The Vancouver Canucks are probably not going to be the hockey equivalent of watching paint dry this year.
Big news, right?
Both Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen will start the year with the Canucks, delivering on the promise from Jim Benning that young players would get a spot if they earned it.
After a pair of impressive preseason efforts, they certainly earned it.
While it will be interesting to see how Virtanen is used by new head coach Travis Green, Boeser’s role is more clearly defined – he’s there to score goals.
And after an impressive nine-game stint last season which saw him pot four goals and add an assist, expectations are high for the 20-year-old. While every fanbase likes to overhype their own prospects (fans in Vancouver have been guilty of this) there is a legitimate chance that Brock Boeser could become the first Canucks player to win the Calder Trophy since Pavel Bure.
1. Plenty of opportunities
On a rebuilding team, Boeser should get every opportunity to show what he is capable of. He could even start on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, two players that he had chemistry with at five-on-five at the end of last season.
On top of that, he should get significant power play time – either with the Sedins or Bo Horvat’s unit. Of his four goals scored last season, two of them came with the man advantage, and he scored one during the preseason as well.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) September 17, 2017
There hasn’t been a Canuck in quite some time who has a release like Boeser’s, so he should be given a boatload of cushy offensive roles to score goals for Vancouver at even strength and with the man advantage.
2. Wide open competition
Unlike previous seasons, there’s a lack of hyped up, big name first-year players entering the National Hockey League this year. Last year it was Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the year before it was Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
Instead of a couple of big names that dominate the conversation, there are a handful of high-end skaters that should be in the mix.
Arizona will have Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome, two offensively gifted centres who like Boeser should be given ample opportunities on a rebuilding team. Strome averaged over two points per game last season in the OHL after being sent down by the Coyotes, while Keller had 45 points in 31 games for Boston University, then promptly had two assists in three NHL games before the season ended.
Craig Button has Brock Boeser as the top Calder candidate. pic.twitter.com/hd0bTbwPvy
— Alex H (@alexhoegler) September 27, 2017
The top two picks in this year’s draft – Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick – are also expected to be in the hunt for the Calder Trophy. Hischier had an impressive preseason, with seven points in four games. Like the two previously mentioned, he will get ample opportunities as he’s currently penciled in on the top power play unit alongside Taylor Hall. Patrick may struggle for the same quality of ice time on a Flyers team that is looking to get back into the playoffs.
Other players such as Charlie McAvoy, Tyson Jost, and Kyle Connor could be in the mix as well.
It’s anybody’s to win this year, and Boeser is as well positioned as anyone.
3. NHL experience
It may seem a little odd to talk about NHL experience when discussing a player gunning for the award given to the NHL’s top rookie, but in the case of Boeser, he’s already a proven commodity.
While the nine games he played down the stretch were meaningless from a Canucks perspective, they weren’t meaningless to Vancouver’s opponents.
Last year Bo Horvat led the Canucks in goals with 20. If Boeser can lead the team with around 20-25 goals, he should be in the conversation for the Calder come season’s end.