Canucks: Brock Boeser off to a big start in a big year

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 20: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena December 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 20: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena December 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /
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Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser has appeared to be finding his groove as of late, and that’s an extremely good sign.

For a second, it looked like Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser’s season was off to a shaky start.

After missing the beginning of training camp while his contract negotiations were being finalized, Boeser was finally signed to a new three-year bridge deal ($5.875 million AAV) but only a week after the contract was announced, he suffered a concussion in a preseason game against the Ottawa Senators on September 24.

It seemed especially unfortunate both for a young player who’d already battled injuries in his previous two seasons with the Canucks — a frightening back injury in his rookie season and a groin injury last November that caused him to miss 11 games — and for a team that was depending on him to be a key piece of their talented young core as they strive to make the playoffs for the first time in five years.

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Thankfully, Boeserwas 100% healthy by the time the regular season began. The Canucks have gone 8-3-1 over the first month of the year, and over the course of those 12 games, Boeser has racked up seven goals, making him the top goal-scorer on the Canucks roster, and a total of 14 points, tied with J.T. Miller for second-most on the team behind only their linemate Elias Pettersson.

As part of the Canucks’ top line, Boeser has been indispensable in driving play. When he’s on the ice, the Canucks have been taking close to 60% of the shots. They’ve had nearly 10% higher puck possession when Boeser is out there, compared to the rest of his team. (That’s 59.3% Corsi For and 9.89% relative Corsi For, respectively).

He’s registered 1.17 points per game and is playing at a pace of 3.15 points per 60 minutes.

And in Tuesday night’s game against the LA Kings, Boeser achieved his third career hat trick.

So, crisis averted.

While much of the buzz about the Canucks’ top line has focused on how newcomer Miller is gelling with Boeser and Pettersson’s established chemistry, or whether there’s reason to be concerned that Petterson’s goal-scoring hasn’t been matching his explosive start from his Calder-winning season last year (there’s not), Boeser has been steadily producing throughout this first stretch in key ways.

It’s not only the goal-scoring that bodes well, so much as how it’s come about, through the kind of patterns that need to become dependable as the Canucks try to settle into a successful rhythm after a stretch of games that’s already seen them fly to high-scoring seven- and eight-goal wins but also crash and burn a 5-1 lead.

But throughout these ups and downs, Boeser has continued to demonstrate the instincts and skills that allowed him to create such a thrilling partnership with linemate Pettersson last year. He has the smarts and the speed to read and respond to Pettersson’s quick-thinking play-making, and it’s already leading to continued success for the pair.

Five of Boeser’s seven goals this season have had Pettersson as the primary assist. Petterson’s own goal-scoring might not be matching last year yet, but he’s had flashes of magic when it comes to getting the puck to Boeser, whether he’s been tipping it back with hardly a glance after battling at the boards in their October 20 game against the New York Rangers, or sending it sailing all the way down the ice in a “Hail Mary” of a pass right to Boeser’s stick Tuesday night against the LA Kings.

Their awareness of each other’s actions and positioning on the ice is top-notch and it’s thrilling to watch them grow and improve as a duo. And Pettersson isn’t his only teammate capable of setting up dynamic scoring opportunities.

Three of Boeser’s goals have come on the power play since the top unit added wunderkind defenseman Quinn Hughes to quarterback their plays and has seemed to be hitting a successful groove in this new formation. One goal, in particular, was only accomplished after Hughes skated smoothly all the way up past several Washington Capitals to get the puck right to Boeser.

As the Canucks work to become a legitimate postseason contender this year, and as they continue to build around their young stars, Boeser should be a key part of that core.

Although his new contract only runs for the next three years, he’s already expressed his interest to stay in Vancouver longer, telling reporters after the deal was signed, “I love Vancouver. My plan isn’t to just play three years and get out of here. My plan is to be here as long as I can.”

The next three years will be crucial for Boeser to show exactly what he’s capable of adding to this team. Only one month in, it seems like a lot. But the true storybook touch to Boeser’s early scoring success has nothing to do with contracts or playoff spots.

At the start of the season, he announced that he will be donating $1,000 for every goal he scores this year to be split between Parkinson Society BC and Parkinson’s Foundation Minnesota. It’s a cause that’s been close to his family since his father was diagnosed in 2010. Let’s hope he racks up quite a bill.