When it comes to NHL hockey, or really any professional team sport, asset management is everything. The most successful teams consistently find ways to acquire assets for below their value.
The Canucks have done a good job of accumulating a glut of young talent that is just starting to arrive and thrive in the NHL. Three seasons in a row the team has had a Calder Trophy finalist, and they still have some very exciting prospects that have yet to reach the professional ranks.
Trying to decide the seven most valuable assets in the organization was therefore a difficult task. How to evaluate the top prospects who we haven't seen play very much? How to value goaltenders against skaters? How to determine how a player will progress?
To make things easier, we’re going to rank the players in terms of their perceived trade value. For example, let’s say a rival GM called up Jim Benning and started discussing a trade, which name would catch Benning’s attention and which would make him hang up the phone immediately?
Podkolzin is the Canucks’ consensus top prospect at the moment and could join the team as early as May 2021. A ferocious forechecker, he has had a rocky start to this season in Russia as he was demoted to the VHL.
Podkolzin projects to be a bulldog-type player that will hopefully slot into Vancouver’s top six, potentially a great fit alongside captain Bo Horvat as they both play a physical north-south style.
When it comes to Podkolzin’s value, the fact that he has not played in the NHL yet keeps him below the rest of the players on this list, though in two years time he may be much higher.
Boeser was the subject of plenty of trade rumours this summer as his name kept appearing in headlines. He burst onto the scene as a rookie with 29 goals in just 62 games but has not matched that number since.
If the Canucks were offered a defensemen of equal value on a solid contract I think it would be hard for the team to say no considering their current roster makeup. Boeser is the most expendable of the “core” players but that’s not meant to detract from his skill as a player, rather just the unfortunate reality of Boeser being a winger.
Boeser has two years remaining on a bridge deal he signed which carries a cap hit of $5.875 million a year. He can fit on both the top line alongside Elias Pettersson and JT Miller or on the second line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, acting as more of a playmaker with the first set of line mates and a sniper with the second.
“This Offer Better Blow Me Away”
Thatcher Demko played his out of his mind during the end of the playoff series against the Las Vegas Golden Knights and now has an opportunity to take that next step in his career. The departure of Jacob Markstrom makes Demko much more valuable to the Canucks, but if a great package came along the Canucks do have another NHL-starter caliber goalie in Braden Holtby.
Michael DiPietro is another interest goalie prospect that the Canucks have in their system who has impressed. Still, it would take an NHL-proven asset to pry Demko from the Canucks. The plan was always for him to be the goalie for this core and to convince the Canucks to change their direction this late would be tough.
The Benning haters were out in full force after the team traded their first round pick for JT Miller, but after only one season Miller’s excellent play has silenced them all. He showed great chemistry with Elias Pettersson and the two should be stapled to the Canucks’ top line for years to come.
Miller is also on a very team-friendly contract, carrying a cap hit of only $5.25 million for the next three years. His impact goes beyond what he is able to do on the ice as Miller has immediately stepped into a leadership role, even if he doesn't have a letter on his jersey yet.
The first of the three untouchables is captain Bo Horvat. He is the heart and soul of the team and excelled at all the captain reponsibilities that he took on this year. After wins and losses it’s Horvat that is there to face the media and take responsibility.
Horvat also has shown a penchant for stepping up in the playoffs as he had a great playoff run this year after succeeding in his only other post-season as a rookie. Horvat can play in all three zones and is great on face-offs, as well as a one-timer threat in the slot spot on the powerplay.
Horvat is the face of this franchise and while not as gifted as the other two player in this tier, his total impact may be just as large.
Elias Pettersson would have easily been the number one player on this list just one year ago before Canucks fans were exposed to the magic man that is Quinn Hughes. Pettersson is a crafty offensive player who is well on his way to superstardom and is continuing Vancouver’s tradition of having a super-Swede or two.
100 point seasons are not out of the question for Pettersson who has a wicked shot and special hockey sense. Worries about how he would deal with the increased physicality of the playoffs were put to rest this year as he showed that he’s simply too skilled and poised to be knocked off his game by dirty play.
Pettersson is due for a large payday as his ELC expires after this season. He will almost certainly reach a cap hit of eight figures, likely to be the largest on the team for years to come.
Both Hughes and Pettersson are generational talents, but there a few factors that push the young American defensemen to the top of our list. The first one is that the Canucks have more depth up front than they do on the backend. Even just the fact that Hughes is the only defencemen on this list while there is another centre gives a sense of the differences in depth.
Hughes also had an amazing season, setting the record for most points by a rookie defencemen ever. He’s extremely dynamic every time he touches the ice and the perfect powerplay quarterback.
When you consider how good Quinn Hughes was this year as just a 20-year old rookie who had never played professional hockey it’s quite scary. He’s already had one of, if not the, best seasons by a Canuck defensemen ever and if he continues on an upwards trajectory the rest of the league should be worried.