When the puck drops to start the 2021 NHL campaign the Vancouver Canucks will be entering their 51st season. Here are nine very early and bold predictions.
These are the dog days of … fall?
Yes, it’s been a very strange year for the Vancouver Canucks. Their 50th season in the NHL was put on pause for five months. They returned to action inside the Edmonton bubble — where against all odds — the Canucks knocked off the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five play-in series, took down the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, and came within a single game of advancing to the Western Conference finals.
That was all very, very fun, but now the NHL is in what feels like a second offseason in this bizarre year of 2020. A handful of key contributors have left in free agency. Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Josh Leivo signed in Calgary, Tyler Toffoli landed in Montreal and Troy Stecher agreed to terms with the Detroit Red Wings.
No doubt the Canucks had to say goodbye to some key talent, but for the most part, the Canucks core remained intact. Elias Pettersson will be back for his third season in the National Hockey League. He’ll be accompanied by a talented core consisting of All-Star defender Quinn Hughes, former All-Star sniper Brock Boeser, 2019-20 team scoring leader J.T. Miller, captain Bo Horvat, and Western Conference semi-finals MVP Thatcher Demko.
The core will return and try to build off a very successful campaign, but it’s going to feel different. Pettersson will feel the full weight of what it means to be a franchise player, Hughes will be expended to be nothing short of spectacular, and Demko will have to be marvellous between the pipes. Here are nine very early, very bold predictions for the 2021 season (These predictions are based on a full 82-game schedule).
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1. Pettersson will reach the 90 points mark
If it wasn’t obvious enough already, I’ll spell it out for you. Pettersson is a very special hockey player. Drafted 5th overall in 2017, the Canucks landed the best player in the entire draft class. He’s a real deal NHLer who brings it night-in and night-out.
In his rookie season, he wasted no time putting himself on the map. He recorded 10 goals in his first 10 NHL games and never looked back. He put up a team-leading 66 points, broke the Canucks rookie scoring record and became an NHL All-Star.
He worked on his size that year and came back having erased any thought of a sophomore slump. He was less flashy in year two, but stronger with the puck and he was twice as deadly. Again, he finished with 66 points, but he was more of a complete player with even better instincts. He was their MVP outside of the crease.
This year, I expect Pettersson to take it to the next level once more. He’s coming into a contract year where he could be demanding a long-term deal with a lot of zeroes attached to it. If he plays his cards right, he could have himself a monster year. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against EP40. He’ll score 90 points in a full 82-game season.