Vancouver Canucks: Forward group ranked 31st by ESPN

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5: Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Arena April 5, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5: Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Arena April 5, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /
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ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski ranked all 31 NHL forward groups, and the Vancouver Canucks come in at 31st on the list. Did he make the wrong call, or do they really have the worst group of forwards? Here’s our analysis.

The Vancouver Canucks have struggled to score in each of the last three seasons — and unless the younger players are ready to take it to another level in 2018-19 — things could be much worse with the Sedin twins now retired.

Replacing consistent 50-60 point production is easier said than done. Even if Calder Trophy candidate Elias Pettersson has an excellent rookie season, he alone won’t be enough to take this offence to an elite level.

Prized prospect Jonathan Dahlen was cut from the team. Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller weren’t signed to score goals, but rather to provide better depth, muscle and grit for head coach Travis Green.

As such, maybe it’s not surprising that ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski ranked Vancouver’s forward group as the worst in the NHL. Here is how Wyshynski justified his decision to put the Canucks in the 31st spot, in part:

"“The Canucks know they have two things going for them, which is nice: 21-year-old winger Brock Boeser, who scored 55 points in 62 games last season, and 23-year-old center Bo Horvat, who had 22 goals and 22 assists in 64 games…Rookie center Elias Pettersson is expected to anchor their second line and challenge for the Calder Trophy…Sam Gagner, Markus Granlund, Brandon Sutter, Tyler Motte and Jake Virtanen are in the mix as well. And then there’s Loui Eriksson, who had 10 goals in 50 games last season and makes $6 million against the cap annually through 2022. Good times.”"

The Canucks scored just 2.66 goals per game in 2017-18, which ranked 26th in the NHL. Three of their top-five scorers from last season are gone, the Sedins and Thomas Vanek, who was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline and is now with the Detroit Red Wings.

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So yes, the Canucks do lack scoring depth and star power outside Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. But are they really the worst forward unit in the NHL? I believe one team is definitely worse in this departmet.

The Montreal Canadiens (ranked 28th by Wyshynski) scored just 2.52 goals per game, per NHL.com.

Perennial 30-goal man and captain Max Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, and consistent 50-point player Alex Galchenyuk was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes. Brendan Gallagher won’t score 31 goals this season, so I don’t think Montreal has a better unit than Vancouver.

You can make a case that the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings have inferior scoring units. But as Wyshynski noted, the additions of Galchenyuk, Michael Grabner and promotion of prospect Dylan Strome should help. I’d give Arizona the edge here.

Though Detroit lost captain Henrik Zetterberg to retirement, bringing back Vanek — coupled with the arrival of rookie Filip Zadina — should help aplenty. 2017 first-round pick Michael Rasmussen could make an impact, too.

This isn’t to say the Canucks will be the NHL’s lowest-scoring team in 2018-19, but only Boeser, Horvat and Pettersson stand out on offence. The rest of the forwards aren’t exactly locks to score, say, 15 goals and 30-something points.

Vancouver needs big production from the likes of Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund if this offence is to reach another level in 2018-19. Boeser, Horvat and Pettersson could all have career seasons, but that doesn’t mean Vancouver will be top-scoring team in 2018-19.

It’s hard to disagree much with Wyshynski’s placement of Vancouver, but I’d say the Canadiens probably have an inferior forward group.. At the end of the day, these rankings are just for fun, and it’s up to the Canucks and their forwards to show that they don’t have the worst unit in the NHL.

Next. Elias Pettersson is the player this city deserves. dark

That will only happen if the Canucks stop being totally reliant on the first line like they’ve been in each of the last few seasons, though.