Alex Edler: Coming off what was a horrendous 2013-2014 seasons, Edler proved why he is considered one of the Canucks best defenseman last year. Edler finished the year with a solid 31 points in 74 games but it was his production in the last 2 months of the season that makes me believe he will be a 40-45 point player next year. Over the last 2 months of the season, Edler almost doubled his point total with 14 points in his last 19 games; this upward projection near the end of the season leaves me feeling optimistic about Edler going into the 2015-2016 season but if there is one stat that I found shocking it was his 72 Giveaways. That is a lot of giveaways for a defenseman who is supposly a top pairing defenseman.
Projection: 10-12 goals 40-45 points (1PP, 1PK, Top pairing)
Chris Tanev: Arguably the Canucks best defenseman last year at the age of 25, there is still a lot of room for growth in Tanevs game. His 2 goals is probably an accurate representation of his shot, but I believe that given more PP time Tanev could reach 5 goals and 25-30 points. Tanev's even strength point totals are better than Edlers and I believe that he has the offensive instincts to be better offensively than Marc Andre Vlasic/Dan Hamhuis (25ish points 5ish goals). Except Tanev to get a more increased offensive role next year.
Projection: 5 goals 25-30 points (1PK, 2nd/1st PP, Top pairing)
Dan Hamhuis: A pending UFA at the end of the year, Hamhuis is bound to have somewhat of a comeback year. Coming off a strong WC where he had 6 assists in 10 games for Canada, he still seems to have the offensive instincts that saw him put up 37 points in the 2011-2012 season. (Granted he was playing with the tournaments top scoring Defenseman and was on the best team in the tournament) Combined with the fact that had had 17 points in his last 39 games (after he returned from his Injury) and I believe a 30 points season isn't out of the question at all.
Lucas Sbisa: CDCs favorite Whipping boy during the season, Sbisa had fewer turnovers than Tanev and Edler (46). Personally I saw a lot of growth in Sbisa games from Feb to the end of the season and the stats support that growth. Over the last 3 months of the season Sbisa had 7 points and was a +3, which was 66% of his offensive output from last year. Sbisa was also our only defenseman to record 125+ Hits and Block shots. Most of the hate for Sbisa came from Dec-Jan when he was -12 and recorded a 0 points, but the progression that he showed during the end of the season was promising for a guy who is still only 25 years old.
Matt Bartkowski: I don't really have much to go off of for Bartkowski, but his 88 hits in 47 games seems to add a much needed physical presence on the back end. His 67 shots in 47 games also shows that he knows how to get the puck on net, something the Canucks were horrible at last season. His point totals aren't too impressive but 15 points is probably an acceptable projection for him.
Yannick Weber: Coming off a season where he shot the puck like Shea Weber, Yannick Weber showed that he was more than just a PP specialist. His 11 goals and 20 points in 65 games bold well for the 26 year old, but it was his improvement without the puck that have many fans wondering if he could be a fixture in our top 6. Personally I see him becoming a solid 5th defense man if everything goes well for him this season and we might see a little more offensive this year.
Projection 8-10 goals 20-25 points (3rd pairing 1st/2nd PP) Interesting fact: he could get 100 hits and 100 Block shots if he plays a full season next year
Frank Corrado: The first thing I notice when looking at Frank Corrado is his lower turnover rate (5 in 10 games) and his block shot and hit totals. If you project that over an 82 game season Corrado projects to be get 100+ in both hits and block shots. The other thing I noticed was his goal totals in the AHL the last two season, Corrado seems to have the potential to pot 10-12 goals during his prime which is something the Canucks really did lack in last season. Overall I think Benning made the right decision keeping Corrado over Clendening because I see Corrado as a top 4 defenseman and Clendening as a Weber type (good 5th defenseman) during his prime.
Andrey Pedan: Probably a half season or so from making the Canucks, Pedan is my definition of a "5 tool" defenseman. He can Skate, rip the puck, play a physical game, fight, and play a solid defensive game. Making huge strides in Utica since coming over for the Islanders, Pedan is looking like solid prospect who I would hope gets some games later on in the season IF we are not in a playoff spot.
Projection: Sbisa with more or a mean streak and a better shot.
Ben Hutton: My favorite defensive prospect, I believe Hutton will be a top 4 defenseman in the NHL within the next 2 season. Playing on a horrible Maine team last year, Hutton still had a great second half of the season that show him almost match his .66 PPG he had in 2013-2014 and finished the season with a respectable 21 points. Also playing on one of the worst team in one of the strongest divisions in collage hockey (Hockey East) also bolds well for Hutton development because he was matched up against some of the best collage talent in the country on a game-to-game bases (BU, BC, Notre Dame, are just a few of the powerhouse teams in H-east). I would like to see Hutton get 1st/2nd PP time and 2nd pairing minutes in Utica with a more increase role as the season progresses.
