by Markus Meyer
The Vancouver Canucks exceeded expectations at the trade deadline. They flipped veterans Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen to the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks respectively. General manager Jim Benning managed to pick up high-end prospect Jonathan Dahlen from the Senators; while picking up 2014 first rounder Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth from their divisional rival, the Sharks. With these trades brought, essentially, the official start of the Canucks’ rebuild. Despite not always being given ample opportunity, the team’s young core has been putting up results.
Vancouver Canucks Rebuild Off to Good Start
The Canucks transition may have started as early as last season, when Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat led the club in points in the back half of the 2015-16 campaign. Since then, they have only continued to emerge as the offensive catalysts of the team. Horvat leads the team in points and goals, with 46 and 20 respectively. He leads second place Henrik Sedin by six points. Baertschi, meanwhile, has put up 16 goals and 31 points in 55 games, a pace of 24 and 46 respectively. The two have emerged as primary offensive drivers for the club, and look to be core pieces moving forward.
A Wave of Forwards
However, the next wave consists of more than just those two. Winger Markus Granlund, picked up near the deadline last season (in exchange for Hunter Shinkaruk), has broken out in a big way. The 23-year-old has an impressive 17 goals on the season. He ranks second on the team and beat his previous career high of eight. Granlund has risen from a respectable depth piece to emerge as one of the team’s essential offensive producers, and a face of the transition phase.
Reid Boucher, a waiver claim from earlier in the year, has recently scored his first two goals as a Canuck. His shot and offensive instincts have fans clamoring for more opportunities sent his way. Thus far, coach Willie Desjardins has been hesitant to offer up much in the way of prime scoring opportunities for Boucher. This could change should he maintain his current level of play.
Additionally, the team is starting to see more in the way of scoring chances from Brendan Gaunce. Despite zero goals to his name this year, the 2012 first round pick boats an impressive 51.23% CorsiFor. He has also been notably more effective of late. Add in the apparent dynamic abilities of Goldobin and the possibility that top prospect Brock Boeser may see some games late this season, and it’s evident that the Canucks’ forward group is on the upswing.
It’s not just the forward core getting the job done in Vancouver. The defence also presents as an impressive set of young talent. Second year pro, Ben Hutton, recently returned from injury, has seven points in his last sixteen contests. The 23-year-old had just 11 points in previous 41 games, after scoring 25 in his rookie campaign. Meanwhile, rookie Troy Stecher has hit a hot streak of his own. After hitting a bit of a rough patch offensively, Stecher has three points in his past three games, and five in has last ten.
Nikita Tryamkin, a third round pick from 2014, hasn’t been putting much in terms of offence. However, the physical and defensive elements of his game have been strong, while his skill level appears to have some upside. Additionally, Utica Comets defender Evan McEneny looked strong in his NHL debut recently, showing poise and defensive aptitude. While all of the aforementioned have room to grow, the upside within the Canucks’ young defence core remains promising.
The management team took a while to get the rebuild going, and there remains a lot of work to be done. The early signs appear somewhat promising, however, and allows Canucks fans to be hopeful for the future. These final games of the campaign may not mean much in terms of playoff implications, but they will allow the next group of young Canucks to prove themselves at the NHL level.
|ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 01: Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal to tie the score 1-1 against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center on April 1, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)