Vancouver Canucks: Way too early goal-scoring predictions for 2018-19

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 2: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena on March 2, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Nashville won 4-3. (Photo by Derek Cain/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 2: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena on March 2, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Nashville won 4-3. (Photo by Derek Cain/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Canucks are going to struggle to match their 2017-18 goal total next season. Let’s take a look at this year’s top ten scorers and predict who will be there by next April.

Scoring goals are one of the most important things a hockey team needs. For the Vancouver Canucks, they have struggled mightily with this since 2015, finishing 29th, 29th and 26th in offence.

Brock Boeser was a major addition to the roster, revitalizing a stagnant power play. However, his raw talent only bumped the Canucks up three spots in their rankings. Regardless, the wunderkind, Elias Pettersson, will add something to the lineup. Will that be enough? We will see, but I have my doubts considering how little the Canucks improved despite adding Boeser last year.

With that said, let’s take a look at the top ten goal scorers for the Canucks from the 2017-18

  1. Brock Boeser, 29 goals
  2.         Daniel Sedin, 23 goals
  3.         Bo Horvat, 22 goals
  4.        Thomas Vanek, 17 goals
  5.        Sven Baertschi, 14 goals
  6.        Brandon Sutter, 11 goals
  7.        Sam Gagner, 10 goals
  8.        Loui Eriksson, 10 goals
  9.        Jake Virtanen, 10 goals
  10.        Nikolay Goldobin, 8 goals

That adds up to 154 goals from the team’s top ten scorers. Vancouver finished the season with 218 goals and that list does not immediately show you Henrik Sedin‘s contribution with his 47 assists. That isn’t being replaced on top of his brother and Vanek not returning to the lineup.

One thing to note. I will exclude Nikolay Goldobin since it looks like he’s the odd man out of the lineup. Things could obviously change in September, but I doubt it. Prove me wrong, Travis Green. Additionally, I won’t expect Quinn Hughes or Olli Juolevi to be in the lineup until at least one left-handed defender is moved out.

Now, let’s take a look at who I think will be the top ten goal-scorers for next season. I will start with the good news first (i.e. most goals), since Canucks fans need that more than ever. It could get a little bleak moving down the list.

1) Brock Boeser, 32 goals

You were expecting a 40 next to Boeser’s name, weren’t you? I was tempted, but I thought about a few things. During his best goal-scoring run, Boeser’s shooting percentage was over 20. Few people in this league can maintain that unless your name is Alexander Ovechkin.

I don’t want to assume he keeps the same save percentage. Although, at his shot rate, Boeser could produce 237 shots over 82 games. That would result in nearly 38 goals, but that would be more of a best case scenario. You see, the Sedins helped Boeser make the Canucks power play a top-10 unit. Now, the Flow has to do this with Horvat and Pettersson while fighting the sophomore slump. Therfore, I will lean a little conservatively on this one. Just hope I don’t jinx him.

2) Bo Horvat, 30 goals

Horvat was one of the Canucks best offensive players this year and most didn’t notice with the hype around Boeser. His pace of 22 goals in 64 games would put him on pace for 28 on a full season. Staying healthy is a key part of the season, especially since the team was so reliant on Horvat during his absence. The future captain is taking on more and more responsibility and this could be the toughest season he ever has.

I do believe Horvat has the potential to pot 30 goals. And having Pettersson on the power play will certainly help that. The one thing I do fear is the fact that the Canucks have one scoring line at even strength. And the rest of the league has caught on to Horvat and Boeser. They will get the toughest matchups and could face stingy match ups if Green defers more ice to his grinders.

3) Elias Pettersson, 20 goals

This is where we may see a divergence into two camps. There are the fans that think 20 goals is too low and Pettersson will hit that in January. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. I remember when Boeser was on pace for 50 goals. Funny how things change over a season.

On the other hand, some of you may feel I’m overestimating. However, considering what Pettersson did in Sweden, I think it’s appropriate. Daniel Sedin had 20 goals in his rookie season. Granted, it’s slightly tougher to score goals today with these systems, but Pettersson has the type of game to cut through all of it.