Ryan Miller: 29 wins in 45 games is nothing to sneeze at despite the consistent Miller bashing that goes on here. Miller definitely stole us some games last year but when he stunk he really did stink. I would expect somewhat of a more consistent year, considering that his wife isn't pregnant (somewhat of a distraction) and that over his career he is good for a solid 32-35 wins, .916% and a GAA of about 2.5.
Projection 65-70 games 35-38 wins .917% 2.5GAA
Jacob Markstrom: Based on my Miller projections, Markstrom is slated for about 12-17 starts, which he would have to win about 10-12 of them for us to be a playoff team. Markstrom is a big goalie that in my eyes could be a #1 but will have to work on his lateral movement and rebound control in order to fulfill that potential. I would expect him to be a backup for 2 years before taking over the starting job
The Dog days are upon us and there is nothing interesting going on in the NHL so here is my breakdown of the 2015-2016 Roster, plus a couple of prospects who have a chance of making the team.
Sedins: The now 35 year olds have prove that their 2013-2014 season was not the start of the downward trend that we tend to see from players in their mid thirties. The Sedins finished top 10 in scoring with 73 and 76 points respectively and were in the small group of 5 or so players who showed up for the playoffs. I would expect the Sedins to get around the high sixties or low seventies in points this upcoming season because they have proved that they can still produce at an elite/very high level and they are still not being affected by the age bug.
My projections 65+ for each
Vrbata: Maybe one of the best UFA signings of the 2014 UFA crop, Vrbata showed that he is well worth the 2 years 10 million dollars that Benning give him last July. At 34 years old and fresh off a 31 goal, 60 point season (quite a few were empty net goals but it is still impressive non the less) I don't see him dropping off at all, infact I think he could improve sightly considering he is going to be playing with either Sutter (who I believe is a much better fit for Vrbata than Bonino was, and Baertschi who is a huge offensive upgrade on Higgins.
Projection 25-32 goals 60-65 points
Sutter: The newly aquired 26 year old is the talk of the town and my opinion could be the biggest surpise on next years team. Sutter is labelled as a defensive forward who some have said has Elite PK ability, But in my opinion his shot could very well fetch him a 25 goal season (providing he gets PP time). Sutter hasn't been given much to work with in Pittsburgh and Carolina, but as consisently put up 35ish points and 20ish goals. Playing with someone like Baertschi or even learning how to Cycle from some of the games best (Sedins) could help him become a Kesler light. Something tells me we see a 20+ goal season from Sutter and MAYBE even 40+ points (dependant on PP time)
Projection 20-25 goals 35-45 points. (2nd PP 2nd line)
Projection 18-22 goals 32-38 points (3rd line some PP time)
Baertschi: The biggest wild card on next year team, Baertschi is a high end offensive player who proved during Utica's Calder Cup run that he is NHL ready. With the lack of high-end offensive talent on the left side Baertschi is excepted by many to be given a legitment shot at the 2 line/2 PP LW spot. The interesting thing about Baertschi is that he has already gotten 30 points in 69 career game and has proved that when given the chance (15+ minutes) he could score at a .6+ PPG rate. So where does he fit? if he plays with Vrbata and Sutter I would think that Baertschi could easily get 25-30 Assist. The only variable in my opinion is how many goals will he score? Baertschi could very well become another Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman 50-60 points, but that is not realistic based on what we know as of now. Trainning camp will go a long ways to determining what he wil/couldl become
Projection (2nd line + 2PP time) 40-45 points
Projection (3rd line + 2PP time ) 30-38 points
Alex Burrows: Coming off a solid, but not spectular 18 goals 33 point season. I would like to see Burrows hit the 20 goal plateau next year. He has mostly been the RW for the Sedins and seems to thrive when he plays on their wing recording less than 45 points once in his career (when he plays a 75+ game season). Burrows could very well reach the 50 points mark next year, but with reduced PP time (Vrbata, Baertschi, Sutter, Horvat will be the 2nd PP forwards) I think 40 points is a more attainable goal.
Projection 20 goals 40 points
Bo Horvat: Coming off a season where he blow the door off everyones expections, Horvat is primed too take on more responsibilty this year. I would excepted Horvat and Sutter to be getting a lot of defensive zone face-offs and limited offensive zone starts, but as he showed last year, Horvat just seems to be that type of player who can thrive in any role he has been given. Looking at some of the opportunities Horvat got last year, I would except him to be getting about 14-16 minutes a night with 2nd PK duties and maybe some 2nd PP time as the season progresses.
