With Quinn Hughes being a runner-up for the Calder Trophy and Elias Pettersson winning the award last season, Vancouver Canucks fans have been spoiled by two impressive rookie seasons. Thanks to those two, it’s an appropriate time to look back at the Canucks’ 10 best rookie seasons since another player is involved in Calder talks for a third season in a row.
10. Dixon Ward, 1992-93
A season after Bure’s rookie season, Dixon Ward had a pretty good season as a rookie. Ward is 10th in Canucks rookie scoring with 52 points in 70 games and his .74 points per games played is good for seventh, tying him with Trevor Linden. His 52-point season is impressive because he didn’t hit the 50-point mark again for the rest of his NHL career. He followed up with two goals and five points in nine playoff games. He was traded to the Kings after playing 33 games with the Canucks the next season.
9. Rick Blight, 1975-76
Rick Blight started off hot in his short NHL career. The Canucks selected Blight with the 10th-overall pick in the 1975 NHL draft. He had 25 goals and 56 points in 74 games, which has him at sixth in all-time rookie scoring for the Canucks. His 56 points were fifth on the team in the 1975-76 season. He improved the following two seasons finishing with 68 points, which were the second-highest and then leading the team with 63 points in 1977-78. After seven seasons, he retired due to a knee injury.
8. Dale Tallon, 1970-71
Dale Tallon is the first-ever draft pick in franchise history. The Canucks selected him with the second-overall pick in the 1970 NHL draft. He set a record in points for a rookie Canuck defenseman with 56 points — a record that stands today.
He finished fifth in Calder voting that season. He set a career-high in goals the following season with 17 and a career-high in points with 56 in the 1975-76 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He is now the GM for the Florida Panthers.
7. Dennis Ververgaert, 1973-74
Canucks selected Dennis Ververgaert with the third-overall pick in the 1973 NHL draft. He started his career hot, setting the rookie scoring record with 57 points in 78 games, and held that record until Hlinka broke it. He scored 26 goals to lead all rookies that season and finished fourth in Calder voting. He was second in points for the 1973-74 Canucks team behind Andre Boudrias.
Two seasons later, he scored 37 goals and had 71 points in 80 games, which would be his career high. He struggled to reach his potential as his numbers stayed around 40-50 points for the remainder of his career. He played eight total seasons in the NHL before retiring at 27.
6. Brock Boeser, 2017-18
Brock Boeser led all rookies with 29 goals before suffering an injury that ended his season. He became the first Canuck rookie to hit the 20-goal mark since Daniel Sedin in 2000-01. Throughout the 2017-18 season, Boeser was in a close race with Matthew Barzal and Clayton Keller for the Calder. He finished the season with 55 points in 62 games, fifth in rookie scoring, and second in points per games played behind Barzal.
Injuries have hurt Boeser’s production throughout his first three seasons and he is yet to play 70 games in an NHL season. His goal scoring has taken somewhat of a hit since his rookie season. A combination of Boeser’s injuries and the addition of other offensive weapons contributed to this.
5. Ivan Hlinka, 1981-82
At 32, Ivan Hlinka became the first Canuck rookie to score 60 total points. He also became the first Czech player to play in the Stanley Cup Final alongside teammate Jiri Bubla —they were the first Czech players to play in the NHL with the permission of Czech authorities. Through 72 contests, he scored 23 goals and had 37 assists. During the team’s Stanley Cup Final run, Hlinka had 2 goals and 8 points in 12 games. In his second season, he improved with 63 points in 65 games. Following his second season, he returned to Europe to finish his career.
4. Trevor Linden, 1988-89
Trevor Linden’s legendary career with the Canucks resulted in his number 16 being retired. They selected him with the second-overall pick in the 1988 draft and he did not disappoint. He scored 30 goals, becoming the first Canuck rookie to reach that mark, a record broken by Bure a few seasons later.
He had 59 points in 80 games, which is the fourth most for Canucks rookies. His 59 points were also the second most on the 1988-89 team. He finished second in Calder voting, losing out to Brian Leetch. He was named captain at 21, leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final in the 1993-94 season. After the 2013-14 season, Linden was hired as president of hockey operations.
3. Quinn Hughes, 2019-20
Hughes’s rookie season was cut short due to the suspension of the NHL season. The rookie defenseman was on his way to breaking a few Canucks defenseman records. He scored 8 goals, added 45 assists for a total of 53 points over 68 games.
He was on pace to finish the season with 63 points in 81 games. His 63 points would put him behind only Pettersson’s 66 from his rookie season. That would also tie Doug Lidster’s team record from 1986-87 for most points by a defenseman in a single season. To make his rookie season more impressive, he’s the first defender to hit the 50-point mark since Christian Ehrhoff in 2010-11.
2. Pavel Bure, 1991-92
Bure’s rookie season was the first of many impressive seasons for the Russian rocket. He won gold for the Soviet Union at the World Juniors and the World Championships before playing in the NHL. He tied Hlinka’s rookie point mark with 60 points. He scored 34 goals in 65 games, which is the most for a Canuck rookie. He became the first Canuck rookie to win the Calder, beating out Nick Lidstrom and Tony Amonte. He followed up his impressive rookie season with 6 goals and 10 points in 13 playoff games.
He took a big leap in his second season, scoring 60 goals and a total of 110 points in 83 games. After his legendary career, Bure is the only long-time Canucks player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It took a little bit of luck and a lot of research from former chief scout Mike Penny to end up with one of the greatest players in franchise history. They drafted him in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL draft, as teams were worried he would not come over to the NHL.
1. Elias Pettersson, 2018-19
Pettersson’s rookie season saw him adding his name to the team’s record books. The Canucks drafted the rookie with the fifth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
Last season, Pettersson became the first Canuck to win the Calder since Pavel Bure did in 1991-92. He beat out St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington and Buffalo Sabres rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He led all rookies with 28 goals, 38 assists and 66 points to secure the award. His 66 points put him at the top of all-time Canuck rookies in points. He surpassed Bure and Ivan Hlinka’s 60 points. He also led Brady Tkachuk by 20 points in the rookie point race. Pettersson posted 27 goals and 66 points once again in 2019-20 in three fewer games.
More Impressive Rookie Seasons to Come
The Canucks have had a few impressive rookie seasons and the recent rebuild has created buzz. Hughes was on pace to set records for both team rookie defenseman and team defenseman in points before the season was suspended. With Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander in the pipeline among others, fans have more impressive rookie seasons to look forward too.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.