However, I don’t think Pettersson alone is enough to completely shake down another team’s defensive scheme. After the all star game, Boeser’s scoring rate slowed down. Other teams were double-covering and triple-covering Boeser, reducing his effectiveness. It will be harder to produce without a proper second line and if these two can’t produce like I’m expecting, it’s going to be an even longer season.

4) Sven Baertschi, 15 goals

There isn’t much to say about Baertschi. The same thing is said every season. If he’s healthy, he’s a 20-goal scorer. The thing is, he is never healthy. I’m not thrilled that a player who is a second line guy at best will get a cushy spot on the top line.

He’s a complimentary player and I think next season, he will adopt a playmaker’s role. Horvat and Boeser are shoot-first players. Why wouldn’t Baertschi take advantage of that to rack up the points? I don’t see 20 goals from Baertschi. Maybe that changes if he can stay healthy for once, but I’m not holding my breath.

5) Jake Virtanen, 13 goals

Oh, this one will be good. Yeah, don’t show Tanbir from Surrey this one. Despite what you think, I do like Jake Virtanen. He’s speedy, very good defensively and is still physical even though you don’t see him laying people out.

Virtanen isn’t a bull in a china shop, but can beat goalies with that quick shot. However, he is not smart enough to become the 30-goal scoring, power winger people want him to be. The old saying is that he has the tools, but no toolbox, which is true. Jake doesn’t know where to position himself in the offensive zone and I’m sure you’ve spent time yelling at the TV when he circles the net instead of driving towards it.

Virtanen can’t pass and requires someone to direct traffic for him. We saw flashes of that offensive skill, but this isn’t the WHL anymore. Jake isn’t the biggest guy on the ice, nor the best. This isn’t bad if he produces 13 goals. I’m assuming Virtanen will be deployed in a checking role. Do you really expect him to break 20 goals playing with Jay Beagle?

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6) Brandon Sutter, 10 goals

There’s not much to add. Even if they anchor Sutter to Pettersson, I can’t see him capitalizing on the give and go plays with him. Offence goes to die with Brandon Sutter. He is quick and has a great wrist shot. But he will be too focused on skating back on defence instead of making the offensive play.

Jim Benning may think Sutter can score 25 goals, which is funny for someone who has never cracked 40 points. Double-digit goals is generous, but I will attribute that to the Pettersson effect.

7) Sam Gagner, 9 goals

Sam Gagner is just a car crash waiting to happen. That contract was a horrible mistake and the Canucks don’t even want to properly deploy Gagner to get the most out of him. Green does not trust him defensively, yet won’t scratch him for his poor play.

I can see Green burying him far down the lineup next season, which could put a dent in his points totals. I hope he’s not on the first unit of the power play, but that may be the only spot he will score on. Then again, I expect him to pot in a few pointless goals at the end of next season as the Canucks piss away their lottery odds.

8) Brendan Leipsic, 9 goals

Brendan Leipsic is the newest Baertschi-like project for Jim Benning. It’s hard to get a read on him. He’s the kind of player that just needs a chance and Green will certainly try, but I don’t see consistency. His first few games were great, but then he faded away. That’s why I can’t tell where he slots into the lineup. We’ll see how this goes, but like I said, this is not the flashy part of the list.

9) Tim Schaller, 8 goals

Tim Schaller had 12 goals with the Bruins last year. He will slot in as a bottom-six forward, but considering how much better Boston was at even strength, I don’t think he will be as productive. I also fear that Green will somehow make low event hockey even more boring. It won’t exactly play to Schaller’s strengths, which could affect his offence.

10) Loui Eriksson, 8 goals

It feels like there’s still a decade left on this awful deal. Since Eriksson’s contract is front-loaded with all of those bonuses, the Canucks have paid him $22 million for 21 goals. Yikes. Green may do his best to get Loui going again, but if he couldn’t produce with the Sedins, I don’t think he’ll produce with anyone. He was so worthless on the power play, the prince of garbage goals has been kicked out of his castle.

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As for my predicted top ten, they combine for 154 goals. It would match last year’s total, but is highly dependent on the top three. That’s just to possibly finish 26th again. This could prove problematic if I’m overestimating anyone here. Additionally, there is next to no run support beyond these ten. Get ready for some rough hockey. And no, not the physical kind. But hey, low event hockey is just the status quo around here and you know how much this team loves to maintain that.