Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Vancouver Canucks

Bold Predictions

Five reasons to believe the Canucks are on the upswing

by Daniel Fung @daniel_fung / Canucks Freelance Writer

Preseason predictions have a way of making smart individuals look like fools, and fools look like even bigger fools (or, on the rare occasion, geniuses).

Thankfully, yours truly has no qualms about how much crow he has to eat or, conversely, is certainly not shy about the massive amounts of praise that is certain to accompany the 'you were right' messages at the end of the season.

With that said, here are five bold predictions for the 2016.17 season.

5. Troy Stecher will play 30 games in the NHL this season

Troy Stecher may not be with the Canucks to start the season but you most certainly bet you will see him again in Vancouver this season.

The 22-year-old's preseason performance certainly earned him a call-up at some point and perhaps sooner rather than later if the Canucks were to falter in the early going, especially on the power play where Vancouver finished third-last in the league a year ago.

Stecher, who had a goal and three points in four preseason outings, can help his cause for a quick call-up if he's able to put up numbers right away at the AHL level. When he returns, he'll be expected to contribute in short order, too, so expect his first career goal to follow not long after as well.

4. Jake Virtanen will score 20 goals

Jake Virtanen knows a thing or two about scoring goals. He had 66 goals in 121 games over his final two seasons in junior. Last season, despite limited minutes and a lengthy sabbatical playing at the world juniors, he still managed to notch seven goals - six of which came over his final 35 games of the season.

Jake also knows a thing or two about consistency, insomuch as he'll need to display it in his effort level and offensive production if he wants to stay permanently on the NHL roster. He's fought his way to an opening night roster spot and, with no guarantees a trip to Utica isn't in the cards, expect that same fight level to be on display every night. He'll get the opportunity to shine alongside other young, creative offensive stars like Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat so he'll get his fair of scoring chances. The onus is on him to bury those chances.

Last season only Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen managed to crack the 20-goal mark for the Canucks. They have not had more than two 20-goal scorers in a single season since 2011.12.

3. Ryan Miller will record 30 wins

After last year's disappointing campaign it's easy to forget in Ryan Miller's first season in Vancouver, a successful one for the Canucks by all accounts, as the former Vezina Trophy winner came within a single victory of recording a 30-win season for the eighth time in his career. That was despite making just 45 appearances after missing most of the latter part of the season with an injury.

Even with Jacob Markstrom pushing for the starter's job, Miller should still find himself with around 40 to 50 starts. The ultra-competitor will have plenty to play for as well. He not only wants to prove he's still a bona fide number one NHL netminder but is looking for a contract next season as well. Two seasons ago, 15 of Miller's 29 wins came in the first two months of the season. The idea of history repeating itself isn't so far-fetched.

2. Daniel and Henrik will be point-per-game players

Not since the 2010-11 season have Daniel and Henrik Sedin each managed a point-per-game pace and coming off a season where they were only able to muster 61 and 55 points, respectively, asking for a 30-point uptick might seem a lot.

The inability to stay healthy has been an issue, but consistency more so - not in terms of their own play but rather the revolving door of wingers they've had in recent seasons. Being reunited with long-time national team linemate Loui Eriksson will help with that. Eriksson also happens to be the most consistent, if not prolific, goal scorer that the twins have ever had as a regular linemate in their Canuck careers. Eriksson has hit the 20-goal mark in six of the last seven non-lockout shortened seasons.

Eriksson's arrival won't turn the clock back to the days the twins were routinely Art Ross Trophy contenders but, if Radim Vrbata could coax 70-plus points out of the brothers, Eriksson should have no problem helping his fellow countrymen get back to the 80-point plateau.

 1. The Canucks will make the playoffs

If you believe the prognosticators, the only team the Canucks will finish higher than in the standings against is the yet-to-be-named Las Vegas club. Picking the Canucks to falter is the safe bet, though not necessarily the smart bet.

The Canucks aren't like the Maple Leafs or Jets who have a highly-touted first-rounder from this past summer's NHL Draft to debut - something that usually scores points with the so-called experts - but they certainly have not received due credit for making two solid acquisitions in Loui Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson. Combine that with the depth additions of Anton Rodin and Jack Skille, a reasonable expectation that youngsters like Horvat, Virtanen, Baerstchi and Ben Hutton will continue to make positive strides, and the hope that veterans like Hansen, the twins and Brandon Sutter can stay healthy, this is a much-improved squad compared to the end of last season.

Is it enough to get them back to the promised land? Time will tell. But there are more than enough reasons to believe the Canucks are on the upswing.

View More