Projection 15-20 goals 30-35 Points (3rd line limited PP time)
Projection 15-20 goals 35-45 Point (2nd line 2nd PP time)
Chris "The Lumberjack" Higgins: As even Higgins himself has said, he is much more comfortable playing a 3rd line role and chipping in offensively every now and then, than playing a 2nd line and 2nd PP role. Higgins seems to be a solid bet to get between 35-38 points during a full 82 game season and I believe this will be the case next year because he will on a 3rd line that MAY have as much offensive ability as our 2nd line. (Baertschi may be on our 3rd liner, same with Horvat).
Projection 12-15 goals 34-38 points (3rd line)
Jannik Hansen: Coming off a better than excepted season which saw Hansen score 16 goals and 33 points, I would except to see his goal total drop and maybe even his point total drop. 16 goals ties his career high and he is more likely to score between 10-12 than 12-16. Hansen is still a dependable PKer and will get PK time next season
Derek Dorsett: Having the third most penatly minutes in the NHL last year Dorsett still found a way to put up 7 goals and 25 points last year. I would expect to see his offensive number take a bit of a hit next year, 20ish points but am sure he will be just as effective physically as he was last year.
Projection: 5-7 goals 20 points (4th line)
Brendan Prust: Coming over from the less physically Eastern Conference and into the highly physical Western conference may benefit a player like Prust who is known to stick up for his teammates, play the PK and has the ability to step up his game in the playoffs. I would assume he will thrive physically in the Western Conference and will become a Dorsett 2.0 for this team
Projection: 5 goals 15 points (4th line some PK time)
Linden Vey: The Canucks whipping boy from last year, Vey is apparently putting in the time this offseason to get stronger and in better physical condition. Being gifted an offensive role last year after a hot start, Vey went into a long drought which saw him become the 13th forward during the Calgary Series. His 26 points as a rookie, which is OK but with the opportunities he was given and his lack of defensive ability his season was overwhelming to say the least. Vey did show marginal improvement in his defensive ability near the end of the season which gives me hope that he could turn into a 2/3 tweener one day. That being said I see his future as a RW NOT a C, In my opinion the only way he becomes a centre is if he is dealt to the Eastern Conference.
Projection 12-15 goals 30 Points (4th line center)
Projection 15-18 goals 35 points (3rd line winger with some PP time)
Ronald Kenins: After a really fast start to his NHL career, we saw the real Kenins in the last 15 or so games. Kenins is a 3rd/4th liner that is in a similar build as a Prust and Dorsett. Although I think he could have a bit more offensive ability than either Prust or Dorsett, but I highly doubt he reaches 35+ points in his Career.
8-12 goals 25-28 Points (4th line winger)
Alex Grenier: 6'5 Wingers are always intriguing to teams, combine that with his skating ability and we may have ourselves a solid 3rd line RW in the making with Grenier. Grenier was considered one of the most improved player this year in Utica this season and finally started to show the consistence needed to become an regular NHLer.
Jake Virtanen: Everything Benning and Linden has said and done this offseason has pointed to Virtanen getting a long look for this up coming season. Some have stated that he is not ready and needs another year in Utica (people still don't get he can't go to Utica next year), but when you looked at how he played in Utica, it is obvious that he has physically outgrown the Junior game and will need to learn against man in order to show the greatest improvement. When he played in Utica it was obvious that he has the ability to impact a game without getting on the scoresheet and that he was working hard on improving his defensive and cycle game. But the one thing I noticed in both his highlight package and during his time in Utica is that he isn't being used effectively. Coming out of the draft Virtanen was billed as one of the most profilic goal scorers in the draft, but through multiple viewing it seem that he is often used as the high forward and down in the corner, this is not what he was known for. IMO he should have been planted inbetween the face-off dot where he could use his shot more often and the way the Hitmen made him the first guy back really didn't help his offensive game grow at all. He was also used as a defenceman on the PP which again may have helped his defensive game but that is not how you effectively use a Powerforward/Sniper.
Was the day that the newly appointed president of the Vancouver Canucks Trevor Linden, announced the hiring for the GM of the future Jim Benning. Benning came from a hockey rich culture in Boston, where he was the assistant GM and was thought of as one of the greatest hockey minds in the NHL. It didn’t take long to see why, With in the first couple of weeks if being hired as the GM of the Canucks, Benning’s office walls were filled with the depth charts of every NHL team. This is the kind of dedication that was previously never shown by former GM Mike Gillies, who always seemed to be lacking in sleeps and called everything “A process”.
