A handful of Vancouver Canucks have surpassed expectations so far, but which player has surprised the most?
The Vancouver Canucks entered the All-Star break atop the Pacific Division, and they’re in prime position to end a five-year playoff drought come April.
Nobody is surprised about the performances of Elias Pettersson (21 goals, 51 points), Brock Boeser (16 goals, 43 points), Bo Horvat (16 goals, 42 points) and reigning team MVP Jacob Markstrom (18-13-3 with a .916 save percentage).
And of course, rookie sensation Quinn Hughes is living up to the hype, with 34 points in 48 games. The 20-year-old is poised to earn a Calder Trophy nomination.
The first four players mentioned above are simply playing near the same level that we saw last year. The difference in 2019-20, compared to last season, is the fact that Vancouver is getting far more production from its supporting players.
There are three players especially who have performed beyond expectations, and they are key factors in Vancouver’s rise to the top of the division.
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Offseason trade acquisition J.T. Miller has come much better than advertised. Tanner Pearson is showing that last year’s productive 19-game stint in Vancouver was no fluke. And local kid Jake Virtanen is finally enjoying a breakout season, six years after being drafted at No. 6 overall.
So which of these three has surprised the most?
Pearson has 14 goals and 37 points in 49 games. He’s only three years removed from a 24-goal and 44-point season.
We know he has the 20-goal and 50-point potential in him, because we’ve seen it before. I’m not sure if we can be totally “surprised” by Pearson’s performance, especially when you remember that he had 12 points in 19 games for the Canucks last season.
As for Virtanen (14 goals and 28 points), we all knew the skill set was there, and he showed signs of breaking out after posting 15 goals and 25 points last season. Should we really be surprised that Virtanen is on his way to a 20-goal and hopeful 40-point season?
Virtanen may never blossom into an All-Star-caliber or top-line forward, but the numbers he’s posting right now are simply good enough for the Canucks, who are loaded up front with capable scorers. If 15-20 goals are the norm, Vancouver will happily take it.
Miller entered 2019-20 with three 20-goal seasons and two 50-point campaigns on his resume. But with 17 goals and 46 points in 49 games, Miller should easily reach career-highs in both.
Throwing him on a line with Pettersson and Boeser has done wonders for Miller, but even most Canuck fans couldn’t have expected the 26-year-old to produce these numbers. Even if he didn’t register another point this season, Miller’s totals would be around what we expected.
Add everything up, and I’d say Miller has been Vancouver’s biggest surprise this season. It’s not very often where a veteran forward joins a new team and comes close to matching his career bests through 49 games.
Miller will push hard for the 30-goal and 70-point marks this season, and the Canucks haven’t had a lot of big-time scorers like that over the years. Without a doubt, Vancouver’s prized trade pickup has been been their biggest surprise of the 2019-20 campaign.