Our Vancouver Canucks 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Last season the Vancouver Canucks were in the North Division and had their fair share of struggles on and off the ice.
Let’s start with on the ice. They placed last in the division with a 23-29-4 record and 50 points. The team only accounted for 151 goals on the season putting them at 24th in the league for goals scored. They also failed to keep the puck out of their own net with 188 goals against which was 26th in the league. Bottom 10 in the league for both is rough.
Special teams was hot and cold. The penalty kill was not too bad at 79.8% effective which puts them at 17th in the league, but the powerplay was pretty bad. They were only 17.4% on the season which is 25th in the league. With some of the weapons they have on the team that’s really not good enough.
The team had a number of other struggles as well.
A couple new players had a rough season. Two former Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby was brought in to be a veteran backup to Thatcher Demko in his first year as starter. However, it really didn’t pan out how he would have liked. He made 21 starts, had only 7 wins, a 3.67 goals against average and a 0.889 save percentage. Ouch. It’s unsurprising that he was bought out at the end of the season to make cap space and bring in someone else. The other player that struggled was Nate Schmidt. He was shocked to get traded out of Vegas to begin with and was vocal about how the pandemic made it difficult to gel with a new team. He never really found his game in Vancouver and saw his point totals cut in half. There were rumours he wanted a trade and eventually was sent out to Winnipeg for a 3rd round pick in the offseason.
The team also had to watch Tyler Toffoli light them up all year in the North Division after not re-signing him. Elias Pettersson missed over half the year with an injury. The whole team basically caught Covid near the end of the season and had to come back and play meaningless games. Overall it was a tough season.
Rookie Nils Hoglander was a bright spot. He made the second line out of training camp and brought in a very likely work-ethic to the team. He showed great skill with and without the puck. He ended up with 27 points in 56 games. Brock Boeser played every game which has been a struggle for the young sharpshooter up to this point. He led the team in points with 49 in 56 and showed he’s still got a great shot.
In the offseason the team made a major shake up play by acquiring Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes. The shipped out basically the fourth line in Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Loui Eriksson as well as a 1st, 2nd and 7th round pick. They also signed veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak and traded for defensive forward Jason Dickenson.
The best part of the off season was the club finally signing the two huge restricted free agents of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, so they avoided a completely terrible off season.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson
- Conor Garland
- Tucker Poolman
- Jason Dickenson
- Luke Schenn
- Vasily Podkolzin
- Nicolas Petan
- Phillip Di Giuseppe
- Jaroslav Halak
- Justin Dowling
- Brady Keeper
- Alexander Edler
- Jay Beagle
- Antoine Roussel
- Loui Eriksson
- Nate Schmidt
- Braden Holtby
- Jimmy Vesey
- Travis Boyd
- Jalen Chatfield
- Brogan Rafferty
- Kole Lind
- Jayce Hawryluk
- Jake Virtanen
The top six on this team is largely unchanged. The only possible change is on Bo Horvat’s second line.
Newcomer Conor Garland showed in Arizona he has a scoring touch and could look to bump Tanner Pearson down in the depth chart. Hotly anticipated prospect Vasily Podkolzin is making the jump from Russia this season and could compete for a spot also. It’s also possible that Nils Hoglander moves down, but I really hope we see a Horvat, Hoglander Podkolzin line at some point.
The top line will be the lotto 6 49 line of JT Miller, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. This is a great line, but Elias Pettersson missed a significant chunk of time last season and because he signed so late in the off season it’s unknown how he will look. Can he jump back in and hover around a point per game again? Or will he need time to return to his game? The Canucks will need every ounce of offense they can get so hopefully its sooner rather than later.
The bottom six seems pretty crowded on the Canucks, but that seems to always be the case. They’ve got Jason Dickenson and Brandon Sutter down the middle, which should provide some pretty solid defensive options and two good penalty killing centres. On the wings they could see Tanner Pearson, Nils Hoglander, or Vasily Podkolzin if they aren’t in the top six. Also they will have Tyler Motte, Justin Dowling, Matthew Highmore, Phil Di Giuseppe and Nick Petan. One guy I hope gets some consistent games in is Zack MacEwan. I think the energy he can bring into the roster could be huge.
