It’s been some time that the Canucks have looked this dangerous up front.
There were many positives to take away from the first 69 games of the Vancouver Canucks regular season, but the depth and effectiveness of their top 12 ranks right up there.
From the emergence of J.T. Miller, to career seasons from youngsters Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette, there was lots to like about this Canucks forward group.
Of course, there’s room for improvement as well. All of that is reflected as we take a look at one captivating statistic from each Canucks forward this season.
J.T Miller — 59.2 face-off win percentage
There were so many incredible tidbits about J.T. Miller’s first season in Vancouver, but arguably one of the most under-discussed ones was his dominance in the face-off circle. He was second-in the NHL among full-time centermen this season, trailing only Sean Couturier.
More impressively, Miller has had one of the best seasons for face-off success Canucks history. Since the NHL began tracking the stat in 1997-98, Manny Malhotra has been the only Canuck to post a better mark over a full season at 61.5% in 2010-11. Honourable mentions to Dave Scatchard (59.5% during 21 games in 1999-00) and Sami Pahlsson (59.4% during 19 games in 2011-12) who narrowly best Miller’s percentage in partial seasons.
Elias Pettersson — +22 net penalty differential (2nd in NHL)
It’s no secret that Elias Pettersson is a master of drawing penalties with his shifty nature and his innate ability to whiz around with the puck. Not to mention, his lanky nature makes him a much easier target for clutching, grabbing and hooking.
Pettersson’s +22 net penalty differential ranks second overall in the NHL behind Jack Eichel (+23). However, those who watch the Canucks know that there are often nights where more calls could be made against Pettersson, although the same does apply to other stars in the NHL.
Brock Boeser — 57.5 Individual Points Percentage
It was an interesting season for the Canucks young sniper. His totals dropped in the sniping department with Boeser ending up below his career average in goals scored and in shooting percentage.
However, by a number of other metrics, Boeser performed well and was a victim of poor puck luck. His individual number of expected goals scored at even-strength jumped from 0.63 to 0.8. He also posted a career best 2.13 points-per 60 at even-strength, a surefire first line rate. Despite that, Boeser’s 57.5 IPP is significantly below that of an average NHL forward.
Individual Points Percentage measures the regularity in which a player receives a point while he’s on the ice when his team scores. The average NHL forward is on the ice for 68% of his team’s goals. Boeser was right around that total over the past two seasons, but he dropped this year.
Part of that is the Quinn Hughes effect (the defender registering more points while Boeser was on the ice) and the fact that Boeser’s shooting percentage dropped. Still, it’s promising to see Boeser still post a first-line points-per-60 rate despite the IPP drop here.
Bo Horvat — 12 power play goals
For all the love that Miller, Pettersson and Hughes deserve for the Canucks fourth ranked power play on the season, it was Horvat who was the de facto trigger man. His 12 power play goals led all Canucks, and it was actually the eighth-best total in the NHL.
Tanner Pearson — Six empty net goals
Dubbed “The Insurance Line” for good reason, the trio of Tanner Pearson, Horvat and Loui Eriksson were a dominant force against an empty net. Although Eriksson was probably the biggest benefactor (more on that later), Pearson was tied for the NHL lead with nine empty net points (with Kyle Connor) and six empty net goals (Sebastian Aho, Alex Ovechkin, Gustav Nyquist).
Jake Virtanen — Six game-winning goals
One-third of the career-high 18 goals from Jake Virtanen this season were game-winners. Those six game-winners led all Canucks this season.
Even though he leads the Canucks in this category, Virtanen barely got a sniff of action during three-on-three overtime this season. In fact, five of his six winning tallies came in games where the Canucks won by three or more goals.
Loui Eriksson — 46% of his points came with an empty net
Loui Eriksson’s stick is where offence goes to die...unless there’s an empty net.
The uninspiring winger found a niche playing on Horvat and Pearson’s line in a trusted defensive match up role. While his offensive game is much too anemic for a spot on the Canucks second line, the 34-year-old did produce with an empty net. Six of his 13 points this season came while the opposing net was empty, good for 46% of his total points.
Tyler Toffoli — 12.9 shooting percentage at even-strength
While Tyler Toffoli’s six goals in 10 games was an unsustainable total, his shooting percentage paints a more positive picture. His 12.9% shooting percentage at even-strength for the Canucks over 10 games isn’t a gaudy total, even if it’s higher than his career average. Pettersson, Miller and Antoine Roussel had better totals than that over the full season.
