It was a special night for the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
In addition to extinguishing the red-hot Flames in convincing fashion in front of their home fans, while also bringing back the black skate jersey, the team also celebrated the 300th NHL game for Brock Boeser.
Originally drafted 23rd overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Boeser joined the organization after an impressive year in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks, where he notched 35 goals and 33 assists in 57 games.
Like many prospects, Boeser did not join the NHL right away.
Instead, the Burnsville native went on to play for the University of North Dakota for the 2015-16 season, suiting up with NHL regulars like Troy Stecher, Nick Schmaltz and current teammate Tucker Poolman. During the campaign, Boeser continued his offensive outpour, registering 27 goals and 33 assists in 42 games en route to the capturing the NCAA Championship for the eight time in university history.
Boeser rejoined North Dakota for one final year in 2016-17, unfortunately being limited to just 32 games that season due to a wrist injury. Boeser was still extremely productive when healthy, producing at just over a point-per-game pace and helping his team qualify for the postseason once again.
Unlike the previous year, however, North Dakota wasn’t able to replicate the same success, ultimately falling to Boston University in a 4-3 double-overtime loss on March 24th, 2017.
While most of his teammates were able to take the weekend to replay the game over and over in their head to see what they could’ve done differently, Boeser wasn’t give that time.
Less than 12 hours after the playoff exit, Boeser signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Canucks in preparation for his NHL debut on March 25th, 2017.
Playing in front of his family and against the team he grew up watching, Boeser’s highly-anticipated debut couldn’t have gone much better. The young winger logged just over 12 minutes of ice time that night, posting four shots on goal and a plus-one rating while also starting on a line with legends Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
He would also record his first-ever NHL tally, pushing a Bo Horvat rebound past Darcy Kuemper to make it 3-0 for the visitors.
In storybook fashion, this ended up being the game-winning goal.
Boeser returned to the club in 2017-18 for his first full NHL stint, building off of the small, but still impressive point production from the end of last year.
Boeser was explosive right out of the gate, registering five goals, eight assists and 34 shots in the first ten games. This impressive start to the season was capped off with a four-point performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 4th, 2017, where he also potted his first-career hat trick.
Boeser would continue to excel from that point on, ruthlessly scoring at will with his lethal shot, while simultaneously pushing himself into the Calder conversation night in and night out. He was the favourite to win the Rookie of the Year accolades at the three-quarter mark of the season, but, as many Canucks fans unfortunately recall, the celebrations were cut short.
Boeser suffered a season-ending back injury on March 5th, 2018, breaking the transverse process of his L4 vertebrae after being decked into the open door of the Canucks bench. He missed the remaining 20 games, ultimately erasing any chance of securing the offseason award.
Despite the injury, Boeser was still able to establish strong numbers during the 2017-18 campaign with 29 goals, 26 assists and four game-winning goals. His 55 points landed him fifth in rookie scoring, but he would eventually play runner-up, falling to Mathew Barzal in Calder voting.
After intensive offseason training and rehab, Boeser was able to return to the line-up for the team’s season opener in 2018-19 but was unfortunately bitten by the injury bug once again, missing 13 total games in the first half of the season as a result of a recurring groin strain
Boeser still managed to record 26 goals and 30 assists when healthy, but it seemed that the young winger never truly made a full recovery from his injuries based on his overall offensive input, skating abilities and shot mechanics.
Boeser once again rehabbed throughout the summer and was cleared to play at the start of the following season. The Minnesota-native had also just signed a new three-year, $17.625 million contract, raising the expectations for him to perform as a legitimate, top-end goal scorer not only for the young Canucks roster, but also in the league.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Boeser wasn’t exactly 100% healthy once again, and this reflected in his point totals.
Boeser did manage to register a respectable 16 goals and 29 assists over 57 games, but was lacking the excitement and offensive firepower that he showcased during his rookie campaign. He was also hit with the fourth health-related issue of his young professional career, suffering a rib injury that sidelined him for eight weeks.
He was able to return to the team in August after they qualified for playoffs based on the NHL’s Return to Play format, where he put up 11 points in 17 games. As we all know, his team ultimately fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in game seven of the Western Conference semi-finals.
Boeser entered the offseason, seemingly on the right track towards rediscovering his game, but it appeared to be too little, too late for some of the more heated members of the fanbase.
Like any streaky young player, Boeser suddenly found his name in numerous trade rumours; most notably, there were growing talks that Boeser could be dealt to his hometown team in exchange for right-handed defenceman Matt Dumba.
But, like all trade rumours, this transaction possibility eventually fizzled out, and we’re certain that Canucks fans are over the moon about that.
Boeser went on an absolute tear offensively during the 2020-21 season, often performing as the team’s most consistent forward in most, if not all, of their games played. He finished the year at just under a point-per-game pace, registering 23 goals and 26 assists in 56 games, while also leading the team in shots, powerplay goals and total points.
The 25-year-old has taken a small step back this year, only registering 30 points in 47 games, including just nine points in his first 21 games. Fortunately for the team and for the fanbase, Boeser appears rejuvenated as of late, putting up points in seven of his past 11 games.
After Thursday night’s tilt against Calgary, in which the former first rounder recorded two assists, Boeser now sits in the top-ten for scoring in his draft class with 240 points. His 113 goals is also good for seventh on that list, just behind elite talents such as Jack Eichel and Mikko Rantanen, both of whom are nearing 400 games.
Boeser has also been able to show more consistent signs of his former self under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has been vocal about wanting Boeser to shoot the puck more.
However, despite the improved production, it could be too late (and too expensive) for Boeser to prove himself with the Canucks’ organization.
With only 29 games remaining this season, as well as just 56 points, the mathematical chances of a playoff appearance are becoming more and more slim each day. Factor in Boeser’s expiring bridge deal and qualifying offer of $7.5 million, and it’s no surprise that the young winger is once again back in the middle of trade rumours as a top-six offensive boost for a contending team.
Many fans would still like to see Boeser rep the blue and green come next season, but that dream might be shattered once March 21st rolls around.
What are your thoughts on Boeser’s career so far? Does he deserve more credit over 300 games? Or are you ready to see him move on? Let us know in the comments!