Canucks: Stanley Cup contention is closer than you think

The Vancouver Canucks showed signs of being a Stanley Cup contender this season. With more talented prospects rising, the puzzle is nearing completion.

Regardless of if the 2019-20 season returns or not, the Vancouver Canucks proved they are ready to take the next step. With an excellent young core of talent matched with a couple of veteran additions in the offseason, the club was able to lead the Pacific Division in goals (228) this year.

Jim Benning and his supporting staff have luckily been capable of successfully having back-to-back-to-back terrific pulls in the first round of each year’s NHL Entry Draft, and that just doesn’t happen very often. Actually, it was Olli Juolevi (2016) that (so far) has stood between Brock Boeser (2015) and Elias Pettersson (2017), but in terms of arrival to the Canucks roster, Quinn Hughes (2018) rounds out three elite-level players landing in Vancouver three years in a row.

Three players of that calibre will change the course of any franchise almost overnight, but in the world’s best league it still takes time to see results. Luckily for Vancouver, Benning added some support to speed up the process. Truth be told, Benning pulled off a string of impressive trades over the last year and a bit, as well as some offseason signings that ultimately helped move this team forward.

He knew his draft selections were special, and he knew that in their young age of NHL experience, they were going to need a talented supporting cast if they were going to be competitive. Insert guys like J.T. Miller, Micheal Ferland and Tyler Myers from the summer. Tyler Toffoli at the deadline and Tanner Pearson at the trade deadline before that.

Suddenly the Canucks are looking like a very deep team on paper, and yet the names of Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette and Josh Leivo haven’t even been spoken yet. Three more players who this season, all held onto a respectable stat of recording over half a point per game. For guys seeing third-line minutes, that’s not bad at all.

With all this incredible skill being backed up by a goalie in the middle of an MVP-like season, Jacob Markstrom and the Vancouver Canucks could have done immense damage in the postseason given an opportunity. Given that chance or not remains to be seen, but regardless, the Canucks still need to ready themselves for hockey beyond this season. And that’s where things will really start to heat up.

Judd Bracket and Benning have raised the expectation level on rookies in Vancouver. But if the draft luck can continue, if Vasili Podkolzin or Nils Hoglander can break out in the coming seasons, if Juolevi can make an NHL impact… If one more prospect can be a smashing success for the Canucks, then this franchise will be a lot closer to being a deep playoff threat than people think.

Benning was recently on TSN1040 and he went in-depth on Hoglander and Podkolzin and how he sees both players soon being top-nine contributors who have the ability to eventually earn a spot inside the Canucks top-six. You can listen to it here.

With confidence coming from Benning (who has the scouting resume to back it up), the Canucks are on the cusp of serious contention. Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have the potential to be the next Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider of the west coast. Hughes burst onto the scene as the franchise-best D-man which will only continue moving forward, and the Canucks top-nine is soon to be overcrowded with top-end talent.

Next: Canucks: 3 reasons why Travis Green should stay

The net is covered, the core players are set. Vancouver’s supporting cast grows, and the cup will soon be met.

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