Toffoli also shot the puck a ton over those 10 games. If he gets the chance to keep up those high shooting totals with the Canucks, he’ll likely continue to score at a high rate, even if his shooting percentage decreases.
Adam Gaudette — 8.11 power play points per 60
The first unit deserves most of the credit for the Canucks resurgent power play, but the performance of the second-unit has also been a factor. Sophomore Adam Gaudette has been a key cog there with four goals and 12 power play on the season. That gave him 8.11 power play points per 60 on the season, the best mark on the team.
Antoine Roussel — 2.2 power play points per 60
It was a bit of an off season all around for Roussel, especially after he injected life into the Canucks offence in 2018-19. Travis Green trotted him out for 54 minutes of ice time on the power play. During those minutes, Roussel posted a team-worst 2.22 power play points per 60, as he had one goal and one assist with the man advantage.
Josh Leivo — 0.93 goals per-60 at even strength
Since Josh Leivo’s season was cut short due to injury, we’re left to guess how he could have figured into the second half. His goals-per-60 and ice time totals are two number we can use to gauge that.
The former Maple Leaf has seven goals in 36 games. Not bad for a middle-six forward, but the underlying numbers paint a better picture. Leivo’s 0.93 goals-per 60 at even strength are notably ahead of Virtanen, Boeser, Pearson and Gaudette, among others.
Leivo also played 15:01 per game, good for seventh among Canucks forwards (including Toffoli). It’s safe to say that Leivo could have filled Eriksson’s void in January if he was healthy. He’s also shown that potentially, he could be a reliable 15-20 goal scorer who plays a responsible game at a low-cap hit.
Tyler Motte — 3.51 goals against per 60 shorthanded
The Unsung Hero of the Canucks season was most helpful to this team on the penalty kill. His 3.51 goals against per 60 minutes shorthanded was the lowest marker on the Canucks.
He also led all Canucks with a 5.86 expected goals against per 60. However, it’s worth noting that Motte was a benefactor of an unsustainable .923 on-ice save percentage while shorthanded. His expected goals-against total showcases that while he was a bit lucky not to be scored on more, he’s still the most effective of the Canucks forwards on the penalty kill.
Brandon Sutter — 1.65 points-per 60 at even strength
Despite having another season affected by injuries, Brandon Sutter was useful enough when he was in the line-up for the Canucks. In three of his five seasons with the Canucks, Sutter has posted more than 1.5 points-per-60 at even strength — perfectly acceptable for a bottom-six player.
His total this season was the best of his career in Vancouver. Aside from his cap hit, Sutter does a fine job killing penalties and chipping in occasional offence. The problem is, guys like Motte and Leivo can do a better job for a fraction of the cost.
Jay Beagle — Six total points at even-strength
There’s a specific role Jay Beagle plays on the Canucks as a key face-off man who starts the majority of his shifts in his own end. While he excels in the face-off dot, possession and goals against metrics aren’t his friend.
However, one reason why Beagle is trending towards being ineffective as an NHLer is because of his lack of offence. He’s on the ice for a barrage of changes against, but he’s unable to make up for it with any offence.
The 2019-20 season was one of the worst of his career in that department, with his six even-strength points , and one even-strength goal, in 55 games. He’s registered at least 12 even-strength points in the five previous seasons, and hasn’t registered less than six since playing 41 games in 2011-12.
If he keeps trending towards zero in this direction, it’s going to be hard to justify keeping him in the line-up, considering the opposition often scores while he is on the ice at even-strength and shorthanded.
Zack MacEwen — +6 Even-Strength Goal Differential
It didn’t take long for the Prince Edward Islander to make an impact on the Canucks roster this season. While his five goals on 17 shots was a bit fortuitous, he still ended up being a difference maker for the Canucks this season with his timely goals and physical play. Because of that, he has the fourth-best even-strength goal differential among Canucks forwards, trailing only Boeser, Miller and Pettersson.
Micheal Ferland - Three Primary Assists
Despite being limited to 14 games in his first season with the Canucks, Ferland was able to produce in limited minutes. His performance is overshadowed by inconsistency, injuries and just one goal in 13 games. However, he managed four assists in limited minutes, including thee primary assists.
Remember when everyone was showering Antoine Roussel with love for his playmaking ability alongside Horvat? Well, Ferland’s three primary assists in 14 games is on par with Roussel, who’s accomplished the same total in 41 games.