For a number of years, the Canucks have struggled to ice an effective fourth line. Whether that be due to injuries, or simply a lack of talent, it can be argued that their last true valuable fourth line was centered by Maxim Lapierre in 2012. This was most amplified last season, as the likes of Jack Skille and Michael Chaput highlighted a line that was, at its best, uneventful. Heading into the 2017-18 campaign, however, the team boasts a number of options for what could form a productive fourth line.
The Canucks signed Sam Gagner this off-season, who put up a career-high 50 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets in a sheltered, fourth line role. While some assume he’ll be given opportunity on the third line, or perhaps even alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the natural fit would appear to be centering line number four. While this could perhaps be seen as a poor fit for his abilities, there are several wingers that could compliment Gagner well. Included among this group is Alex Burmistrov, who was also signed this off-season to a one-year contract. After a relatively productive stint with the Arizona Coyotes, Burmistrov has joined the Canucks in the hopes of reaching his yet-to-be-fulfilled potential. Additionally, one could make the case for the 25-year-old to centre the fourth line, as he does boast the versatility to do so. Of course, there is also the chance that Brandon Sutter is pushed down the depth chart into that position, though that seems unlikely given his price tag and perceived effectiveness.
Flanking any one of those possible centremen could be Reid Boucher. The junior scoring sensation was claimed off of waivers by the Canucks last season, and performed reasonably well, scoring five goals and seven points in 27 games. In doing so, he demonstrated a hard and accurate shot, something that few Canucks forwards can boast. 2009 2nd round pick Anton Rodin, who was named MVP of the SHL in 2015-16, was brought back by the Canucks two years ago. Since returning to North America, he has struggled with injuries, only partaking in three games with the Canucks, but has scored twice so far this pre-season. There is some upside in the 26-year-old, and he would be a good candidate to make up part of a depth scoring line for the team. Additional candidates for a skill-based unit include prospect Nikolay Goldobin, who has demonstrated shaky two-way ability but exceptional high-end skill, and PTO invite Scottie Upshall, who isn’t a traditional offensive producer but scored ten goals last season with the St. Louis Blues.
With Brendan Gaunce on injured reserve, a spot has opened up on the fourth line, and has allowed the Canucks some room to take chances. This is a prime opportunity for a team in desperate need of offence to incorporate scoring throughout their lineup, and they should take full advantage.