Through nine games, the Vancouver Canucks are sitting third in the Pacific Division with a record of 5-3-1 — this is definitely a surprise to most fans and critics of the team. The biggest surprise, though, is the play of Derek Dorsett. Regularly known for being a grinder and physical presence, he has turned heads with his production levels and been the best Canuck to date in this 2017-18 season.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Dorsett’s elevation of play is the fact that he is bouncing back from a season-ending neck surgery to repair disc degeneration in his spine that sidelined him just 14 games into the 2016-17 campaign. The surgery was not tagged with a return date but the Canucks and fans alike are very pleased to have him back in the lineup.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 5, 2016
Exploding Onto the Scene
Across the board, Dorsett is dominating the Canucks lineup in terms of statistics. He leads the team in goals with five, is tied for the team-lead in points with six, has accumulated the most hits with 19, and holds the most PIM with 44. He is a presence on the ice every shift with his physical play, and his head coach, Travis Green, has taken notice and put a lot of trust in the 30-year-old winger.
This trust has earned Dorsett an average time on ice of 14:51 per game and a much larger role than the grinder has previously been. Dorsett commented on this increase of production and ice time in an interview with Jason Botchford:
“A lot of it is opportunity, getting playing time. It gives you confidence. You feel more confident with the puck.”
Even with his new-found level of production, Dorsett says he knows his role and is sticking to his guns. First and foremost, he is an energy player that will be playing a shutdown role and adding an edge to the Canucks lineup.
Sticking to his Guns
Dorsett shines in the corner and in his opponents head — his shutdown abilities, paired alongside Brandon Sutter, are sometimes overwhelming for opposing star players. Just ask Connor McDavid, who had the joy of being shadowed by Dorsett all night in a Canucks victory on opening night (October 7th). McDavid, one of the best players in the league, was held off of the score sheet by Dorsett, finishing a -1 and only getting two shots off. By the way, McDavid only has four goals so far this season.
It’s plain and simply unrealistic to think Dorsett is going to score at this rate for the remainder of the season. However, it is realistic to expect him to shatter his previous season-high point total of 25 and to score 15-or-so goals.
With the Dorsett/Sutter line playing at the level they currently are against opposing top lines, they are spending a lot of time in the offensive zone with a not-so-defensive minded line out there to defend against them. For that reason, they will see a lot of production this season, assuming, of course, they don’t let off the gas pedal.
The Canucks’ level of success so far this season has been largely due to Dorsett’s play offensively and defensively – nobody can deny that. With his new-found confidence and Green’s trust in him, Dorsett is poised to play his best NHL season and it couldn’t come at better time for the rebuilding Canucks.
Finishing up their long road trip in Minnesota against the Wild on October 24th, the Canucks prevailed in a one-nothing shutout thanks to a Jake Virtanen third period marker. The Wild were missing three out of their top-six forwards so you’d figure it would have been easy to match Dorsett and Sutter against the Wild’s top line but Green played it differently. Dorsett’s line started the game for the Canucks and was given more of an offensive role, seeing a total of 18:18 on the ice — the most of any Canucks forward. Just over three minutes of that ice time was spent on the penalty kill, a kill that he’s helped lead to a perfect seven-for-seven since the Boston Bruins mishap.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.