Vancouver Canucks: 3 Players Headed for Breakout Seasons

Sep 28, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter (21) against the Arizona Coyotes in the third period period at Rogers Arena. Vancouver won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter (21) against the Arizona Coyotes in the third period period at Rogers Arena. Vancouver won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sep 28, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenceman Talyor Fedun (58) and defenceman Ben Hutton (60) and forward Jared McCann (51) and forward Sven Baertschi (47) celebrate McCann /

Outlook

If the Canucks have three players in important roles that experience a breakout year in 2016-17, they have a good chance to make the playoffs. Especially a strong performance from Jacob Markstrom and a solidified defensive core should help.

However, looking at the past season, it is obvious that goal scoring is at least an equally big issue. In 2015-16, the Canucks ranked 29th in the league in goals for, with just 191 goals in 82 games — that makes 2.33 goals per game. As mentioned earlier, a team shouldn’t lose the majority of the games in which they only get two or three goals against.

For the upcoming season, Loui Eriksson should be great help. Jannik Hansen will likely score less when he’s back in a middle-six role, but Eriksson should make up for that. Behind the top line, I am not surprised if you expected me to list Sven Baertschi or Bo Horvat as players who are headed for breakout seasons. But I’m not quite sold on them yet.

Baertschi just played his first full season in the NHL and recorded just 15 goals and 28 points. That is certainly reason to get excited, but it’s not that great for a player who spent the entire season playing on the second line. I expect Baertschi to maybe score 35 points in 2016-17.

Next: Canucks Barely Better than Last Year

Horvat ranked third in Canucks scoring last season, with 40 points in 82 games, but he struggled mightily in the defensive zone. A lot of that is due to the fact that head coach Willie Desjardins used Horvat like a veteran two-way center who was constantly deployed in the D-zone and used on the penalty kill. He will need the 2016-17 campaign to hone his defensive skills and improve in that regard, before breaking out offensively.

If it isn’t Horvat or Baertschi, we can only hope it’s the other three. Because if the entire roster stagnates, we will have to wait at least another year before playoff hockey returns to Vancouver.