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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are in rebuild mode, this likely means they are 2 years out from making the playoffs

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

2017-2018 NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Fourth up are the Canucks who are 7 years removed from a Stanley Cup finals loss to the Boston Bruins, they have since made the playoffs 3 of the last 6 years but more recently have missed the playoffs the last 2 years.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 29th
Western Conference Standings: 13th
Pacific Division Standings: 7th
Goals for Rank: 29th
Goals against Rank: 19th

Overview: Vancouver finished in the bottom 3 in back to back years coming into the 2017-2018 season. They have their work cut out for them. The Sedin twins who were 70+ point players just 3 years ago, dropped to 50 and 44 points respectively last year. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are in the final year of their contracts and will be UFA's at the end of this year. Watching their deteriorating play fight against a contract year should be stimulating to watch this year. They are the perfect embodiment of the Canucks as a whole, players were at one time great but are by and large past their prime (despite being the 7th youngest team in the league). A strong argument can be made that Loui Eriksson, Alexander Edler and the twins (all in the top 10 in scoring) coupled with Ryan Miller (now gone) are on a severe decline. One can hope that Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund can be the youth that backfills the gap but I don't see any strong star power from these 4 (only 1 eclipsed 40 points last year). The Canucks finished 9th in goals scored last year and while Anders Nilsson might improve upon Ryan Miller's respectable 2.80 GAA and .914 Sv% last year, it won't matter if they can't score. Quite simply after a 2-3 year where they were in free fall mode, they have spent the last 12 months rebuilding but it will take time.

Major Additions
: Michael Del Zotto, Sam Gagner and Anders Nilsson
Major Subtractions: Ryan Miller

Prospects and Picks:
-Elias Petersson. Their selection of Elias at the 5th overall spot surprised me a little, I had projected Elias as the 8th overall pick to Buffalo (I had Casey Mittlestadt and Elias flipped between the Canucks and Buffalo, both who need goal scoring). Elias is an all around great talent who has played on the international stage and netted 41 points across 43 games with Timra IK last year. He has a fantastic attitude and reads the ice well but there are concerns over his size and ability to score on big stage situations. If Vancouver is willing to be patient with him, they could have a 50+ point first line left winger in 3 years.

-Kole Lind. Their 2nd pick in the 2nd round out of the WHL should provide a 1-2 punch with Elias as he can find the net efficiently from the Right Wing. He reads the ice well and loves to pass the puck (sometimes at the detriment of a good shot).

-Brock Boeser. This one is tricky. He came up at the end of last year in some garbage time games and netted 9 points in 9 games. Well surely he can do 80 points in 80 games right? This is the issue with the garbage time games late in a season, it's much like spring training when you are on a team who has locked a playoff spot or is in the basement. His points were against respectable teams (Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose  Sharks and Edmonton Oilers) but most of them were secure in a playoff spot at that time. The second issue is that he would probably be better long term if he spent another year in the minor leagues to develop. IF he cracks the lineup this year, I could see the North Dakota grad score 40+ points but it remains to be seen what the Canucks want to do with him.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Bo Horvat who lead the team in points (52) and goals (20) should be one of the only attainable assets on this team. The advantage to Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter is their willingness to shoot the puck. Both had over 155 shots with above a 10% shooting percentage which is respectable. They will be late picks but would be worth a gamble for some potential upside. For years I lauded on the talent that Sven Baertschi possessed but he never materialized into a the player that his prospect status touted.

-Anders Nilsson has never had a full time gig and he could be the one to hold it this year. He won't get wins but could hold a respectable save percentage (.923 last year) with a fair amount of saves for the points leagues that award those.

-Brock Boeser (see above)

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $8.8MM in cap space with 23 players signed

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 28th
Western Conference Standings: 13th
Pacific Division: 7th

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)