Brock Boeser dealt with a lot of adversity this season. The 23-year-old winger faced injury and personal issues, yet he persevered and was still one of the Canucks top players. While he didn't put up the goal totals that some expected of him with 16 tallies through 57 games, he contributed in other facets of the game.
Still, the question remains, if Brock scored less goals than Jake Virtanen (Jake is my guy but Boeser should really be outscoring him) was this season a disappointment? Let's take a closer look.
Brock Boeser burst onto the scene in 2017-18 season as one of the few bright spots in what was a dark time for the Canucks. He had 29 goals through 62 games and was contending for the Calder before he suffered an injury that ended his season prematurely. Boeser wowed fans with a deadly wrist shot on his way to scoring 1.26 goals/60 mins (this stat will always be at 5-on-5 for this article unless stated otherwise) and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the league’s premier snipers.
The next season it was more of the same from Boeser as he got to play with Elias Pettersson. The two ignited the imagination of the fanbase, and Brock scored 26 goals in 69 games for 0.97 goals/60 mins.
The goal above was one of the nicest of the season and the two young stars looked primed to create magic on the top line for years to come. When J.T. Miller was acquired before the 2019-20 season it gave the pair a third linemate and “The Lotto Line” was created. This was the Canucks most consistently dangerous line this season and one that carried the team for long stretches when the secondary scoring was not at the level it needed to be.
Yet this season Brock was sixth in goals among Canucks, even though he was on the top line for most of the year and led the team in power play time per game. With expectations high for Brock as a goal scorer, to some fans this season may seem like a disappointment. In fact, a closer look at the tape and numbers shows a more dynamic player whose dip in goal scoring might be explainable.
Boeser’s Scoring (Or Lack Thereof)
Boeser’s Goals/60 mins dropped to just 0.79 this season, the lowest of his career, yet he was taking more shots/60 mins at 5-on-5 this season (7.95) compared to last (7.19). The difference between this season and previous ones was Boeser’s shooting percentage dropped a noticeable amount. In fact, Boeser’s shooting percentage has dropped every season of his career so far, going from 16.2% to 12.4% to 9.5% this season.
Now we know Brock has a great shot, evident from him winning the accuracy shooting contest at the 2018 All-Star game, and 9.5% is lower than expected for a sniper at the NHL level. Of course fans will know that Boeser has suffered from numerous injuries in recent years, most recently to his rib, back, and wrist. Some continue to claim that Boeser’s shot has suffered as a result but only he knows how his body feels.
It should be expected that his shooting percentage rebound next season. Elite snipers such as Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, and David Pastrnak all shot over 15% this season and while Boeser may not be on this level he should return to his 2018-19 level of around 12%.
As mentioned above, Boeser has faced a lot of adversity this season. He missed segments of the season at different times and it can be hard moving in-and-out of the lineup like that. Take a look at the goal charts for Brock’s 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons below.
The biggest thing that jumps out is that his goals are coming from much closer to the net this season. The area above the circles, where he was scoring 21% of his goals in 2018-19, was not a scoring area for him this season. The biggest reason for this may be Boeser’s changing role on the power play. The Canucks have added plenty of talent to their power play and Boeser is no longer the number one option. Occasionally he is replaced in his old shooting spot above the circle by J.T. Miller and instead Boeser is bumped down low.
Boeser’s changing role, on the power play and otherwise may be the reason for why he is scoring at a lower rate from that area. If we take a look at his shot maps for the two seasons, we once again see that his offense has become much more concentrated in front of the net.
If the Canucks were to re-sign Tyler Toffoli, Boeser could be bumped down to the second line where he could assume the goal-scoring role. This could potentially be a good move for Boeser as he has shown some chemistry with Bo Horvat in the past and this would create one of the more dangerous second lines in the league. With Boeser being the main scoring focus of a line, he will get more high danger chances to convert.
Overall, Boeser’s lack of scoring this season seems to be more of a consequence of a some combination of a changing role, a lack of rhythm, and potentially just some bad variance. Such a low shooting percentage for a player we know is a good shooter will not continue, and we can expect an uptick next season even if his role were to stay the same. In fact, Boeser’s individual expected goals/60 mins was at a career high this year, and next year we can expect more goals from the man with the best hair in the league.
Boeser’s Playmaking and Possession
Before this season Boeser was never known for his passing - more for his lucky hat-tricks - yet he showed a new side to his game this year. He tallied 29 assists this season, one below his career high (in 12 fewer games), and played the role of a willing passer as he routinely set up Miller and Pettersson.
Boeser had 1.36 assists/60 mins at 5-on-5, blowing his previous career high of 0.96 out of the water. There was no sophomore slump for Pettersson and Miller had a career-year and both can thank Boeser for plenty of great passes that put them in positions to score.
Boeser was not only a great passer but a great possession driver as well. His Corsi % of 52.43% shows that the Canucks generally drove the play while he was on the ice, and if you watched the Lotto Line play this season you would know that to be true. In fact, as a line they had a Corsi % of 58.38 %, putting them in elite territory.
Look at this play below which resulted in the lone goal in a 4-1 loss against the Jets on November 8th. Boeser collected the pass and managed to keep possession while he waited for an opening. He sees the pass and makes it and it leads to a goal. This play only results in a secondary assist for Brock, a stat that some would write off, but this is why it’s important to look deeper than the box score as he was the one that created this goal.
Amongst all the fans worrying that something was wrong with Boeser he quietly put together a strong season, both as a distributor and a play driver. Whenever the Canucks get to play next, and when Boeser will be 100% healthy, he will be a top-line contributor and put up the goals that are expected of him. If the Canucks re-sign Toffoli then Boeser could go back to being the primary goal-scorer on the second line. Either way he is sure to be an impactful player on the Canucks for years to come.