Throughout the colorful history of the Vancouver Canucks, there has been no shortage of electrifying rookie performers. Some of these players moved on from the Canucks shortly thereafter, while others became key cogs for the team for years to come.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the top 10 Vancouver rookie seasons of all time.
Honorable Mention: Eddie Lack, G (2013-14)
We couldn’t leave a goalie off this list, and one of the funniest Canucks in recent memory, no less.
Lack was possibly the brightest development to come out of the doldrums that were the John Tortorella season in Vancouver. After getting called up from Utica to start the season to back-up Roberto Luongo, Lack ended up playing 41 games for the Canucks.
He finished with a record of 16-17-5, with a GAA of 2.41 and more impressively, 4 shutouts. Lack even finished the season in the de-facto starter role after the Luongo trade. Surprisingly, he has the best season out of a rookie Canucks goaltender in their history.
Lack only played one more season for the Canucks before getting traded to Carolina, and he actually retired from professional hockey last month, and is now (believe it or not) a real estate agent in Arizona. I’d 100% buy a house from Eddie.
One of few real estate posts but just closed on this beautiful house for a client today. Just wanted to brag a little but I guesss please follow @eddielackrealestate on Instagram for more info. Thank you pic.twitter.com/SL2v43RgbP— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) April 22, 2020
10. Mattias Ohlund, D (1997-98)
Moving onto a mainstay on the Vancouver blueline throughout the 2000s decade, Ohlund had a very solid rookie campaign, mirroring his contributions to come over the next decade.
After being picked #13 overall by the Canucks in the 1994 Draft, Ohlund played three seasons in the Swedish Elite League before coming over to North America.
He entered the Canucks in the midst of a rebuild, and ended the season tied for the team lead in scoring from defensemen and leading the league in rookie defensemen scoring with 7 goals and 23 assists for 30 points.
His standout statistic from that season, however, was probably that he managed to finish as a +3 despite the team finishing an abysmal 25-43-14.
Ohlund would play with the Canucks for 11 more seasons before moving on to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009. He stands among the Canucks franchise leaders for defensemen and was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2016.
9. Rick Blight, RW (1975-76)
Next, we have a rookie from the ‘70s Canucks, the late Rick Blight. In the 75-76 season, Blight finished with a total of 56 points (25 goals, 31 assists) in 74 games, 5th among Vancouver skaters.
That season would end up being his second best season of his career, as he would only play 252 more games. Blight finished his career with LA in 1983.
8. Dennis Ververgaert, RW (1973-74)
In 1974, many thought Dennis Ververgaert could end up being the Canucks first true star player after a season in which he registered 26 goals and 31 assists, good enough for 2nd on the team.
Ververgaert was drafted 3rd overall in 1973, making the jump to the big club right away. He would play 5 more seasons for Vancouver, finishing his career in 1981 with the Capitals. He could fight a little bit, too.
Overall, Ververgaert finished with 392 points in 583 games, very respectable totals for the man with the big mustache.
7. Thomas Gradin, C (1978-79)
While his rookie totals may not be as high as those listed above, Gradin’s play was more impressive considering he was making the tough adjustment to North American play in a time when not many European players were coming over to the NHL yet.
Gradin finished the ‘79 season with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points, finishing 2nd in team scoring and would become the first of the numerous Canucks Swedish stars throughout their history.
Gradin would leave the NHL as the Canucks all-time leading scorer in 1987, a career that included back-to-back 86 point seasons in ‘82 and ‘83.
He continues to serve the Canucks as a scout since 1994, and was instrumental in drafting the Sedins along with Elias Pettersson.
6. Dale Tallon, D (1970-71)
In the well-documented wheel spin between Vancouver and Buffalo in the 1970 expansion draft, the Canucks famously missed out on Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault after the wheel barely clicked past Vancouver to Buffalo.
Their consolation prize was Tallon. Although he was nowhere near the player that Perreault was, he did have a fantastic rookie season.
Tallon finished his rookie year (the first Canucks season ever, no less) with 14 goals and 42 assists from the back end, giving fans hope early on that the team had found a generational defenseman in year one.
That would’ve been wishful thinking, as Tallon’s point totals unfortunately decreased in 4 consecutive seasons after ‘71. After being traded to the Blackhawks, he etched out a respectable second half to his 10-year career.
The now-69 year old has been in NHL management since 1998, and the pinnacle of his professional resume was rebuilding the Blackhawks in the late 2000s, culminating in their first Cup win in 2010.
5. Brock Boeser, RW (2017-18)
Boeser was a near human highlight reel in his first season, and while he’s probably become a better and more responsible player in all zones since he hasn’t quite been as flashy since his rookie campaign.
