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31 in 31

Three questions facing Vancouver Canucks

Markstrom improvement, power-play production among concerns

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Vancouver Canucks.

 

[Canucks 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Can the power play improve?

The Canucks were tied for 25th in the NHL in scoring last season (2.67 goals per game) and were last in the League over the past four seasons combined (2.44). To help turn that around, they will need more from their power play, which was tied for 22nd last season (17.1 percent).

Coach Travis Green said there are two reasons for optimism.

First, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson have experience on the top power-play unit after taking over last season for retired forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin.

Second, the Canucks have more quality depth for their two units after trading for forward J.T. Miller and signing defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Micheal Ferland as free agents. They will also have defenseman Quinn Hughes, the No. 7 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, for a full season after he had two power-play assists in five games after making his NHL debut March 28.

"When we finished ninth (on the power play) two years ago, we had 31 goals from the top unit, but we also had 22 goals from our second unit," Green said. "No slight against the players last year, but a lot of times we had guys that weren't true goal-scorers on that second unit. We were pretty top-heavy, and everybody talks about that top unit not getting it done, but you need contributions from your second unit too."

Video: 31 in 31: Vancouver Canucks 2019-20 season preview

 

2. Can goalie Jacob Markstrom keep improving?

Markstrom is coming off his best season in the NHL, setting career highs in starts (60) and wins (28) with a .912 save percentage that was above the NHL average (.910) for the first time in his career.

Markstrom had a slow start but got better as his first season with new goaltending coach Ian Clark progressed, going 20-14-6 with a .921 save percentage in his final 40 games. The Canucks are counting on continued improvement from the 6-foot-6 goalie. The 29-year-old said he sees it as a long progression and is excited for a second season with Clark.

"I feel like it's just getting started," Markstrom said.

 

3. Will they get more offense from their defensemen?

Vancouver's defensemen improved at both ends of the rink last season. They helped the Canucks go from 26th in the NHL in goals-against in 2017-18 to tied for 17th, from 3.16 to 3.02 goals-against per game, and slightly improved their offensive production, from 21 goals and 122 points in 2017-18 to 27 goals and 135 points last season.

The improvements weren't enough, though, and the Canucks made significant changes at defenseman this offseason.

After two seasons with the same personnel, they didn't re-sign restricted free agents Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot. They signed unrestricted free agents Myers, whose nine goals and 31 points last season for the Winnipeg Jets would have ranked second to Alexander Edler (10 goals, 34 points) among Vancouver defensemen, and Jordie Benn, who had NHL career highs with five goals and 22 points for the Montreal Canadiens. Add in Hughes, a rookie who had three assists in his first five NHL games.

"We've got to have more offense from our D, and I think we're better equipped to do that," Green said.

Video: NHL Tonight discusses the Canucks' expectations

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