Canucks: Why Brock Boeser will be an elite winger next season

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 09: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena on October 9, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 09: Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena on October 9, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks will need Brock Boeser to step up his offensive production next season after several key free agent departures this offseason.

After Tyler Toffoli signed with the Montreal Canadiens in free agency, the Vancouver Canucks have a major gap to fill in their top-six.

While Jake Virtanen looks like management’s choice to fill Toffoli’s place in the lineup, it is Brock Boeser who will not only more than make up for the Canucks’ loss of offence but also develop into a bonafide top-line winger in the NHL.

For some reason, Brock Boeser has become a highly divisive player in the Canucks fanbase, primarily due to his dip in goalscoring. Over the past two seasons, Boeser dropped from a 30-goal pace 2018-19, to a hair over a 23-goals in 2019-20.

Despite being a point of contention, there is an abundance of evidence that Brock Boeser has developed into a multi-dimensional player; one that can contribute in the defensive end and offensively through areas other than his shot.

As per HockeyViz (paid access through Patreon), Brock Boeser’s even-strength defence was exceptional during 2019-20, recording an isolated defensive impact of -0.25 expected Goals Against per 60 minutes.

Essentially, adjusting for teammates, Boeser does an excellent job of limiting shots in high-danger areas, such as the high slot or net-front.

It can be argued that Boeser is an elite NHL winger already. As per JFresh (paid access through Patreon), Brock Boeser placed in the 95th percentile in Wins Above Replacement per 82 games-played this past season, his best finish in three years.

While Boeser’s goalscoring did regress, it can be attributed to two primary factors. First, Boeser has dealt with injury problems since his rookie season. In the past two seasons, Boeser has missed 25 games, including 12 games in February and March 2020 due to a fractured rib.

The second reason is that Boeser occupies a different role in the lineup, as he is not relied on to be the sole offensive creator in the Canucks offence. With the likes of J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson as primary offensive drivers, Boeser is less relied on to create offence on his own.

More from The Canuck Way

However, that does not mean he is unable to do so. With an extended period of recovery due to this year’s season stoppage, Boeser had an excellent playoff performance. Through 17 games, Boeser scored four goals and 11 points in the bubble.

Throughout the postseason, Boeser found ways to attack the net when the Canucks chances seemed slim. For example, Boeser played a pivotal role in the series against the Vegas Golden Knights, helping Vancouver secure three wins.

In particular, Boeser was easily the team’s best forward in Game 5, scoring a goal and also having a game-winning assist to save the Canucks from elimination.

The numbers back up his play as well. As per Natural StatTrick, Boeser led the Canucks in Scoring Chances For per 60 minutes (28.17) at even strength. Boeser proved in Edmonton that when fully healthy, he could create offence at a similar level to his all-star peers.

One caveat to Boeser’s improved two-way profile is that he may be one of the Canucks’ best candidates to lineup alongside Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson in a matchup role.

Playing alongside Horvat could significantly impact Boeser’s zone deployment. As per Natural StatTrick, Horvat started 15% fewer even-strength shifts in the offensive zone than Boeser at even-strength.

On the contrary, Boeser could be the winger Horvat has so desperately needed; a defensively sound winger who can defend, transition the puck well, and control possession.

Boeser will also get more looks with the puck on his stick lined up next to Horvat and Pearson, rather than Miller and Pettersson, so he will get plenty of opportunities to use his wicked shot.

Should Virtanen slot into the top-six, he is likely to start the season on the more offensively-inclined first line. So, the best-case scenario for the Canucks is that Horvat and Boeser discover chemistry quickly and improve each other’s play in the process.

Related Story. Taking a look at how Hoglander is playing overseas this year. light

As the Canucks saw against the Vegas Golden Knights, a possession-dominant forward with high-end offensive talent like Mark Stone can genuinely tip the scale in a playoff matchup. Is there a comparison on the Canucks roster to be made down the road?

Canucks: Thatcher Demko wants to be the starting goalie. dark. Next

Looking ahead, Boeser will hit the ice next season in a more prominent offensive role, equipped with ample rest and playoff experience, and he will blossom into a bonafide offensive star in the 2020-21 season.