Vancouver Canucks: The youngest line in Canucks history

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 30: Nikolay Goldobin
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 30: Nikolay Goldobin /

It’s that time of the year where there isn’t tons of hockey news coming out, a few signings here and there, maybe a trade or two but nothing to freak out about. When this happens, it’s hard to not let the mind wander into some far out line combinations. They call it the “Silly Season”, a time where you can throw some of your crazy thoughts out there and this article is one of those. Let’s get silly.

My brain keeps getting pulled to players top potential, I try to be a positive guy and for this young line there is so much potential, without doing a ton of research I would confidently say this would be the youngest line in Vancouver Canucks history.

The line I’m thinking of consists of Nikolay Goldobin on the left wing, centered by Elias Pettersson and rounded out on the right side by Jake Virtanen. The average age would be around 21 and half years old at the beginning of the season.

This line would have a ton of skill, an abundance of speed and Virtanen would provide the physicality that would balance this line out. This could be something that Canucks fans would find hard to take their eyes off the ice every time the young guys were out there flying around.

“Play the Kids”

The Canucks’ motto for a year or so now, something that all the fans would love to see more of. I’ve been trying to figure out how this is going to possible with the recent signings. If you had a line of Goldy-Pettersson-Virtanen playing something around 10 to 12 minutes a game in a mostly offensive role it would give Pettersson a great opportunity to be sheltered a bit as he makes his transition to the North American game.

Goldobin and Virtanen had good finishes to the season as they were given more minutes in the final run of games, whether that be from injuries or coach Travis Green wanting to see more of them. From March 22nd on Goldobin averaged over 14 minutes of ice time a game. Those final nine games were some of the best hockey we saw out of Goldy. In the 29 games prior, he only averaged 11:46 in ice time.

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Virtanen was not much different, he saw a bump in his minutes a month prior to Goldy. February 23rd to be exact.Ffrom that game to the rest of the season, Virtanen averaged 14:24 of ice time in his final 21 games of the season. In the 54 games prior he only averaged 11:03 in ice time. Another way this line could help Virtanen would be having more offensive zone starts, as he was only starting in the offensive zone 44.8% of the time last season.

Pettersson would have to play centre, and that’s a tough jump to make after playing the wing in the Swedish Hockey League last season. Coach Green has talked about Pettersson getting some time at centre this preseason to see how he looks. And if he can play it at the NHL level, so they should want to see him play centre. The team did draft him as a playmaking pivot. Am I wrong?

The Potential for Greatness

The potential for greatness with these three players is high. Although some fans can rip on Virtanen or Goldobin for not performing up to their draft position, we should remember that Virtanen and Goldy will be 22 this year.

One of my biggest worries for next season is that Pettersson’s linemates will not be as creative offensively as him and it will stunt his growth as a scorer in the NHL. Another good reason for Virtanen and Goldobin to play with Pettersson would be confidence. Every fan and player is aware that Pettersson is the next big thing in Canucks hockey. He is the Canucks number one prospect. Goldobin and Virtanen have received little confidence from the Canucks coaching staff over the years. Through limited time on the powerplay or fewer top six opportunities, I would not be confident either.

If Travis Green sat down with these three players and said “Hey, listen. I am going to play you guys in an offensive role with a lot of offensive zone starts. Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle‘s lines are going to eat up the tough minutes while they are matched up against the other teams best lines and “The B-53’s” are going to get the other teams top defensive pairing.”

This could give a group of young guys the chance to be creative and skate against opposing teams’ weaker players. Virtanen would be the toughness to play with Pettersson. Goldobin would have an opportunity to show all the skill that he has, reminding Canucks fans why he was a former first round pick.

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As I stated earlier, it’s a silly take. There is probably no way that Travis Green would put these young guys out together. As we see this play out, it makes sense to me that this line could be the Canucks’ secondary scoring. Pettersson will be on the first powerplay unit and I would like to see Goldy and Virtanen on the second unit as well.

So in the end, what if this line was similar to the Sedins deployment? The Sedins had offensive zone starts 74% of the time last season. I would love to see these young guys out there with that much offensive opportunity. Green got the players he wanted in free agency and those guys will be great for playing gritty hockey. But without scoring, it is hard to win and these young guys have the potential to be scorers. Is it really too silly to think these guys could play together?