Vancouver Canucks: 5 Players Who Could Score More Goals in 2016-17

Apr 4, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen (36) celebrates a goal against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen (36) celebrates a goal against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 7, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter (21) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 7, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter (21) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Sutter

2015-16 Points:  5 goals, 9 points in 20 games.

2016-17 Potential Goal Total: 14

I know, I know — when discussing Bo Horvat I kept insisting that Brandon Sutter’s offensive potential is limited and that he should be playing behind Horvat on the depth chart.

All that is still true, but while Brandon Sutter’s ceiling may be that of a third-line center, he has performed well in that role throughout his career.

If you’re watching the Stanley Cup Final, you may have heard the names”Sidney Crosby” and “Evgeni Malkin” crop up. They just happen to be the two all-star centermen that played in front of Sutter while he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite not being a focal point of the Penguins’ offence, Sutter never failed to crack 10 goals in a season while with that club. His worst season with Pens in terms of scoring pace was 2013-14, when he scored 13 goals in a full season while averaging 15.7 minutes a game.

15 minutes is likely what he will average if he plays on Willie Desjardins’ third line, so 14 goals seems like a realistic total for Sutter even if Bo Horvat surpasses him on the depth chart.

What Sutter needs to get there: 

Stay healthy. It’s hard to imagine Brandon Sutter’s first season in Vancouver being any worse than it was. On a team that had several unlucky injuries (hello Dan Hamhuis), Sutter’s luck was the worst. Half the battle will be staying in the lineup; if he can do that, he should be a contributor for the Canucks.

Embrace third-line role. When Sutter was brought into Vancouver, Jim Benning clearly envisioned him playing on second line. While Sutter’s numbers all point to him being nothing more than a third-line center, paying him $4.5 Million to fill that role is not that outrageous.

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Bo Horvat is still on his entry-level deal, as is Markus Granlund; Henrik Sedin’s $7 Million deal expires in two seasons. That adds up to roughly $13.5 Million for four centers. Compare that to, say, the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks, both of whom are paying their top center $10 Million by himself.

Brandon Sutter can be an excellent third-line center, and his salary should not preclude him from playing lower on the depth chart. There’s no reason he cannot play on the third line and still produce.

Stable linemates. Once his role is defined, the next step is finding Sutter some players to play with on a nightly basis. Jake Virtanen might be a fit, as could any of Anton Rodin, Alexandre Burrows, or Jannik Hansen.

Bottom Line: Brandon Sutter doesn’t need to play above his head to produce.

A center lineup of Henrik, Horvat, Sutter, and Granlund — in that order — does not look half-bad, and the Vancouver Canucks have plenty of options to fill in case of injury, such as Brendan Gaunce.

There is no need for the Canucks to outsmart themselves with their centers; everyone can play in a role they are already comfortable in and the team will get more reliable production than they did last season.

Next: Number 5: Anton Rodin