Perry Nelson: USA Today Sports
We’re at a point in the off-season where what you see is what you get with most NHL rosters. That includes the Vancouver Canucks, who in spite of their best efforts have yet to pry that elusive middle six winger from the trade market and don’t seem likely to at any point before the season.
That means we can start to get a sense of how the lineup will shake out and make predictions about individual player production. Now, I haven’t the analytical savvy to come to any sort of conclusions myself, but publications invested in fantasy hockey along with Dom Luszczyszyn are more than capable. And I’m going to lean on their expertise for the purpose of this article and take a gander at what we might expect from the Canucks production wise going into next season.
Most publications make their point predictions after guessing how many games each player will play. For example, Dobber doesn’t have any Canucks forwards lasting the entire 82 game season. I’ve gone to the liberty of adjusting point totals for every forward to reflect an 82 game season.
The first thing that sticks out is Bo Horvat’s average projected points total of 48.5. Were Horvat to hit that mark, he would be on the fringe of first line production. I was also taken aback by the lofty projections for Anton Rodin. If literally every non-The Hockey News projection holds true, the Canucks have found the second line winger they’ve been chasing and didn’t surrender a single asset for the privilege.
A few players are in line for a jump in their career highs. Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen and Emerson Etem are all forecasted to hit career highs in points, assuming an 82 game season. Of that group, Baertschi’s point totals carry the most variability, ranging anywhere from fringe second line player to fringe first line producer.
Hard to believe Hockey Forecaster didn’t even bother with Alex Burrows. Oh, how far he’s fallen. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was a first line fixture alongside the Sedins and producing accordingly. Still, if you’re going to take the time to cover Brendan Gaunce, maybe Burrows is worth the trouble too?
Whereas the Canucks forwards were generally expected to have better seasons than one might reasonably have projected, their teammates on the blue line didn’t fare so well. Which isn’t overly surprising. This club struggled to generate offence from the back-end much of last season and didn’t do an awful lot to address the issue.
They added Philip Larsen at last year’s deadline, and if these numbers are any indicator, that’s going to help a great deal. I spoke to Dom about his methodology for Larsen and Rodin, who come to Vancouver under an unusual set of circumstances, which I imagined would make them difficult players to forecast. Dom put a fair amount of stock into NHLe, which projects Larsen’s last season as a 46 point campaign in a full season of NHL action. That’s likely the driving factor in his high totals.
The range of outcomes for the Canucks season has to be among the largest in the league. If everyone remains healthy and they get lucky as all hell, then yeah, I think they could compete for eighth in the Western Conference. Whether they finish with a playoff spot or not is another story entirely, but I think they can remain competitive to the end.
All it would take, though, is one injury to the wrong player, and I think these projections largely highlight why. Who’s stepping up in Henrik Sedin’s absence should he succumb to injury again? Or age, for that matter. The same is true of the Canucks blue line, where beyond their top pair there are more question marks than answers.
Still, I think these projections offer some level of optimism that otherwise wasn’t there. I’m higher on Rodin than most, and even I didn’t think there was any reason to believe he could produce at a second line level with any certainty. Well, according to those in the know, there is. I also didn’t think Horvat would ever crest 50 points in his career. Here he is on the verge of his third season and projecting to do just that.
Then again, what’s that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? We’ll see how many of these predictions hold true. In the mean time, it sure is fun to wonder.
Be sure to checkout Dailyfaceoff.com for their projections coming soon and in season updates for all things fantasy Hockey.