win, but the main focus is on how players play the game. This week saw many standouts and standbys. Brogan Rafferty stood out all week, scoring a goal and displaying poise and mobility on the blueline. He was recently sent down to the Comets but made a strong case to be the first name on the Canucks’ call-up list for the regular season.

Tyler Graovac, Motte and Sutter have all had strong preseasons as well showing great work ethic and improvement in their games. Graovac, in particular, has quietly made a case to be one of the first call-ups when a forward goes down for the Canucks.

As for the standby group, I hate to put Virtanen here, but apart from the first split-squad game where he scored two goals, he disappeared the rest of the week. Goldobin also had a strong start but did not stand out against the Kings. He should be getting stronger as the preseason progresses, not start fading away.

It seems like he needs a skilled centerman with him to be noticeable. That further solidifies my argument that Goldobin needs to be in the top six, and that eliminates a lot of options for Green as the roster starts taking shape. Both him and Virtanen will have to put in some extra work in the coming week to solidify their spot in the lineup.

The Week Ahead

The Canucks have three games remaining on their preseason schedule. It begins with a two-game series against the Ottawa Senators. The first game goes Monday in nearby Abbotsford. They then return to Rogers Arena for a date with those same Senators on Wednesday. Finally, the preseason comes to a close against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Related: 4 Vancouver Canucks Predictions for the 2019-20 Season

We should start seeing the final lineup take shape this coming week. Green and the coaching staff will be faced with some tough decisions. With all the players on the roster right now, Benning will have to get involved as well. He has already started putting out feelers, making several forwards available for trade. It definitely will be an interesting week in Canucks Nation as Oct. 2 creeps closer and closer.