Do you smell that in the air?
It’s something we haven’t smelled for a while around these parts: optimism.
Fans are optimistic that this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks will be better. After the doom and gloom of last season, that’s to be expected.
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The Canucks enter this season with some young players that give hope for the future, in Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen. Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher are all between 22 and 25 years old.
Can they take another step forward in their careers this season? We’ll soon find out.
Also new this season are a number of new additions made by GM Jim Benning this offseason. In total, six players will start the season with the Canucks.
Let’s meet them, shall we?
1. Thomas Vanek
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 11, 2017
Thomas Vanek had to wait all the way until September to find a new team this summer before eventually signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Canucks.
It had to be a bit of an unfamiliar feeling for Vanek, who has scored 40+ goals twice in his career.
Vancouver is the Austrian’s seventh stop in long NHL career. A fifth overall draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 2003 when Jim Benning was running their scouting department, Vanek is the most accomplished player picked up by the Canucks this offseason.
The 33-year-old has scored 697 points in his 885-game NHL career. He had a relatively productive year last season with the Red Wings and Panthers, scoring 48 points in 68 games.
While Travis Green has been juggling his lines a lot in preseason, Vanek has been a staple on the first unit power play. If line rushes at practice on Friday are any indication (they usually are) he will likely start the season on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
2. Sam Gagner
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) February 2, 2017
Just 28 years old, Sam Gagner has already had a long career, appearing in 696 NHL games, and scoring 402 points.
He’s had an up and down career though, showing tremendous promise in his rookie season with the Oilers, scoring 49 points as an 18-year-old. He was never able to match that point total again in Edmonton, before bouncing around with Arizona, Philadelphia, and Columbus.
He once scored eight points in one game, but scored just 16 points in 53 games with the Flyers in 2015-16 – a career low. He followed that up with a career-high 50 points with the Blue Jackets last year.
A natural centre, he’ll start the season on the wing with Brock Boeser and newcomer Alexander Burmistrov.
3. Alexander Burmistrov
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) September 15, 2017
Burmistrov enters this season a little under the radar.
An eighth overall draft pick back in 2010 by the Atlanta Thrashers, he’s failed to live up to expectations in a career that saw him leave for the KHL for two years.
The 25-year-old Russian started to show signs of promise last year after being picked up by the Coyotes though, scoring 14 points in 26 games. Is there still untapped potential? Newell Brown was an assistant coach with Burmistrov in Arizona, and might know how to get the best out of him.
He’s getting a great opportunity to start the season, centring the team’s third line.
4. Michael Del Zotto
The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open. pic.twitter.com/bP8QmXHxRc
— Michael Del Zotto (@MichaelDelZotto) September 28, 2017
Perhaps the biggest addition to the Canucks this summer was Michael Del Zotto, a bonafide top-four defenceman throughout most of his career.
At age 27, he’s still in the prime of his career, and should provide a lot to the back end. The key for Del Zotto is staying healthy, something he hasn’t been able to do for a while now. The most games he’s played in a season over the last four years is 67, coming back in 2013-14.
Del Zotto will begin the season paired with Erik Gudbranson, and will quarterback the power play unit containing Burmistrov, Bo Horvat, Loui Eriksson, and Sven Baertschi.
5. Derrick Pouliot
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 3, 2017
Derrick Pouliot was a highly touted young defenceman not long ago. The eighth overall pick back in 2012 was rumoured to be a key piece the Canucks were interested in when Ryan Kesler was on the trade block in 2014.
The 23-year-old get a fresh start in Vancouver with his old junior coach, Travis Green.
Will a change of scenery help his fortunes? The Canucks hope so. He’ll start as a spare defenceman and might not get into the lineup until someone gets injured.
In other words, we should see him soon.
6. Anders Nilsson
Nilsson looks like the after photo from when Markstrom has to change his look to escape from the law pic.twitter.com/tyF3aNKPoK
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) September 12, 2017
Just how big is Anders Nilsson? He makes Jacob Markstrom look like his little brother.
The two Swedish netminders are the same age (27), and they’re each officially listed at the same height – 6-foot-6 – though Nilsson weighs 33 pounds heavier. So he’ll cover a lot of the net.
Given his play in preseason, Markstrom should get the start for the Canucks’ first game, but Green has said it will be an open competition. That means that not only will Nilsson get a chance to prove himself – if he plays well – he could develop into the team’s No. 1 goalie, too.