Canucks: Forward depth gives them advantage against the Wild

The Vancouver Canucks’ superior depth at forward gives them a major advantage over the Minnesota Wild.

We are less than two weeks away from Vancouver Canucks hockey.

For the first time in five years, the Canucks earned the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. Elias Pettersson and company are back at work as they prepare for their Game 1 tilt with the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, Aug. 2 in the hub city of Edmonton, Alberta.

The winner of this best-of-five series will move on to the round of 16, where they’ll play one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference: The Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues or Vegas Golden Knights.

Obviously, every series could go either way. Neither team has played hockey in over four months now, so there is going to be some rust.

The Wild won two of the three regular season matchups, and they have an advantage in the playoff experience department, having reached the postseason in six straight years from 2013 to 2018.

But aside from the goaltending advantage (Jacob Markstrom outperformed Devan Dubnyk by a wide margin in the regular season) Vancouver also has the edge in one key area: Forward and scoring depth.

The Canucks, of course, averaged more goals per game (3.25, eighth in the NHL) than the Wild (3.16, 12th in the league). Unlike previous years, and unlike the Wild, Vancouver wasn’t overly reliant on the top line.

Kevin Fiala led the Wild with 54 points, and veteran defenceman Ryan Suter was second with 48. In all, only three Minnesota forwards hit the 40-point mark. Eric Staal (47 points) and Zach Parise (46 points) aren’t exactly in their primes anymore, either.

Meanwhile, Vancouver had five forwards hit 40-plus points. J.T. Miller led the way with 72 points, followed by Pettersson (66 points) and captain Bo Horvat (53 points, the same total posted by rookie defenceman Quinn Hughes).

With all due respect to Fiala and his impressive breakout year, the Canucks have four better forwards and game changers in Miller, Pettersson, Horvat and Brock Boeser.

And this is before we mention skilled workhorse centre Adam Gaudette, near 20-goal man Jake Virtanen and stud second liner Tanner Pearson (21 goals, 45 points). Those three simply offer more than the second and third tiers of Minny’s forwards — namely Mikko Koivu, Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato.

When you stack up the two forward groups, it’s hard to find an advantage for the Wild. Vancouver boasts younger and superior speed, skill, star power and overall depth.

Again, anything can happen in this best-of-five. But there’s no denying that the Canucks have a major advantage up front, and that just might be what propels them to the round of 16.