TORONTO -- Sam Gagner believes the pieces are in place for the Vancouver Canucks to begin a new chapter, none bigger than forwards Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat.
Gagner, a 28-year-old forward, said he's intrigued by the emergence of Horvat, who is entering his fifth NHL season, and Boeser, a finalist for the Calder Trophy last season, to help carry the torch for the Canucks after forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin retired. This season will be Vancouver's first without the Sedins since 1999.
Horvat, 23, has 161 points (71 goals, 90 assists) in 295 NHL games. That's more than Daniel Sedin, who had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) in 315 games, and Henrik Sedin, who had 146 points (44 goals, 102 assists) in 318 games, had through each of his first four NHL seasons. Horvat was the No. 9 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft.
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"Bo is a really important player for us and does a lot of important things," Gagner said on Wednesday at Smashfest, a ping-pong tournament hosted by NHL forward Dominic Moore. "He plays on both sides of the puck; he was on the first power play unit, he plays on the penalty kill, takes important face-offs, so I'm sure he's going to continue to grow into that role."
Gagner, who had 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 74 games with the Canucks last season, expects Boeser to take another step after the 21-year-old tied Daniel Sedin for the Canucks scoring lead with 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) despite missing the final 19 games of his rookie season because of a back injury. Boeser was Vancouver's first-round pick (No. 23) at the 2015 NHL Draft.
"He's a great player. He's got a lot of hockey sense," Gagner said of Boeser. "He finds holes really well to get himself scoring chances and when he gets the chances, he rarely misses. He's one of those guys who has a knack for the net and knows where to put it on goal.
"He just goes out and plays, doesn't overthink things and finds ways to create chances and score when he gets them. I talked to him a bit this summer; he's healthy and getting ready to get back to it."
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The Canucks have other young players expected to compete for roster spots this season, including forward Elias Pettersson, 19, selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft; forward Jonathan Dahlen, 20, a second-round pick (No. 42) in 2016 who was acquired in the trade that sent forward Alexandre Burrows to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 27, 2017; and center Adam Gaudette, 21, a fifth-round pick (No. 149) in 2015 who played five games for the Canucks last season after having 60 points in 38 games for Northeastern University.
Vancouver (31-40-11) finished 22 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference last season.
"I think it's important to have young guys grow into those roles and push veteran players to be better," Gagner said. "It's obviously a different animal when you get to the NHL level, but we saw what Boeser was able to do this year and we got a little taste of Gaudette at the end of the year and we've got some more guys coming up like Pettersson. The list really goes on.
"It's an exciting time to be a Canuck and I think for us as veteran guys, we come in ready to go and we're ready to lead the way."
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The Canucks will also be looking to fill a void in the front office after Trevor Linden left his role as president of hockey operations on July 25. Linden held the position for four seasons.
"It came a bit out of the blue for a lot of us," Gagner said. "He's meant a lot to the franchise with everything he's been able to accomplish as a player and as an executive. I think you're going to miss him in that role, but we have a lot of great people in our management group. I know the players, we don't really worry about that too much. We just go out and play hockey. We're excited to get to camp and get going."