The man scored 19 goals in 28 games over the months of November and December, a pace that would’ve seen him score 56 goals over 82 games. Over half of those goals were absolute snipes, too as backed up by the tape below
Had he not gotten hurt in early March, he likely would have made it a close call for the Calder between himself and Islanders forward Mat Barzal. Instead, he was one of the strongest Calder runner-ups in recent history, finishing with 29 goals and 26 assists in 62 games.
4. Trevor Linden, C (1988-89)
We have finally gotten to one of the all-time Canucks legends in this countdown.
In his rookie year, Trevor was really young, younger than anyone on this list. After being picked 2nd overall by the Canucks in June of ‘88, he had barely turned 18 and a half when the puck dropped in October.
All he did was become the first Canucks rookie to score 30 goals and 59 points at an age closer to 10 years old than 30.
What a first act this was in the legendary Vancouver career of Trevor Linden.
3. Quinn Hughes, D (2019-20)
Depending on how he plays in the summer return, Quinn may continue to move up this list.
Quite simply, Vancouver has never had a defenseman like Quinn Hughes. He is a true, bona-fide number one NHL D-man, something that nearly every Stanley Cup champion throughout history has had.
Through 68 games this year, Quinn has exceeded all expectations with totals of 8 goals and 45 assists for 53 points. He was leading rookie scoring at the pause and in 4th in overall defenseman scoring (behind only Carlson, Josi, and Hedman).
Hughes reminds me of Scott Niedemayer and Duncan Keith. He can skate for days and create instant offense from the back end. He’s also extremely responsible in his own zone, a rare combo out of such an offensive-minded D-man.
While Cale Makar seemed like the Calder shoe-in early in the year, Quinn’s continued to narrow the gap over the past few months of the season. It has been a surge which has seen him score 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists) in his last 22 games.
2. Elias Pettersson, C (2018-19)
Entering the 2018-19 season, prognosticators around the NHL were projecting the Canucks to end up as one of the worst teams in the league with nothing to be really excited about besides maybe the 2nd year development of Boeser.
The story to watch quickly became a skinny 19-year old kid from Sundsvall, Sweden. If you thought Boeser’s rookie year was a highlight reel, consider that there is a nearly 12-minute video of rookie Pettersson highlights. Yeah, that’s right.
Petey took the NHL by storm, scoring 10 goals and adding 7 assists in his first 11 games in the league. If he hadn’t gotten hurt in two dirty incidents, his numbers and highlight reel would certainly be even more magnificent.
He still finished with 28 goals and 38 assists in 72 games, making him a near unanimous choice for the Calder Trophy, as he earned 96% of the overall vote.
What really stood out about Elias’s rookie season is that he truly made Vancouver a team to watch around the league nearly overnight. The only other Canucks rookie to do that is the legend I’m about to get to.
1. Pavel Bure, RW (1991-92)
Coming into the 1991-92 season, the Canucks had finished with a losing record in 15 consecutive seasons, something that seems hard to do considering the worst teams in the league always get top draft picks to help turn things around.
Thousands of miles away, a 20-year old Russian would decide to come over to North America, honoring the Canucks’ decision to controversially pick him with the 113th overall selection in 1989.
How did he fall so far, you might ask? Well, most teams around the league thought Bure hadn’t played enough professional games in Russia to warrant being selected in 1989, so they thought they would have to wait until the next year to pick him.
Pat Quinn discovered that Bure had played enough pro international and exhibition games to get drafted in ‘89, so the Canucks were able to pick the future superstar that year.
When Bure finally decided to defect from Russia to come to the NHL, the hype was real, and Pavel lived up to it.
In his first game with the Canucks on November 5th, Bure had a few end-to-end rushes that showed potential unlike anything Vancouver fans had ever seen before on their team.
Nicknamed the “Russian Rocket” soon after, Bure finished the season with 34 goals and 60 points, both rookie records at the time. He also led the team in points-per-game and helped the Canucks finish 1st in their division and set a team record (at the time) of 96 points that season.
Bure would win the Canucks’ first-ever Calder Trophy that season for his efforts.
He wasn’t done there though. In Game 6 of Vancouver’s first round series against the Winnipeg Jets, Bure scored his first NHL hat trick to send the series to a 7th game, which the Canucks also won.
Although the Canucks would lose in the next round, Bure instantly changed how the league viewed Vancouver as a franchise. His arrival ushered in the must-watch 90s Canucks, an era that almost got the Canucks their first Stanley Cup in 94’.
It’s safe to say that no rookie has had the impact that Pavel Bure had on this franchise.