The Vancouver Canucks players and staff are constantly under pressure.
In the hockey-mad city of Vancouver, the fans expect the team to perform well. That is especially because the Canucks have not won a Stanley Cup in their 52-year existence in the NHL.
But pressure isn’t a bad thing. In fact, many people in the NHL might say embrace the pressure. Pressure can be used as motivation whether you are a hockey player or not.
For the Canucks, there is pressure to get back into the playoffs. There is also pressure on Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin and the new management team to fix the mess of the last regime. But as we learned so far this offseason, that isn’t easy.
As we look ahead to 2022-23, here are three Canucks that will be facing some pressure. Can they handle the pressure or will it get the better of them?
#1: Nils Höglander
Nils Höglander was looking to build on his surprisingly good rookie campaign. Unfortunately, he was a victim of the sophomore slump which is a common thing for young NHLers.
Höglander managed 10 goals and 8 assists in 60 games. But there were numerous times when just disappeared offensively. Defensively, he wasn’t good.
Höglander was constantly getting beat by opposing forwards and was careless with the puck at times. He also looked pretty sluggish on the back check.
Another reason why Höglander struggled was that he was quite unlucky. In fact, he had the worst PDO, which is on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice shooting percentage put together according to NaturalStatTrick. That was 0.963.
Höglander is under pressure because he has to prove that last season was a sophomore slump and not who he really is. Things will not look good at all if his play from last season continues.
Due to the Canucks being loaded at forward with their new signings, Höglander will likely start on the fourth line. That’s not a bad thing at all. He could potentially have chemistry with Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua. The checking game is something Höglander is good at and there is a chance he could be the driver of the fourth line’s offence.
#2: Brock Boeser
After being the Canucks leading scorer in 2020-21, it looked like Brock Boeser would sore to new heights in 2021-22. But instead, he fell back to earth.
Boeser, like the entire team, had a slow start and he did find new life after Boudreau took over behind the bench in December. But throughout the season, he did look like himself. Boeser was missing the net or shooting it straight into the goalie’s chest. His shooting percentage went from 11.8% in 2020-21 to 8.1% in 2021-22 according to MoneyPuck.
Consistency was an issue for Boeser. There were many stretches during the season where he was invisible.
The Canucks re-signed Boeser to a three-year contract worth 6.65 million per season. The pressure is on him, to show he is worth that contract.
Skating isn’t Boeser’s strongest trait. But despite that, he is a lethal goal scorer when he is on his game and also learned how to be a playmaker in recent years.
Boeser needs to find a way to stay healthy and consistent as much as possible next season.
#3: Andrey Kuzmenko
Andrey Kuzmenko hasn’t played in the NHL yet but there has been a lot of hype surrounding him. After all, numerous teams wanted his signature.
Kuzmenko was a star in the KHL. Last season with SKA St. Petersburg, he put up 53 points in 45 games.
The Russian is an excellent skater with tremendous playmaking ability. He can fly by defenders, make great passes and put the puck in the back of the net. But given how the NHL is the hardest hockey league in the world, the pressure is on him to translate his game to North American ice.
It will take some time but how much? If Kuzmenko can’t adapt to the NHL, he could possibly head back to Russia next year.
Kuzmenko is a player that has a lot of promise but can he deliver? The pressure is on.