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Toffoli's impact for Canucks in Cup Qualifiers goes beyond scoring

Forward brings championship experience to lineup thin on postseason success

by Kevin Woodley / Independent Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Tyler Toffoli has picked up in training camp right where he left off for the Vancouver Canucks.

Reunited on the top line with center Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller, Toffoli scored the only goal in a scrimmage on the second day of camp Tuesday, ensuring his teammates didn't have to take part in the hard skate that followed.

"Not having to do the bag skate after was huge," Toffoli said.

So was Toffoli's impact after a Feb. 17 trade from the Los Angeles Kings. The 28-year-old right wing scored 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 games with the Canucks before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He credited his immediate success on a new team to how well he fit in on the top line.

"It was my first experience being traded, middle of the year, but I knew once I got here, I talked to [coach Travis Green] first day, and he told me just play your game, work hard and just read off of J.T. and 'Petey,'" Toffoli said. "They're obviously two great players, and I found that out in a hurry, so just being able to play with those guys definitely went a long way for myself."

Toffoli, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, is a high-end goal-scorer, with 24 goals in 68 games this season and 145 in 525 NHL games.

But Miller is more enamored with how Toffoli scores, relying on more than just an elite shot, and believes it will help in the best-of-5 series against the Minnesota Wild in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, when the Canucks will have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015.

"A lot of ugly goals are scored in the playoffs, inside the hash marks, the bottom of the (face-off) circles, and he's got great hands around the net," Miller said. "They aren't always going to be pretty, and we've seen since he's been here, he's gone to all those areas and even though he's got a great release, he gets a lot of sticks on pucks that go in as well."

Toffoli also brings championship experience, having won the Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2014 as a rookie. That might be just as important as his scoring ability for Vancouver, which has two other players who have won the Cup: left wing Tanner Pearson, as Toffoli's teammate with the Kings in 2014, and center Jay Beagle, with the Washington Capitals in 2018.

Toffoli said his biggest advice for his teammates, particularly young ones like Pettersson, 21, and 20-year-old defenseman Quinn Hughes, is to avoid getting caught up in the inevitable highs and lows of postseason hockey.

Miller, who has played 61 NHL playoff games with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, said he saw that from Toffoli on a nightly basis after the trade.

"There's not much waver in his game at all," Miller said. "He's definitely a piece I think our team needed, a guy that understands his role, knows what he does well, and sticks to that."

That includes understanding that he needs to do more than just score goals.

"Anytime you win a Stanley Cup you have gone through a lot of different situations, and not just offensively," Green said. "Obviously, he can score, he's got a really good shot, but he understands the game well enough to not get out of position defensively. It's great to score, and we want to be a team that scores a lot of goals, but we've got to be good in the other end as well."

The Canucks, who were 36-27-6 (.565 points percentage) in the regular season, enter the Qualifiers as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, and the Wild (35-27-7, .558) are the No. 10 seed. The loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.

The Western Conference Qualifiers will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton beginning Aug. 1. The Canucks-Wild series is scheduled to start Aug. 2.

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