Benning’s first task would be to find a head coach, as the Canucks had fired John Tortorella after a disappointing 36-35-11 (24th in the NHL) Season which saw the Canucks completely self implode in 2014, after being one of the NHL’s best teams in the first 3 months of the season. With lots of Coaches who had been fired earlier in the offseason already finding jobs, Benning turned to a coach who had an amazing pedigree in Willie Desjardin. Desjardin had just won the Calder Cup with Dallas’s farm team the Texas Stars and was looking to make the jump to the NHL after spending a couple of years as a Head Coach in the AHL. I was reported the Pittsburgh was the first time to offer Desjardin a job, but they said that he have to keep some of their current coaches. So when Benning offered Desjardin the job with no limitation, Desjardin accepted the job.
The second task that Benning had was to trade Kesler. During the Olympic's there had been rumours that Kesler wanted to be traded to a “contender”.These reports only escalated as we got closer and closer to the trade deadline. As the trade deadline came and went Kesler remained a Canuck, despite reports that Anaheim offered a top 10 draft pick, a prospect, and possibly another prospect/pick
June 27-28 (NHL Entry Draft)
Fast forward to Draft day, Benning showed that he would not put up with disgruntled players for long as he traded Ryan Kesler and a 2015 3rd round pick to the Anaheim for Centre Nick Bonino, Anahiem’s 2014 3rd round pick, Defenceman Lucas Sbisa and Anahiem’s 2014 1st (which was 24th overall). For most GM’s this would be considered a successful day at the office but Benning wasn’t done. Next he flipped that 2015 3rd (the one he aquired from Anahiem) to the New York Rangers for Derek Dorset, a player who could bring grit, some offence, and had previously played under rookie head coach Willie Desjardins. Still working the phones, Benning traded defencman Jason Garrison and a 2015 7th, and the rights to Jeff Costello to Tampa Bay for Tampa Bay’s 2014 2nd (50th overall). Still not done Benning traded the pick he had just acquired from Tampa Bay to Los Angelos for Linden Vey. At the time this trade made sense as Vey could fill the 3rd/4th line centre spot, that was vacant and suppose to be filled by rookie Bo Horvat. Vey was a pending RFA which means he had to stay in the NHL next year, or could be claimed off waivers by any other team.
The draft starts and there are rumours that Benning was trying to acquire the 1st overall pick, but as the start of the draft approaches Florida decides to kept the pick and drafts Aaron Ekblad.
5 picks later it was the Canucks turn to pick, With the “big 5” taken the Canucks go with the hometown boy Jake Virtanen. Virtanen being drafted signalled that Benning wanted a more “Meat and Potatoes” type of team. Virtanen was one of the must proficient scores in the draft, with 45 goals in 71 games and was also known for being able to play a physically dominant game that would make any team cringe.
With the pick that Benning acquired from Anaheim in the Kesler trade, the Canucks drafted Jared McCann a two way centre who was noted as having a great 2 way game but only scored 1 Point-per-game, which caused concern about whether he had the offensive game to be a top 6 centre, and caused him to “fall” into the Canucks lap.
In the second round Benning went with the best player available, which just happened to be a goalie named Thatcher Demko. Demko was rated the number 1 goalie in the draft but was the second goalie taken as Calgary wanted a goalie who they could develop more quickly in Mason Mcdonald.
With his third round pick Benning drafted a 6’7 overage defence man named Nikita Trymakin from the KHL. Trymakin was an overeager but had a strong performance at the World juniors which saw his draft stock rise significantly. Trymakin is a smooth skating defensive defenceman
In the 5th rounder Benning took a potential power play quarterback in Gustav Forsling, who had a strong U18 performance with 4 goals and 1 assist.
With his last two picks Benning took Kyle Petit in the 6th round and Mackenzie Stewart in the seventh round. Petit projects has a 6’4 4th line centre who has a strong defensive game, and Stewart is a big physical, stay at home defenceman who has a mean streak.
July 1st (Free agency)
Free agency the only time of year were top 6 forwards, top 4 defence man, and number 1 goalies can be brought with money. After the NHL draft know one knew what Benning would do in Free agency. The Canucks had two goalies in Markstrom and Lack, but no one knew if they could handle a full 82 game season. With a glaring hole at the most important position in hockey, Benning went and solidified their goaltending by signing former All-star and 2010 US Olympic team goalie Ryan Miller to a 3 years 18 million dollar deal.
Another need for the Canucks was to find someone who could score goals, as finishing as the 2nd worst offensive team in the league isn’t going to get you a playoff spot no matter how good you are defensively. In comes Radim Vrbata, a relatively unknown player who had quietly become a player who other teams had to watch, otherwise the puck would be in the back of the net. At 2 years 10 million dollars, the Canucks got the top 6 wing they had desperately needed in previous years.