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Goldobin, Virtanen Key Parts of Canucks Forward Group

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past handful of years, the Vancouver Canucks have been trying to integrate pieces of their young core up front. To this end, they have succeeded with the likes of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and arguably Sven Baertschi. Unfortunately, little else has come to fruition on that front. The tides could look to change in 2018-19, however, with the possible emergence of both Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen.

With the Sedin twins now out of the question in terms of a roster spot, the organization will have to find ways to replace roughly 100 points of offence. While this could be solved via free agency - and just may - the preferable long-term option is clearly to develop those who appear to be part of the future. Both Goldobin, age 22, and Virtanen, age 21, certainly fit that profile. The two have shown offensive potential, and it’s possible they develop into regular contributors for the Canucks. That being said, it’s crucial they begin to showcase themselves as to not get lost in the shuffle of up-and-coming prospects.

Goldobin has been an interesting case ever since arriving in Vancouver. Acquired at the 2017 trade deadline for Jannik Hansen (from the San Jose Sharks), Goldobin was thought to be a relatively high-upside acquisition. He has shown shades of such potential. He finished the year at a roughly 60 point pace over his last ten games, and finished the season with 14 points in 38 games, approximately a 30 point output (over a full schedule). While not spectacular overall numbers, they do represent borderline top-six production, and his finish hints that there may be more to give. His high level of skill and play making ability is something lacking from the club as a whole, and would be of immense benefit. His inconsistent two-way play has limited his appeal to the coach, but if his play away from the puck can improve, don’t be surprised if Goldobin is able to take advantage of a regular opportunity.

Virtanen is in a similar position. Drafted at sixth overall in 2014, he has failed to live up to that standing. His rookie season was respectable, with 13 points in 55 contests. However, he spent just ten games in the NHL the next season before getting sent back to Utica. He bounced back to an extent this past year, with ten goals and 20 points in 75 games. While not all that impressive on paper, his play on the ice represented growth in speed and consistency, while putting up a 2.41 RelCorsiFor%. Like Goldobin, he finished the season strong, providing hope for what the future may bring. Should the Canucks have any hope of improvement next season, Virtanen will need to continue to progress into a regular offensive threat.

In the pipeline, the Canucks boast a few exciting options up front. The likes of Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, and Kole Lind all provide varying degrees of hope for the future. However, before any of these names are regular options, they need to find a way to supplement the likes of Horvat and Boeser. Both Goldobin and Virtanen have the potential to become staples in the top-six, and will have the spotlight on them come October 2018. Time will tell what their eventual ceiling ends up being, but as of now, it appears as though they’re integral to any sort of success in the coming season.