Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Vancouver Canucks
For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – Ryan Miller, Luca Sbisa, Philip Larsen, Jack Skille, Michael Zalewski, Alexandre Grenier, Drew Shore, Tom Nilsson, Chad Billins, Joseph Cramarossa, Borna Rendulic, Williw Desjardins (Head Coach)
Impact of changes – Back-to-back near-basement finishes and a clear sell job at last year’s deadline appeared to illuminate the rebuilding path for the organization that was just a whisker away from the Stanley Cup back in 2011 and had been attempting the dreading ‘retool’. Instead of loading up the youth and letting them make mistakes and earn another top pick, the Canucks have decided to sign a fistful of veterans to short deals to bridge the gap and likely bring several more points to their standings. Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner arrive with an eye towards boosting a power play that has ranked 27th and 29th overall the past two seasons. Both should see some quality even-strength minutes as well with Gagner even getting an early look next to the Twins at camp. Alex Burmistrov looks to continue the progression he witnessed in Arizona late last season, and has looked strong early in camp and pre-season action. With Brendan Gaunce out for a month, Burmistrov appears to have an inside track on the fourth line centre position. Michael Del Zotto will slot in next Erik Gudbranson and see second-unit power play time and should be viewed as a nice upgrade from the departed Sbisa. Philip Holm crosses after a successful career in the SHL, and will battle fellow-newcomer Patrick Wiercioch for the seventh defender slot. Anders Nilsson comes to camp with a chance to fully push for a split with Jacob Markstrom as the two 6’5 and 6’6 net minders both appear hungry for a larger role. Travis Green finally gets his chance as an NHL head coach after being considered the ‘next one’ for several seasons. He is very familiar with much of the talent after leading the Utica Comets the past four seasons.
Ready for full-time – Brock Boeser made his mark in a hurry last season. After turning professional after two stellar seasons at the University of North Dakota, the sharp-shooting winger stepped right into the NHL and produced four goals and an assist in nine games. Early in pre-season action, Boeser has been the most dynamic Canucks’ forward, scoring three goals and two assists in just two contests. Despite the infusion of experienced forwards on the roster, Boeser still appears destined to start the season with the big club. He brings the one-shot goal-scoring element that is sorely lacking in the organization. Read more on Boeser here.
Jake Virtanen hasn’t taken an easy path since being drafted sixth overall back in 2014. The speedy power winger has battled injury and inconsistency the past three seasons and looked out of sorts early in the NHL last fall before squeezing out just nine goals and 19 points in 65 AHL contests. Much has been written about the team’s decision to pass over the likes of Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander to select the home-town Virtanen but at this point it’s imperative that he simply find his own game and attempt to blossom into an everyday player. Thus far in camp, he’s been looking well on his way. Down several pounds and looking more agile and confident, the former 45-goal WHL star isn’t letting the numbers game intimidate him. He has 65 NHL games under his belt and is making a strong case to start the season with the Canucks. Read more on Virtanen here.
Nikolay Goldobin came over from San Jose at the deadline last March and did a fine job establishing himself with the new bench boss. The former 2014 first round pick spent the final 12 games with the Canucks and scored three goals while seeing just 11 minutes of ice time. He then concluded his season in Utica where he lit the lamp four times in just three contests and displayed the offensive dominance that is sorely missing from the Canucks main roster. The infusion of Gagner and Vanek along with Boeser appearing to be ahead of him on the depth chart, Goldobin will likely spend his season earning air miles, bouncing between upstate New York and the west coast. The Russian sniper doesn’t become waiver eligible until 2018-19. Read more on Goldobin here.
25-year-old Philip Holm has 200 SHL games under his belt and capped off his Euro career by capturing a World Championship with the Tre Kroner this past summer. The left-shooting rearguard owns underrated playmaking abilities and is the owner of a very heavy and accurate release. He’s a seasoned pro which means the team might be more open to keeping him up with the team and rotating him around the sixth and seventh defender slot instead of worrying about him developing in the AHL. As mentioned, he’ll battle Wiercioch for that last spot on the blue line. Read more on Holm here.
Fantasy Outlook – The time may have finally arrived where the Sedin twins are no longer capable of driving the offense in a front-line role. The two soon-to-be 37-year-olds are coming off their worst statistical seasons since way back in 2003-04, but remain very hard-working and proud individuals so expect them to witness a minor uptick in production. The return of their old power play coach, Newell Brown, from the days of winning Art Ross and Hart trophies should help reinvigorate what had become a woefully predictable man-advantage unit. Bo Horvat continues to improve each season and with a new pricey contract in his back pocket, the future captain will look to continue that trend; 25 goals and 55 points is a reasonable expectation and that will likely lead the team. Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Loui Eriksson, Vanek and Gagner all offer decent streaming options in some leagues but this team will need Boeser to jump into the mix and be a real producer in order to have some semblance of respectability in the fantasy landscape. The back-end is lacking a legitimate producer, with volume-shooting Troy Stecher as the only one appearing capable of pushing into the 30-point range. In net, expect a time share, thus limiting either net minders true value, but if one takes the reins full-time, they could be a sneaky add to see a lot of shots. All in all, this team is near the bottom of the league when it comes to assets and will likely stay there for a couple more seasons. They do have a nice cupboard of prospects coming and if they could ever win a lottery (or maybe just not lose one) they’d be in good shape.
Fantasy Grade: C - (Last year: D+)
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