Friday, April 19, 2019

Pool Outlook for Vancouver

The expectations for the Vancouver Canucks were pretty low coming into the season, no one was talking about playoffs, but there was a certain buzz around the team, because of their youth movement and the hype that was building in the season previous.

The team had shown off a goal scoring winger to go along with a franchise centreman in the 2018 season and everyone was waiting for the dynamo from Sweden to come over and show us all the razzle-dazzle... which he did!

The combination of the youth movement, the lack of expectations and a coaching staff now going into year number two creating a pretty good working environment for this team and they ended up competing for much of the season, but a lack of depth and the youth hitting the proverbial wall in a long season stalled progress and they went from competing for a playoff spot to finishing 23rd overall in the league.

This team isn't without a bunch of optimism, as their youth turns over and new fresh faces come to join the squad for next season, there is hope that the playoff push will last long into March and April going forward.

The Canucks were led by one of the favourites for the Calder Trophy this season, forward Elias Pettersson, who got off to a rocket start to the season, but slowed considerably down the stretch, but still left a pretty good impression on the league as a whole.  He finished with 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games this season, tops for points among all rookies as well, 57th among all forwards and 72nd overall in the hockey pool.  A little bit more conditioning and some more bulk on that slender frame will make him a hockey pool stud, year after year.

The depth was certainly lacking for the Canucks this season, as they finished with only seven players in the pool worthiness conversation and that includes Pettersson.  Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser were the only other two forwards to make the grade this season, while Alex Edler, Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton was good enough from the blueline and Jacob Markstrom emerged as a solid number one guy in the 2019 season.   That lack of depth was their ultimate undoing, since they couldn't quite give their goaltending the scoring support, they so desperately needed to win a few more games.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

With the Sedin twins now departed, the Canucks depth will be challenged even more in the 2019 season. They will have to replace two 50+ point players, find a way to keep their key players healthy and hope that some of their kids can climb up the depth charts a little faster than initially expected, in order to stay relatively competitive. The Canucks did show flashes of what they could be moving forward, but it all goes back to depth and what they didn't have when Horvat and/or Boeser got hurt. A solid summer, some promising young kids and a strong camp might make this a better team, but the playoffs do still seem like a little ways away.

The kids stepped up in a big way in 2019, but they were unable to drag the rest of the scoring depth with them, which was probably the biggest issue.  There were plenty of flashes for this team, but overall, the playoffs are still a little ways away, but there is certainly more optimism that this rebuild is going well, rather than some of their divisional opponents still spinning their wheels.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

The coming of Elias Pettersson was told in the scriptures of the 2018 season and he didn't disappoint.  He was the most intriguing player on the roster coming into the 2019 season and he broke out in a big hurry and there's promise for even more to come.

2020 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Loui Eriksson 6.000 Christopher Tanev 4.450 Jacob Markstrom 3.670
Bo Horvat 5.500 Troy Stecher 2.325 Richard Bachman 0.675
Brandon Sutter 4.375 Quinn Hughes 0.917
Tanner Pearson 3.750 Alex Biega 0.850
Sven Baertschi 3.333 Guillaume Brisebois 0.698
Antoine Roussel 3.250 Ashton Sautner 0.675
Ryan Spooner 3.100
Jay Beagle 3.000
Tim Schaller 1.900
Jake Virtanen 1.250
Elias Pettersson 0.925
Adam Gaudette 0.917

The Canucks have quite a bit of work ahead of them in this off-season, since a trio of their pool worthy players are now headed to free agency this summer and there are plenty of holes in their lineup, which sort of leaves the immediate hockey pool impact at a less-than-optimal position.  Other than the obvious names on this list, this team will need the summer to determine how excited a poolie should get when projecting the points for this team.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The big three free agents, Brock Boeser, Alex Edler and Ben Hutton are all expected back in the blue and green, even though Edler is the only one of the three headed to unrestricted free agency, if a deal doesn't get done.  It sounds like Boeser will likely get a long-term deal and Hutton will get a long negotiation, likely into something mid-range, but they are all expected back.  The Canucks have a number of other free agents, who weren't worthy for the pool, but filled a role on the team and that list is fairly big, so it will be interesting to see how quickly they mow through it all.

The team certainly has the cap space to get through most of these negotiations with some relative ease, as the 20-man roster still has a few spots left open on it and against the new projected numbers for the salary cap next season, they still sit $9.4 million below the cap floor of $61 million.  Boeser may be looking at a bank-breaking deal, but he is only coming out of his entry-level deal, so it might not be too bad.

There was a brief glimpse of five games for defenseman Quinn Hughes and he came away with 3 points in his late-season debut for the Canucks and his skating ability was more than enough to get everyone excited.  The league is starting to fill out with these dynamic skating, somewhat smaller defensemen, who are going to be real game changers in the end.  Hughes is regarded quite highly in the scouting circles and the Canucks were able to pull him out of the college ranks and get him signed.  He'll be a good pickup in the draft next season and should finish in the worthiness conversation.

Needs at the 2019 Entry Draft

This summer, the Canucks currently hold the 10th overall selection in the entry draft, thanks to dropping down another spot in the lottery proceedings.  Their stable of prospects is fairly well-rounded and they have players in every position, so it could be more of getting the best skilled player available at that selection, because you just can't have too many skilled players.  Picking up another centre likely isn't a bad idea and Alex Turcotte's name seems to be a popular one, playing a good two-way game with speed and he is destined for the NCAA ranks as well, finishing the year with the US Development Team, so he'll hone his skills among some big bodies and will possibly a couple steps closer to the big leagues after a year or two there.

The biggest need for the Canucks in this off-season will be some quality scoring depth, since that was what they didn't have in 2019 and that was the difference between a playoff spot and a lottery pick, at the end of the day.  The future looks very bright for the prospect pool and the youth already on the big team, but how the team builds around that will be just as important.  It will be another year on for this side and they have gained some valuable experience, so they should be competitive for a wild card spot next season, but it will come down to their depth once again, which will either see them push forward into the fray or just fall short for another year.

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