As Vancouver Canucks fans, we’re not used to unguarded, completely justified optimism about our team. It’s what 50 years without a single Stanley Cup championship will do to your fanbase. Even the most optimistic fans still carry with them a little bit of pessimism no matter how good things have gotten over the years.
The crop of young stars to break out on this team over the past 5 years have begun to challenge these negative notions and expectations. First, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser first provided hope that things could turn around out of the bleak post Gillis & Vigneault era. In the last 2 years, however, even the most cynical members of Canuck Nation have been genuinely excited by what we’ve all seen, first from Elias Pettersson and now from Quinn Hughes.
It’s clear now that this is a core which can challenge for playoff spots for the foreseeable future. What Jim Benning has quietly built has the early makings of a true contender. This is in large part due to the fact that the Canucks will have had 3 consecutive Calder Trophy candidates who have all electrified the fanbase in their own ways in their debut seasons.
This had me wondering, when was the last time that this many talented rookies have made their way onto the same roster in consecutive seasons?
Well, let’s take a look.
The team that hockey media won’t ever stop talking about
Most recently, there was an influx of young stars drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, with all 3 of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander starting their NHL careers in 2016-17. The jury’s still out on this one, as the Leafs have looked like a contender at times but the Bruins continue to haunt their dreams and this year they look to be getting further away from winning a Stanley Cup.
The team from Northern Alberta that got all the No. 1 picks
Next, we have the Edmonton Oilers of the early 2010s. You’d think that a team that received 3 consecutive number one picks would easily form a contender within a few years. Unfortunately for you, you’ve thought wrong. The Oilers were mired in the basement with the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, 2 of which don’t play for them anymore.
Luckily for the Oilers, they drafted two guys with a little potential you may have heard of, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and they look to be possibly turning the corner.
Then of course, we have the Chicago Blackhawks of the late 2000s. The drafts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane changed the fate of the franchise, as the Hawks soon after rolled off 3 cups in 6 years and formed the first dynasty in the salary cap era.
The only team on this list that Canucks fans have no reason to hate
Lastly, the Pittsburgh Penguins of the mid-2000s drafted Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jordan Staal in consecutive drafts. Yep, they really did. So, things have obviously gone pretty well for them every since with 13 straight playoff appearances and 3 Stanley Cups in 4 finals appearances.
So, how do they stack up?
The Canucks look to be solidifying their status at least as a competitive team with a core that can challenge for playoff spots and division titles for years to come. The big question is, will they go the way of the Leafs and Oilers of recent memory after getting all of this young talent, or will they transition into a perennial contender like the likes of the Hawks and Pens of years past?
One thing’s for sure. The next 2 months have the potential to be very indicative of what’s in store for the next decade of Canucks hockey.