Surprising the entire hockey world, the Vegas Golden Knights have made their way to the Western Conference Final. Despite being pegged as a likely bottom-feeder to start the year, they have been able to put together a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup, largely on the backs of other teams’ fringe players who weren’t always given full opportunity. The run has left many wondering about under-the-radar talent on the rest of the NHL’s rosters, and how it can be maximized to achieve success similar to what has been seen in Vegas. The Canucks, despite their struggles, boast a handful of potential diamonds in the rough.
Boucher is perhaps the most likely candidate to have a previously unforeseen breakout campaign. Claimed off waivers partway through the 2016-17 season, Boucher has shown flashes of offensive upside, yet hasn’t been truly given a shot to demonstrate the full extent of his abilities. In 47 games with the Canucks, Boucher has managed eight goals. While not entirely impressive, it is a respectable 14-goal pace, and his shot is strong enough that to expect higher production with more ice time is hardly ridiculous. A comparison has been made between Boucher and the Golden Knights’ William Karlsson, in that through 183 games the latter put up 18 goals, while the former boasts 20 in just 132 games. His AHL stats with the Utica Comets are also outstanding. This past season, he managed 25 goals and 46 points in 45 games, and was named the team’s MVP. On a team starved for offence, it’s not absurd to think that a bigger role for Boucher could lead to stronger offensive results.
Brendan Leipsic, a pick up at the most recent trade deadline that cost the Canucks Philip Holm, has the potential to become an effective contributor with the right opportunities. The 23-year-old winger has been an impressive AHL producer in the past, with an excellent 51 points in 49 games in 2016-17, but failed to truly shine in Vegas when he played. However, the tides may be turning in Vancouver, as he managed nine points in 14 contests with the Canucks (a 53-point pace). His speed and tenacity fits nicely into head coach Travis Green’s system, and makes him a versatile asset for the lineup. The top-six appears to wide open heading into the 2018-19 season, and it could be an opportunity for Leipsic to demonstrate his true value to the hockey club.
While perhaps not as overlooked as his two aforementioned peers, Pouliot still holds some potentially hidden value. In 71 games this season, Pouliot put up 22 points while not playing huge minutes. Additionally, he demonstrated puck moving abilities and vision that are largely lacking on the Canucks’ blue line. On a team starved for offensive talent on the back end, it’s not unreasonable to think Pouliot could thrive in a larger role, at least in an offensive capacity. His skillset is built for a power play role, and that may just be in the cards for the coming year. If given the chance, it’s possible Pouliot flourishes as a point producer. His