Vancouver Canucks: What to watch for in preseason weekend

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 8: Brock Boeser
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 8: Brock Boeser /

Vancouver Canucks hockey returns. Here’s a look at what you should watch for in their preseason tilts with the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights on the weekend.

After a five-month wait, the Vancouver Canucks will resume action tonight when they visit the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center to kickoff preseason.

Obviously, the preseason is usually meaningless. But with the Canucks rebuilding and looking to inject more youth into the lineup, this is a special preseason that you might want to play close attention to.

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2017-18 is sure to be filled with many storylines. The Sedin twins are entering contract years and have to prove they’re worth extending, because another down season could force them to retire or find a new home.

Are Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund all ready to build off breakout seasons? If so, just how much further can these three young studs go?

If the Canucks once again miss the playoffs, will they finally get lucky in the draft lottery, with a chance to draft prized defenceman Rasmus Dahlin? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, our focus is entirely on the preseason. After their visit in L.A., the Canucks will welcome the expansion Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. Here is a look at some of the main things you should watch for during the Canucks preseason weekend.

Markstrom vs. Nilsson

Though it was widely expected that the Canucks would make Jacob Markstrom their starting goalie in 2017-18, general manager Jim Benning signed Anders Nilsson to a two-year deal worth $6 million. Not only that, but Benning said these two will battle it out for the starter’s spot:

So that means the Canucks would wait and see which goalie has the better preseason showing. Though Markstrom is undoubtedly more qualified to be a No. 1, Nilsson impressed with a .923 save percentage on a mediocre Buffalo Sabres team last year. He’s shown that he can be a starter, in more ways than one.

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The starting job is Markstrom’s to lose, but a bad showing could force head coach Travis Green to start Nilsson on opening night.

We will need to see how the two fare throughout the entire preseason, but you may as well watch and see how each of them performs over the weekend. It’s just the beginning of a competition to see who becomes Vancouver’s next starting goalie.

Brock Boeser

Throughout the offseason, it was expected that Brock Boeser wouldn’t only make the Canucks roster, but that he would start on the top line with Horvat and Baertschi. But the signing of sniper Thomas Vanek complicates things a bit.

But as Jason Botchford from the Vancouver Province noted, Boeser’s going to have to earn his spot, it’s not a given. It’s a tough reality, considering he lit the lamp four times in just nine games last season. Boeser seems NHL-ready, but he’s going to have to shine in the preseason if he wants to be in Vancouver on opening night.

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It’d be a huge disappointment for Canucks fans if Boeser didn’t get to start the season in the pros. He’s arguably the team’s best prospect, and everyone wants to have that exciting young player to follow.

Keep an eye on Boeser this preseason. How he plays will likely determine if he’s in the NHL or playing for the Utica Comets to start the season.

Newcomers and prospects

Want to see how Sam Gagner will look with the Sedins? How Vanek and Michael Del Zotto can fix the Canucks power play? This is exactly why you should be watching preason; it offers a first glimpse of the newcomers.

New head coach Travis Green has a lot of roster juggling to work with, so he may not decide how the lines will look until preseason has concluded. If Gagner can gel with the twins, then they may have found the third Sedin.

Other prospects to watch for are defencemen Olli Juolevi and Jordan Subban. These two probably aren’t going to make the roster in 2017-18, but they could receive call ups at some point. Preseason gives you the chance to see what these future standouts look like.

Next: 30-in-30: 2017-18 Season Preview vs. L. A. Kings

Keep an eye on the newest additions to the roster, plus Vancouver’s prospects. You never know how much they could impact the team in 2017-18.