Vancouver Canucks: Why the Club Is Well Prepared for Post-Sedin Era


While both Daniel and Henrik Sedin are still relatively young, the Vancouver Canucks have to start thinking about a way to prepare for the post-Sedin era.

What would the Vancouver Canucks be without their Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin? The duo has been around since 1999, when three trades ahead of the first selection of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft secured Vancouver the second and third overall picks that would then be used on Henrik and Daniel.

Almost 16 years later, the Sedins have over 1,000 games played for the Canucks and are the club’s top-two scorers, both nearing the 1,000-point mark. However, the Sedin era will inevitably come to an end one day. A team’s best player’s retirement is never easy to compensate and it only gets harder when the team’s two best players retire at the same time — which is likely to happen in Vancouver.

So, what do you do to compensate the future loss of your two best players? For the Vancouver Canucks, the solution seemed to be trading the team’s third-best player, Ryan Kesler, to the Anaheim Ducks. In return for Kesler and a 2015 third-round pick, the Canucks got centre Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and a first-round selection in 2014, which ended up being centre Jared McCann.

Sbisa may be one of the worst defencemen on the roster right now, while Bonino already got traded on to the Pittsburgh Penguins — but that definitely does not mean that Vancouver lost the deal. Instead of Bonino, Brandon Sutter is supposed to be the new second-line centre of the future. If we compare Kesler, Bonino and Sutter, it does look like Vancouver ended up with a very capable player.

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As you can see in the graphic above, Sutter leads the three in Corsi against per 60 minutes, while Kesler is the best player in Corsi for per 60 minutes by a rather large margin. However, Sutter has the fewest goals against per 60 minutes and the most goals for per 60 minutes. So, long story short, Sutter is doing well in Vancouver. Far more important, though, is that 2014 first-round selection Jared McCann.

Jared McCann and Bo Horvat: Future #1 Centres?

The 19-year-old McCann is said to be a hard-working two-way centre who stands out on both sides of the rink. He had 187 points in 184 games in the OHL, but his standout quality is his two-way game. While offence usually comes naturally for players of McCann’s caliber, the defensive part of the game is often hard to transfer to the next level. McCann was no exception.

One difference between junior hockey and the professional leagues that every rookie mentions is the speed of the game. No matter how good you were in juniors, the transition to the NHL — or even the AHL — can be extremely hard, the reason being that everything happens at a much faster pace.

Still, McCann went off to a great start and led all Canucks skaters in goals at the end of October, despite spending most of his ice time on the fourth line. He now sits at six goals and nine points after 24 games played.

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In the graphic above you can see McCann’s offensive development using a 10-game average. His Corsi For per 60 minutes in even strength situations started out below 50 and rapidly climbed past 60 over the past weeks. McCann continues to produce offense and he does so at a high level.

However, he had his issues in the defensive zone. With McCann on the ice, the Canucks spent a good amount of time on defense and the rookie looked a little bit lost a lot of the time. That resulted in terrible Corsi Against numbers over the first weeks of the season, i.e. against the Dallas Stars on October 29th, when McCann had a Corsi Against per 60 minutes of 109.1, combined with a Corsi For per 60 of 34.1.

Luckily, those numbers changed dramatically. From game to game, McCann looks more and more comfortable in his position, despite being pushed into the third line as the result of Sutter’s injury. That also reflects in McCann’s Corsi Against numbers.

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McCann’s offensive and defensive improvement happened almost simultaneously over the first quarter of the season, letting the 6-foot, 185-pound forward look more and more like the two-way centre he is supposed to be.

Is McCann the next Henrik Sedin? Probably not — but he can become a very capable first-line centre once Henrik is retired. And that is not enough.

Not many expected McCann to burst into the league like he has and the focus was on a different two-way centre: Bo Horvat.

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Horvat, the ninth-overall pick of the 2013 draft, had an outstanding rookie season in 2014-15. As opposed to McCann, Horvat had a rather slow start into his professional career, but learned quickly, finished with 25 points in 68 games and turned into an important piece of the Canucks’ bottom six by the end of the season. One summer later, Horvat surpassed Sutter on the centre depth chart and forced head coach Willie Desjardins to move the former Penguin to the right wing.

Unfortunately, Horvat had a rather rough start into the 2015-16 campaign, but his talent and leadership qualities are undeniable. A sophomore slump — which is hardly even an appropriate term in Horvat’s case — is nothing unusual and there is little doubt that he will be an important piece in Vancouver’s top six for years to come. McCann and Horvat for Henrik and Kesler does not sound too bad, does it? And just in case one of the two does not turn out to be a leader in the future, the ‘Nucks still have Brock Boeser, the 2015 23rd-overall selection, in the pipeline.

The Next Daniel Sedin

But what about Daniel? Who will be the goal-scoring winger? Here, the Canucks have two options once again, namely Hunter Shinkaruk and Jake Virtanen.

Shinkaruk, 21, was Vancouver’s 23d-overall pick in the 2013 draft, Virtanen was selected sixth overall one year later. Despite Shinkaruk’s age advantage, Virtanen is now a full-time member of the NHL roster while Shinkaruk spends most of his time with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. Again, the reason seems simple: two-way play.

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Both Shinkaruk and Virtanen are goal scorers, but they are quite different in style. Shinkaruk is an offensive-minded winger with excellent vision and outstanding puck skills. Virtanen, on the other hand, is a power forward in the truest sense. At 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, he enjoys the physical part of the game just as much as he likes to score goals. His two-way game is farther advanced than Shinkaruk’s, which landed him an early gig in the NHL. Still, Shinkaruk has 11 goals and 19 points in 18 games with the Comets and Desjardins will have to ask himself how much longer he can keep one of the club’s best goal scorers in the AHL.

Both Virtanen and Shinkaruk have much left to prove, but one thing is clear: with Brett Sutter, Jared McCann, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk, the Vancouver Canucks should have enough talent in their lineup by 2018, which is when the Sedins’ contracts expire.

Next: Horvat's Struggles No Reason for Concern

Without Henrik and Daniel, everything will be different — it will be a new era. That may be a disappointing fact for Canucks fans, but since it will inevitably happen, it is good to know that there are players in the system who might be able to compensate the loss.

*All stats from