Canucks: Loui Eriksson has been a positive addition to second line

VANCOUVER, BC - SEPTEMBER 26: Vancouver Canucks Left Wing Loui Eriksson (21) is pursued by Arizona Coyotes Defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on September 26, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - SEPTEMBER 26: Vancouver Canucks Left Wing Loui Eriksson (21) is pursued by Arizona Coyotes Defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on September 26, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Loui Eriksson has been a whipping boy in Vancouver due to his salary but over the last few games, he has been a surprisingly impactful player on the Canucks’ second line.

Vancouver Canucks forward Loui Eriksson has struggled to maintain a regular spot in the line up as the definition of his role has been undetermined.

Relegated to mostly defensive possessions such as the penalty kill, Eriksson’s offensive production or lack-there-of has been evident and sapped of confidence. This all being considered, head coach Travis Green deferred to Eriksson to slot in on Bo Horvat‘s wing alongside Tanner Pearson.

Horvat and Pearson without Eriksson

The duo has clicked well from the get-go when Pearson arrived in Vancouver after the trade for Erik Gudbranson last season. The wheels didn’t fall off in the summer at all. Pearson is on pace for a career-high in points with 30 points through his first half of the 2019/20 campaign. According to NaturalStatTrick, the pair has combined for a 50.53 CF% and 51.54 SF% in 286:52 minutes of playing time together. Usually fed defensive assignments due to Horvat’s face-off prowess, the second line has certainly held their own offensively despite the carousel of tertiary partners.

Scoring chances have also been consistent for Horvat and Pearson, as they create at a rate of 45.73 SCF% together. This looks to continue to improve as Horvat struggled early on playing at home. Some of which may be attributed to the newly minted captain growing into his role on a suddenly blossoming young team. Expect continued success for them as Green has leaned heavily on them to match up against opposition’s top lines in order to free up the “Lotto Line”.

Eriksson’s decline

It may surprise many that there is any positive impact for a hot duo on the second line to be deployed alongside a declining veteran that has been in and out of the active roster this season. Undoubtedly, there’s been a hefty and unfortunate decline for Eriksson since his departure from Boston in 2016, where he was coming off a 30-goal season.

IcyData chronicles his decline over that time as he fell from first line production to now a third line level.

The taper off in Eriksson’s career arch is well-documented, so it feels like beating a dead horse in rehashing it all. But it is important to see how his individual game looks in order to fully appreciate the affect that he has had with his line mates.

Eriksson’s impact

As perplexing as it can be, sometimes line combinations just work. Take the impact that Tyler Motte has on the Canucks’ fourth line for example.

Green had this to say during his post game press conference on Dec. 21:

"“He just kinda brings them together for some reason. We hadn’t found another… When he was out, no one really…I’m not saying anyone played bad but that line just seems to click better. When we put Motte on that line they’re a better line.”"

Sometimes when it works, it just works. But for Eriksson and his role on the second line, his impact has been clearly seen through various metrics.

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The line with Eriksson added, has improved in several areas, even offensively. In 67:13 of ice time together, they have experienced an uptick in their combined Corsi For percentage where it climbs to 54.22 CF%. Their goals for percentage also improves from 42.86% to 66.67%, showcasing a significant difference when assembled all together.

It’s not just goals that have improved where it could suggest that the line is simply lucky thus far. The secondary unit have also had the number of scoring chances created inflate.

Scoring chance for percentage elevates 9.93% to 55.29%. Good for 47 scoring chances for in 23 games played together.

Keep in mind that these offensive gains are made while still handling the defensive match up assignments that they have been given. Over the recent winning streak, the Canucks faced the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 23 who boast a dynamic duo in their arsenal — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — that were on pace for 120-plus points each this season.

This line — with the defensive pairing of Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev — held that duo to one assist apiece while also chipping in offensively for a combined four points on the evening with goals by Horvat and Eriksson.

That ability to take care of both ends of the ice has propelled the Canucks throughout the current winning streak. Winning teams can find a way to not only have chances of their own, but also negate the damage that the opposition can impose on them by forcing them to play on their heels. Horvat and Pearson needed a complimentary wingman, and they get that with Eriksson.

Rival comparison

It’s fine and dandy to look at isolated statistics but until you measure them up with a comparable, you’re essentially admiring one tree in the midst of a forest. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Canucks would be looking at a first round clash against their divisional opponent, Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes are sending out a second line of Clayton Keller, Carl Soderberg, and Nick Schmaltz. That line is clicking well for a team that has struggled offensively of late. With 44 games played together, they obviously have a greater sample size to measure from but have similarities to the Canucks trio.

Keller’s line has eight goals for and two goals against, whereas the Horvat line has six goals for and three goals already. Where Horvat’s line holds an advantage is in their scoring chance differential.

The Keller line has 35 scoring chances for and 41 against for a 46.05% rate. So while the production is similar offensively, the Horvat line is much less porous defensively by allowing fewer scoring chances against.


If Eriksson can gain confidence while playing up in the line up, there could be even more offensive production. Currently in the midst of a career-low season, Eriksson has had opportunities to convert chances and with a quicker instinct, he still has the skill set to score.

He’s had two-on-one opportunities where he appears hesitant and desperate to distribute the puck. If, and it is a big if, Eriksson can rediscover even a fragment of his former scoring touch, this line can continue to thrive.

Eriksson has two more seasons beyond 2019-20 remaining on his contract, and he’s unlikely to be traded at least within the foreseeable future. The ideal scenario at this juncture is to get the most out of Eriksson, whatever that role is.

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For now, with the injury to Josh Leivo, the added experience and defensive responsibility is a positive addition with potential for further growth as confidence and chemistry build.