The 2018 season doesn't necessarily project to be a whole lot better on the ice, but if you're watching the team build through the prospects, the outlook isn't nearly as dire as this season's results may also suggest. There are key pieces coming, but they may only be getting a taste of the big leagues, carrying lower expectations. If everything goes according to management's plan, the Canucks will be a little more competitive, but I wouldn't be expecting a world of change.
A new coaching staff and a few new faces make it a little harder to project this team's scoring rates to a tee, but here's my best guess.
|Michael Del Zotto||D||20||N|
Table last updated on August 14th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Getting one of those end-of-season looks last year was the Canucks' top prospect, forward Brock Boeser, who came in with a bang. The University of North Dakota product came in and played the last nine games of the season, scoring 4 goals and 5 points.
The Canucks will likely give every opportunity to their 2015 1st round draft pick, as he was paired up with Bo Horvat near the end of the season and the two looked pretty good together, with Sven Baertschi on the shelf with his neck injury.
First Round Picks
Amidst a thorough rebuild, the Canucks are a ways from projecting a 1st round pick for the hockey pool, especially since the Sedin twins haven't exactly kept the pace of their Art Ross Trophy seasons (to say the least!). No, the Canucks will be used more as depth picks, as their first projections don't hit until the 50-point range today and will only improve to the 55-point range, once Horvat is signed.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Both Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have vowed that they have something left in the tank for this season, as they open up the final year of their current deals. They'll be worthy, but who are they going to find that chemistry with? Loui Eriksson, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund or possibly the newcomer, Sam Gagner? These guys should all be pool worthy this year, but expectations are certainly going to be tempered. Don't forget about Brandon Sutter... he'll be flipping between centre roles all year, as the lineup will likely be shaken up more than once this year.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The blueline for the Canucks is likely going to look a lot different this year, adding Michael Del Zotto to the mix and a hopeful rookie in Olli Juolevi, while Alex Edler, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher continue to work some magic from the back end, trying to keep the puck moving up the ice. It doesn't look like anyone will be piecing together huge years, but you could use these guys as your 3-4 guys.
It's Jacob Markstrom's year to take the number one job and run with it. He's not going to be playing in the shadow of Ryan Miller this season, but he will be getting a good push from Anders Nilsson, who could prove himself to be a number one, if Markstrom falters at all. Both keepers have the potential for enough points, more so as later round picks, because the Canucks are not projected to fare very well in the standings.
Team To Pick From Late?
A healthy Erik Gudbranson or Chris Tanev might push their numbers up into the conversation, but the scoring is already spread pretty thin and it's going to be a lean year across the board, unless something drastic happens and the Canucks all of a sudden score like the dickens.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The big dark cloud over hanging this club is Bo Horvat missing from the projections list, as he hits the middle of August without a contract, although reports are out there that the talks have been positive, so we'll have to take that for what it's worth.
The Canucks currently have under $8.5 million in unused space to work with and that should be more than enough to deal with Horvat this season and beyond. Horvat should be in the neighbourhood of the $6 million mark, if you look at his draft class comparable players, which would look pretty good on a long-term deal.
Vancouver had a pile of injuries overlapping into the off-season, some of which touching on players that could be pool worthy or come close. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson had his season ended very early, back in December, due to a wrist problem, which required surgery. It sounds like he should be good to go for camp. Forward Markus Granlund was pretty much in the same boat with wrist surgery, but he only missed 11 games at the end of the year, and is expected back for camp. Finally, goaltender Jacob Markstrom also had his season ended early, back in March, due to a knee injury, also requiring surgery, but he didn't think it was going to take long to recover. He should be ready to assume the number one job.