The Canucks’ trio of Modo Hockey alumni – former Lester Pearson Award winner Markus Naslund, and the Sedin twins – will continue to be the Canucks’ go-to forwards this season.
Daniel Sedin led the club with a career-high 36 goals and 84 points during the regular season while playmaking center, Henrik Sedin, racked up 71 assists (fourth in the NHL) and 81 points. The twins took a lot of heat for their underwhelming production in the playoffs.
While they must assume a share of the blame, it’s also true that the Canucks’ overall lack of firepower up front made it easier for Dallas and Anaheim to shadow the Sedins’ line with their top checkers in the playoffs. In particular, top checking center Samuel Pahlsson (himself a former Modo player who has been both teammate and opponent to the twins) did a brilliant job in keeping the Sedins’ line off-balance and pinned in its own zone.
Nevertheless, the twins should be on course for another fine season and Daniel (16 power-play goals) has become the team’s most dangerous sniper on the power play, usurping even longtime scoring king Naslund.
Vancouver captain Naslund’s production last season (24 goals, 60 points) fell to its lowest level since 1997-98 and marked just the second time in the last seven seasons that he failed to hit the 30-goal plateau. But the 34-year-old remains an extremely dangerous player, capable of turning opposition mistakes into goals in a hurry. His nine power-play goals was tied for second on the club with Taylor Pyatt. Naslund will need to return to the 30-plus goal range this season.
In order to diversify the attack, the Canucks will need Brendan Morrison (20 goals, 51 points) to recover quickly from his off-season sports hernia surgery and provide support offense behind the Swedes, along with Pyatt (23 goals, nine on the power play). While the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Pyatt came on offensively after being acquired from the Buffalo and placed on the Sedins’ line, he is still sometimes criticized for not using his size effectively enough down low in the offensive zone.
The third member of the Canucks’ off-season sports hernia surgery patients is Matt Cooke. The agitating winger has never scored more than 15 goals in a season – he put home 10 last season – but he’s a catalyst for the club.
Henrik Sedin’s ability to distribute the puck on the power play is nothing short of remarkable. In addition to his sixth sense for knowing where his brother is at all times, he has an uncanny knack for drawing the attention of the defense and firing a pinpoint pass either to the point or to a player flashing down the slot.
The Canucks tallied 19 power-play goals from the defense last year, thanks to Henrik’s playmaking wizardry and the heavy shots possessed by the likes of Bieksa (six power-play goals), Salo (five) and Ohlund (six).
While the Canucks clearly benefited immensely from the trade that sent power forward Todd Bertuzzi to the Panthers in the deal that sent both Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver, the team missed his physical presence around the net, especially on the power play.
Up and Coming
Jannik Hansen -- The Canucks’ ninth-round pick (287th of 291 overall) in the 2004 draft made his NHL debut during the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. … He became the second player born and partially trained in Denmark to play in the NHL. …He spent the 2006-07 regular season as a rookie with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, scoring 12 goals and 34 points in 72 regular season games. … Known as a two-way forward, Hansen was called up by the Canucks during the playoffs, along with Nathan Smith to fill the lineup holes left by injuries to Matt Cooke and Alexandre Burrows.
Michael Grabner -- The Canucks’ first-round pick (14th overall) in 2006 is coming off an injury-plagued season in the WHL. … The Austrian’s 2006-07 performance stats (39 goals, 55 points in 55 games) improved on his numbers from the prior season (36 goals, 50 points in 67 games). …Hampered by a hip injury for much of the first half of last season, he came on the second half.
Mason Raymond -- The Canucks’ second-round pick (51st overall) in 2005 is entering his first full season as a pro. … The 6-foot, 190-pound winger joined the Manitoba Moose for the final 11 regular season games (two goals, four points) and 13 playoff matches (one assist) after his sophomore season for University of Minnesota – Duluth, where he scored 14 goals and 46 points in 39 games.
Ryan Kesler -- The Canucks took Kesler in the first round (23rd overall) in 2003 and, last summer, matched a restricted free agent offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers to retain his rights. So far he’s brought more promise than production.
Last year, Kesler was limited to 48 regular-season games by a hip injury, scoring just six goals and 16 points. He played in just one playoff game, breaking his left index finger in the Canucks four-overtime win over the Dallas Stars in the first game of the postseason.
At this point in his career, there is plenty of room for Kesler to improve. He scored 30 goals in his rookie season in the AHL but has just 44 points in his first 158 NHL games. Nevertheless, the team signed him to a new three year, $5.2 million deal in May. Kesler is back to full strength and will be counted on to elevate his game to provide some much-needed goal support for the team this year, as well as solid all-around play.