They seems to have a pretty split forward corps. The top six will be relied upon pretty heavily to generate offense, while the bottom six will predominantly be responsible for defense.
This is a shaky spot for the team and to make matters worse Travis Hamonic looks like he’ll be missing the season for personal reasons. This really hurts the depth on an already iffy blueline.
The top pairing will likely be Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers. These two each played over 22 minutes a game last season and could see the same or more ice team this year. They’ll be relied upon in a lot of situations. Hughes on the powerplay and to drive play at even strength, and Myers on the second unit and shorthanded. Myers looked a lot better in his second season with the team.
The Canucks lost their most consistently partnered even strength pairing of Alex Edler and Nate Schmidt. These guys played a lot of time together and ate a lot of minutes on the second unit. They both definitely had some issues, but they did both average over 20:00 minutes a game. Their departures mean that we will see some new faces on this second pairing. The two likely candidates are Oliver Ekman-Larsson who is really looking to refind his game after some a couple off years in Arizona, and Tucker Poolman who could really relish some more opportunity than he was getting in Winnipeg. OEL has definitely seen a drop off in his play, but has been pretty open about his struggles in Arizona since the passing of his mother and all the turmoil around the team. He was definitely due for a change of scenery and I hope he turns his game around. He won’t be relied upon to be the guy in Vancouver, but with his contract he will still need to be productive and a solid consistent defender. His decision to come to the team was largely influenced by his personal relationship with the Sedin twins, so its a cool connection that I hope develops further during his time with the team.
Tucker Poolman made his partners in Winnipeg better and should be able to provide a solid option in the second unit, however he may see his average ice time per game increase by about two minutes a game so it’ll be interesting to see how he can manage that. He only had 1 point in 39 games in Winnipeg last season, and 16 in 57 the year before. Will he be involved more in the offense or just play a simple game in Vancouver? I’m curious to find out.
The most questions for the blueline surround the third pairing. With Hamonic out it looks like Olli Juolevi and/or Jack Rathbone will have a full time spot. If they need a bigger body on the pairing they can bring up Luke Schenn. He actually looked really good in his brief time with Vancouver in 2018-2019 so if he can bring that game as well as his experience from two Tampa Bay Stanley Cup winning teams to the roster he should do well. However, having essentially two rookies or a 7th defenseman on a pairing for the full season will be a tenuous situation at best.
The team will likely ride their top four pretty hard which may lead to some injuries or fatigue, and I’m afraid they don’t have the depth to fill in when needed.
The team will rely upon Thatcher Demko to be the clear cut starter for the season. Even with the team’s struggles last season, Demko was great. He made 35 starts, had 16 wins, posted a 2.85 goals against average and a 0.915 save percentage. Pretty great numbers for a shaky bottom of a division team.
They bought out Braden Holtby and brought in Jaroslav Halak, who found himself as the third option on the Boston Bruins last season. The 36 year old will be looking to bounce back a bit. His numbers weren’t terrible at a 0.905 save percentage and a 2.53 goals against average in 17 starts, but its a small sample size and he lost his spot. It’s also a dip from the previous two seasons for him.
The team will look pretty close to how it did last season in net, if not a little better.
Vancouver Canucks 2021-22 Prediction
The Canucks are in a weak division, so could find themselves in the top half. They’ve got a top loaded offense that has a huge question mark around Elias Pettersson. If he bounces back right away they should be in a good place. The defense is going to be shaky for the team, especially if Travis Hamonic sits out this season. The Canucks are a team that always seem to be battling injury issues, and if that continues this season, I’m worried they won’t have the depth to overcome that. That being said they should still compete and with Demko in net they could go on a bit of a run if everything else works.
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