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Canucks fantasy outlook - Part 1

by Brady Trettenero / Vancouver Canucks
Reality is fantasy.

After missing the playoffs for the first time in six years, the Canucks hope some key off-season acquisitions can bolster the offense and steer the team back in the right direction. If that's the case, Vancouver's forwards, defencemen and goaltenders will be back on the fantasy hockey radar in a big way.

The Canucks scored an average of 2.33 goals per game last season, which was 28th overall in the NHL. Once known as reliable point per game producers, the Sedins both produced their lowest full-season point totals in 10 years, while linemate Alex Burrows didn’t score his first goal until March. Veteran center Ryan Kesler paced the team with 25 goals, but still just managed 43 points on the season.

While the Canucks’ offensive numbers plummeted in 2013-2014, there were a few positives to build on. Zack Kassian started slow, before going on to lead the Canucks in scoring in the second half of the season. With elite PIM numbers, the feisty 23-year-old winger is a potential fantasy gem in the making. Rookie Nicklas Jensen also exhibited his potential in a noteworthy 17-game NHL stint.

Changes were made in the 2014 offseason to revamp the offense. Gone is heart-and-soul forward Kesler and in is former-Duck Nick Bonino and former-Coyote Radim Vrbata.

Vrbata, a 33-year-old veteran, is only three years removed from a 35-goal season, while Bonino is coming off a career-high 22-goal, 49 point campaign. Both players are expected to give a big boost to a Vancouver power play that dropped to 26th overall last season.

Here's a breakdown of Vancouver's forwards, what to expect from them this season and how they might help your fantasy hockey team.

The Big Guns

Henrik Sedin, C

Sedin struggled mightily during the 2013-2014 season, posting his lowest full-season point total since the 2003-2004 campaign. The 33-year-old, usually known for his consistency, was wildly inconsistent throughout the season, once going 12 straight games without recording a point. Sedin managed only 50 point (11 goals) on the year and saw almost all his stat totals drop off severely. With newly inked Vrbata set to start on the top line, Henrik has a chance to rebound with a prolific sniper on his wing. Sedin isn’t as bad as we saw this past season, but it’s fair to assume his 80-plus point days are over.

Projection: 14 G/ 57 A/ 71 points

Daniel Sedin, LW

Much like his brother, Daniel had a disappointing 2013-2014 campaign, failing to reach the 50-point mark for only the second time in ten years. Sedin’s 16 goals and 47 points were a far cry from the point-per-game game pace we have grown accustomed to seeing from the 33-year-old. Daniel saw almost all his stat totals drop last season, including his shooting percentage, which dropped to a career-low 7.1 percent. Only four years removed from a 41-goal, 104 point season, Sedin still possess all the necessary tools to be an elite fantasy player. With the offseason addition of Vrbata and a new coach in Willie Desjardins, Sedin is likely to bounce back this upcoming season.

Projection: 27 G/ 43 A/ 70 points

Radim Vrbata, RW

After spending the last four seasons with the offensively challenged Coyotes, UFA Vrbata signed a two-year deal in the 2014 offseason to play for the Canucks. The 33-year-old sniper should get a chance to play alongside two of the most dynamic playmakers in the game in Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Vrbata is coming off a solid 2013-2014 campaign where he netted 20 goals and 51 points. He was especially dominant on the power play, where his career-high 21 power-play points (10 goals) helped Phoenix to the fourth best power play in the NHL. Vrbata is expected to start the season on the top line, a gig sure to boost his offensive totals.

Projection: 28 G/ 30 A/ 58 points

On the Rise

Zack Kassian, RW

Kassian hit another stride in 2013-2014, setting career-highs with 14 goals and 29 points. Though he struggled at times earlier in the year, Kassian finished the season hot, tallying 10 points (three goals) in his final 10 games. His 15.4 shooting percentage was quite impressive and his 124 PIM made him even more appealing to fantasy goers. Kassian has slowly been improving every season and could fully breakout in 2014-2015. A permanent role in the top-six would do wonders for the 23-year old power forward.

Projection: 17 G/ 25 A/ 42 points

Linden Vey, RW

Vey signed a one-year contract with the Canucks in the 2014 offseason after being traded to Vancouver from the Kings in late June. The 23-year-old spent most of last season with AHL Manchester, registering 48 points (14 goals) in 43 games. He also appeared in 18 games for the Kings last season, netting five assists, while averaging 12:08 of ice time. Vey, who led the WHL in goals in 2010-2011, didn’t get many opportunities with a very deep Los Angeles squad. He is a prime candidate to center Vancouver’s third line this upcoming campaign.

