We’re continuing our grades for the Vancouver Canucks in 2018-19. Up next, mid-season acquisition Josh Leivo.
The Canucks acquired Leivo in a December trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, sending Michael Carcone. The trade didn’t seem like big news at first, but Leivo quickly found his footing in Vancouver and supplied some much-needed secondary offence.
Leivo was one of Vancouver’s best forwards of the 2018-19 season. He scored 10 goals and 18 points in 48 games, so we know the potential to score 20 is there for next season. Can he get there next season?
That’s all for another day, but there is reason for optimism. For now, let’s take a look at his grade for the 2019-20 season, as well as expectations for next year.
Season grade: B+
Leivo only appeared in 84 games over bits of six seasons with the Maple Leafs, and he recorded just 14 goals and 28 points over that span. So predictably, expectations weren’t high on Leivo coming into Vancouver.
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But the No. 86 selection from the 2011 entry draft found his game in Vancouver and was a reliable linemate for Bo Horvat throughout the year. Leivo, in his brief tenure on the west coast, scored at a pace that would have given him close to 20 goals. The Canucks will take that.
Here is perhaps the most telling stat for Leivo: Among all Canucks regulars, Leivo was the team leader in Corsi For percentage at 54.4 percent and the Fenwick For percentage at 53.3 percent.
Obviously, it was only about a half-season sample size, but those are incredible numbers for a player that became an afterthought in Toronto.
On top of that, Leivo’s shooting percentage in Vancouver this season was only 8.8, considerably lower than the 11.3 percentage he compiled in Toronto.
Factor that in with his good puck possession numbers, and it’s clear that Leivo didn’t get much puck luck. That’s an encouraging sign that we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
All in all, Leivo was one of Vancouver’s top forwards this season, and Benning paid a small price to get him. He’s worthy of a B+ grade here, and this trade coul go down as one of the biggest coups in franchise history.
Expectations for next season
It’s hard to guess what Leivo’s role will be with the Canucks next season. If Benning decides to add impact players in free agency and/or the trade market, Leivo might not be in the top six — and he might not see much power play time.
But after a strong showing here in 49 games, expectations will raise quite a bit for Leivo in 2019-20. This team has had a handful of near-20 goal players in recent years that haven’t come close to reaching the feat since. Markus Granlund had 19 in 2016-17 and has scored a total of 20 goals the last two years. Injuries have prevented Sven Baertschi from matching the 18-goal season he had in 2016-17.
Well, the Canucks have to hope that 2017-18 wasn’t merely one good year for Leivo, but rather a sign of what’s to come. If he stays on the Horvat line, it’s safe to expect 20 goals and around 40-45 points for Leivo next season.
Seeing how strong his numbers were here in Vancouver, I’m fully expecting Leivo to have a career year in 2019-20. We’ll have to see if it plays out that way.