NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks spent the offseason adding talented veterans to their young core in order to help them return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs sooner rather than later.
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Vancouver, which improved by eight points from 2017-18 but missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, acquired forward J.T. Miller in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 22 and added defensemen Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn as free agents on July 1 before signing forward Micheal Ferland on July 10.
They join a young group that includes forwards Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, who was voted the winner of the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year for 2018-19, and defenseman Quinn Hughes, who was the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and had three assists in five games at the end of last season.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs so our young players can experience what playoff hockey is," general manager Jim Benning said after signing a three-year contract extension Aug. 20. "That's an important part of their development. So by signing some of these players we did this summer, it's with the goal in mind we want to keep getting better and be a competitive team that can compete for a playoff spot."
Horvat is the only member of the Canucks' young core that has NHL playoff experience, playing mostly in a fourth-line role as a rookie when Vancouver last made the postseason in 2014-15. The 24-year-old had NHL career highs in goals (27), assists (34) and points (61) in 82 games last season despite playing with different linemates and often matching up against the other team's top forwards.
Video: NHL Tonight discusses the Canucks' expectations
Coach Travis Green, who is entering his third season, is counting on that type of continued growth from the rest of his young players. He said he believes additions like Miller will provide leadership in that process.
"Everyone talks about how the guys we added over the summer are going to really help us, but they are going to help our young guys," Green said. "Our young guys are the guys we are waiting on to see where they are at. We need our young players, who are elite talents, to continue to progress to take us to the next level."
The Canucks consider that next level making the playoffs, and that will require them to score more after they averaged the fewest goals per game in the NHL over the past four seasons (2.44). The new additions should help.
Miller had 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 75 games playing mostly on the third line with the Lightning last season but scored at least 22 goals playing in a top-six role in each of the previous three seasons with Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers. He is comfortable working down low on the power play.
Ferland had 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in 71 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, his second in a row with at least 40 points, and has proven capable of playing with skilled players on the power play (NHL career-high 13 power-play points last season) and taking on a physical role (third on Carolina with 182 hits).
Video: Benning discusses contract extension with Canucks
Myers had 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 80 games last season with the Winnipeg Jets and 36 (six goals, 30 assists) in 82 games in 2017-18 while playing mostly on the third defense pair. However, the 6-foot-8 defenseman should see an increase in opportunities in the offensive zone playing in a top-four role with the Canucks.
Even Benn, who was signed as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, is coming off an NHL career-high 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 81 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.
Add it all up, and Green is excited about Vancouver's chances of taking that next step and ending its playoff drought.
"I feel like our team is going to be a lot more equipped to play the way I think you need to in order to have success in the NHL," Green said. "And when you watch the playoffs and teams that win, you have to have enough skill to get into the playoffs, and enough size and compete and grit to win in the playoffs."
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