Projection: 9 G/19 A/ 28 points

Buyer Beware

Jannik Hansen, RW

Not known as a huge point producer, Hansen recorded a disappointing 11 goals and 20 points in 70 games in his 2013-2014 campaign. Hansen saw his ice time dip to 15:40, posting a career-low minus-9 rating. Despite averaging almost a minute of power play time a game, Hansen failed to make an impact with the man advantage, recording only one assist. The speedy winger has never hit 20 goals in a season and with the departure of former linemate Ryan Kesler to Anaheim, it’s hard to see him doing that this season.

Projection: 12 G/ 17 A/ 29 points

Alex Burrows, RW

Burrows is one of many Canucks who had a bad 2013-2014 campaign. Hampered by injuries, the 33-year-old managed only 15 points (five goals) in 49 games last season. Burrows posted a career-low minus-9 rating and saw his shooting percentage drop to a horrific 4.8 percent. Known for consistently delivering 20-plus goals every season, it took the former 35-goal scorer until March to find the back of the net. With the offseason signing of Vrbata, it’s likely Burrows loses his spot on the top line. With no Kesler to align with on the second unit, Burrows may struggle offensively without any elite playmakers feeding him the puck.

Projection: 18 G/ 21 A/ 39 points

Impact Prospects

Bo Horvat, C

Horvat was expected to start last season with the Canucks, but instead, was sent back down to the London Knights of the OHL. Horvat dominated once again, recording 30 goals and 74 points in 54 games, to go with a plus-20 rating. The 19-year-old appears destined to crack the Canucks’ roster this upcoming season, likely slotting in on the third or fourth line. Horvat is going to be a key fantasy contributor one day, just don’t expect big results right away. The ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft should help boost a Canucks’ team in need of offensive help.

*Projection: 13 G/ 20 A/ 33 points

Nicklas Jensen, RW

Jensen impressed in 17 games with the Canucks last season, recording three goals and six points, to go with a minus-1 rating. The 21-year-old saw 15:38 of ice time per game, including almost two minutes of power-play time. Prior to his NHL callup in March, the Swedish prospect tallied 15 goals and 21 points in 54 games with AHL Utica in 2014-2015. Jensen will challenge for a roster spot this season.

*Projection: 12 G/ 17A/ 30 points

Hunter Shinkaruk, LW

After an impressive pre-season with the Canucks in 2013-2014, Shinkaruk was sent back to the WHL for another season with the Tigers. The 19-year-old put up five goals and 16 points in 18 games before suffering a season-ending hip injury that required surgery. He has been deemed healthy and will challenge for a roster spot with the Canucks this upcoming season. Shinkaruk possess tremendous skill and it will only be a matter of time before he becomes a household name in fantasy hockey. Still, patience is a virtue, as Vancouver’s top-six is too crowded right now for Shinkaruk to make an immediate impact.

*Projection: 11 G/ 17 A/ 28 points

Brendan Gaunce, C

Gaunce was sent back down to the OHL last season after an impressive pre-season stint with the Canucks in which he recorded two goals. The 20-year-old center tallied 21 goals and 46 points in 43 games with the Otters in 2013-2014. He continued his superb play into the playoffs, racking up five goals and 16 points in 14 playoff games. Gaunce will battle for a roster spot with the Canucks this season.

*Projection: 10 G/ 16 A/ 26 points

*Projection is based off the assumption the player makes the Canucks’ roster out of training camp

What About

Nick Bonino, C

Bonino was traded from Anaheim in the off-season alongside Luca Sbisa to the Canucks in exchange for Kesler. Bonino is coming off a great year in Anaheim in which he recorded a career-high 22 goals and 49 points. He was absolutely lethal on the power play, recording seven goals and 20 points. He is likely to slot in as Vancouver’s second line center and be a key power-play contributor. Much is expected of Bonino, but he is no Kesler. Prior to last season, the 26-year-old had never recorded more than 18 points in a season.

Projection: 17 G/ 24 A/ 41 points

Chris Higgins, LW

Higgins managed to be a decent fantasy contributor in 2013-2014, netting 17 goals and 39 points in 78 games. Although Higgins posted a career-low minus-14 rating, he recorded a relevant 219 shots on goal and came through in the clutch with four game-winning goals. Higgins has never surpassed 52 points in a season, and with the departure of former linemate Kesler, it’s hard to imagine Higgins improving too much on his totals from last season.

Projection: 16 G/ 21 A/ 37 points

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