#2: New faces
The Canucks brought in plenty of new faces during the offseason.
Kuzmenko was a sought-after free agent and Vancouver ended up winning the bidding war. In the KHL, he was an excellent playmaker and scored plenty of goals. There is potential he could replicate that in the NHL, but it will likely take some time before he does.
Mikheyev can also score goals as he got a career-high 21 with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. But his biggest strength is his skating because he is pretty darn fast. The Canucks needed that in their top six. Not only is he fast, but he can help out on the special teams as well.
Salmon Arm native Curtis Lazar chose to play for the team he grew up cheering for. I’ve always been a fan of this player. I think he is an excellent fourth liner and fans will love him too. Lazar is responsible defensively, can win faceoffs and is a physical player. The fourth line got better with him.
I think Joshua can really become a fan favourite. He doesn’t provide much offence but he can throw out some big hits and get under the skin of opponents.
#3: Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko are due for big years
Pettersson had a slow start to last season but a nagging wrist injury played a part. The second half was a different story for him. Pettersson showed us that the second half is the real him: A dynamic playmaker, with a lethal shot that also has a very good two-way game.
Hughes broke Doug Lidster’s franchise record for most points by a defenceman (63 in 1986-87) with 68 points last season. Hughes isn’t done, he’s going to break his own record multiple times throughout his career. He is one of the best offensive defencemen in the NHL and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. Expect more great skating from Hughes next season.
Demko was named the Canucks MVP by the fans last season and that was the correct choice. He was making unreal saves night after night. Looking back, it’s unbelievable how much he kept the Canucks in games. At just 26, Demko is only getting started.
#4: Playoffs are possible
I wouldn’t say the Pacific Division is wide open but the Canucks have a decent chance at making the playoffs.
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are going to be the top two in the division. I do think, Edmonton has the slight edge over Calgary though.
The Vegas Golden Knights would have been a contender for the division title but with Robin Lehner going to miss the rest of the season, they might struggle. Their best option in goal is…Michael Hutchinson. Losing Max Pacioretty for future considerations hurts for them too. Could players like Jack Eichel and Mark Stone finally get healthy?
The team to watch is the Los Angeles Kings. With the addition of Kevin Fiala and having some good young players such as Quinton Byfield and Sean Durzi, the Kings are going to be much better than they were last season and will be a scary team for years to come.
Where does this leave the Canucks? With Vegas dealing with goaltending issues, the door is open for them to make the playoffs. There is also no guarantee that Flames will be as good as last season and if Jack Campbell will solve the Oilers’ goalie issues.
So the door isn’t super wide open, but it’s open for the Canucks to play in the playoffs at home for the first time since 2015. If Demko performs like he did last season or better, and the forward core lives up to expectations, playoff hockey will return to Vancouver.