Outside of Quinn Hughes‘ offensive exploits, the Vancouver Canucks have struggled to get much offence out of their back-end in the past couple of years. Last season the Canucks finished 25th in the NHL when it came to total points contributed from defencemen, with a measly 302 total points, a far cry from the league leading Vegas Golden Knights with 500 points. With their recent additions to the back-end, the Canucks will look to take pressure off Hughes and have other significant offensive contributors from their defensive core.
The most significant question mark that the Canucks have heading into the coming season revolves around their biggest off-season acquisition, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Can Ekman-Larsson re-discover or at least get close to prime form? At his peak, Ekman-Larsson was one of the premier defencemen in the NHL. It’s difficult to imagine him getting back to those levels. Still, there is hope that he can improve from the downward spiraling his play was headed towards in Arizona to a positive on-ice asset in a new system and a fresh start with a new team in Vancouver.
Let’s predict how the Canucks defencemen will produce this season and see if they can climb up those total defencemen points rankings.
75 Games 12 Goals 51 Assists 63 Points
Hughes has cemented himself as one of the best offensive defencemen in the NHL. Not many players in the league can skate and create plays from the back-end the way Hughes does. His shooting percentage took a dip last season, falling from 6.3% to 3.1%. I expect that number to go back up in a regular season. Hughes was forced to play tough match-up roles; there’s hope that the additions of Ekman-Larsson and Tucker Poolman could free him up to play to his strengths.
77 Games 8 Goals 27 Assists 35 Points
This may seem low considering what Ekman-Larsson has been producing year-to-year, even with the drop in his play. But considering a large percentage of his points come on the man-advantage, that top unit role will not be there with the Canucks with Quinn Hughes having that role locked down. Even with the expected dip in production, the addition of Ekman-Larsson gives the team another puck-mover and a player capable of quarterbacking a powerplay, something the team has lacked in past years.
80 Games 6 Goals 20 Assists 26 Points
Myers’ offensive role will be diminished next season with the addition of Ekman-Larsson as he will be deployed in more shut-down situations to free up Hughes. With all of his faults, Myers should have more of a defined role this season, and the hope is that he should stabilize the defensive-core on the right side.
66 Games 5 Goals 13 Assists 18 Points
Unless your name is Hughes, it’s difficult for a rookie defenceman to thrive in the NHL. Rathbone starred at the Harvard University in his two seasons there and looked the part in his short stint in the AHL last season. He’s expected to make the jump to the NHL next season in a third-pairing role and should be able to focus on his offence with a defensive-minded partner like Poolman or Travis Hamonic.
69 Games 3 Goals 8 Assists 11 Points
Poolman was forced to play above his head in Winnipeg last season, and it showed in his on-ice results. He’s not much of an offensive player, so don’t expect much production from him; it’s just not what he was brought in to do.
55 Games 2 Goals 9 Assists 11 Points
Like Poolman, Hamonic is not much an offensive contributor and has also had difficulty staying healthy in the past couple of seasons. Hamonic is a physical and stabilizing defenceman that could find himself paired with Hughes this coming season. He will be deployed in a stay-at-home role to allow Hughes to play to his offensive strengths.
The Canucks come into the season with several question marks when it comes to their defensive core. However, the addition of Ekman-Larsson, even the regressed version, should provide another puck-mover that the Canucks have lacked behind Hughes.
What do you think Canucks fans? Do you agree or disagree with the points predictions for the team’s defencemen in 2021-2022? Lets us know in the comments below.