Vancouver Canucks: Markus Granlund looks to top 2017

EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 18: Markus Granlund
EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 18: Markus Granlund /

Here at The Canuck Way, we’ll take an in-depth look at all the Vancouver Canucks players as we near the 2017-18 season. Up next is Markus Granlund, who looks to build upon a successful 2016-17 campaign.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning took a big risk when he traded 2013 first round pick Hunter Shinkaruk to the Calgary Flames for the lesser-known Markus Granlund. After all, Shinkaruk was among the few decent prospects in the Canucks system.

Granlund was selected with the 45th pick by the Flames in 2011, but managed just 14 goals and 28 points in 86 games for them. But over a year after the trade was made, it looks like Benning got away with grand larceny.

2016-17 was the first time Granlund played at leas 50 games, and he made the most of it. Granlund scored 19 goals and 32 points in just 69 games for the Canucks — suggesting he would have easily become a 20-goal man if he didn’t miss any time.

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It appears as though the 24-year-old has finally found his niche in the NHL, and the Canucks are strongly depending on him to play a key role in the top-six this season.

He can play anywhere in the lineup, as a centre or as a winger. It’ll be interesting to see how new head coach Travis Green uses Granlund.

But it’s hard to guess just how much Granlund will progress in 2018. He didn’t come into the NHL with that much hype, and he could see his ice time reduced with rookie Brock Boeser and free agent signing Sam Gagner expected to compete for top-six minutes.

Nonetheless, Granlund remains one of Vancouver’s most exciting and intriguing players in 2018. Now, we look to see if he can build off of his best season as a pro.

Taking longer strides

It’s safe to say that Granlund took one giant leap in 2016-17, as few people saw a 19-goal season coming. He also wasn’t the average third-liner many expected, but he turned out to be a quality top-six winger.

Coming off such a promising season, the pressure is on Granlund to take his game to the next level in 2017-18 — provided he stays healthy. Though 25-30 goals is asking for too much, Granlund should be able to get in that 15-20 goal range again.

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Granlund will likely stay on the wing, as Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter and Brendan Gaunce occupy the top-four centre spots. But whether he’s on the first, second or third line is up in the air right now.

Should he start off the season strong, Green will surely let Granlund play on the top line — and perhaps the first power play unit. But Granlund’s improvement in 2018 (or lack thereof), could come down to just how much ice time he gets on a Vancouver team that is loaded in depth with quality forwards.

Projecting the stats

Granlund averaged 17:19 time on ice last season, and that obviously helped him nearly reach 20 goals. But it wouldn’t be surprising if he had to start out on the third line, as Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi could easily be the first and second line left wingers.

And with the aforementioned Boeser and Gagner also prepared to play big minutes, Granlund will likely see his ice time reduced. As such, I’m projecting a minor decline in his scoring totals in 2017-18. Here is a look at my projected stats for Granlund:

Goals: 15

Assists: 25

Points: 40

PIM: 32

+/-: -5

Corsi For %: 49.2

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Former head coach Willie Desjardins gave Granlund a ton of ice time and responsibility in 2016-17, and it paid off big. But the Canucks have too many other young players and veterans that deserve the ice time, so Green is going to have to balance it out. Unless Granlund gets top-line minutes, it shouldn’t be surprising if his stats take a dip in 2017-18.

*All stats courtesy of Hockey Reference*