The Vancouver Canucks are often critiqued for passing over homegrown talent, not scouting the players that grow up playing in the area around the city. With many minor hockey programs and multiple Western Hockey League teams in the area, Canucks fans have watched young hockey talents such as Milan Lucic and Brendan Gallagher excel for local teams. However, when it came to the draft, such players were passed over by the Canucks.
This pressure may have been a contributing factor in the decision to draft local kid Jake Virtanen in 2014 ahead of other higher-ranked players. His ensuing slow start to his career became a major talking point for local fans and media with some pointing out the immense pressure that comes with playing for your hometown, especially when it’s a hockey-crazed market like Vancouver.
As a little experiment, I thought it would be a good idea to see which team would be better between the Canucks 2021 roster or a team filled with players born in British Columbia. The first step in this project was creating Team BC and after some consideration, I came up with what’s below.
Jamie Benn — Mathew Barzal — Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Jake Virtanen
Alexander Kerfoot — Ryan Johansen — Brett Connolly
Andrew Ladd — Kyle Turris — Dalton Heinen
Shea Theodore — Shea Weber
Morgan Rielly — Tyson Barrie
Devon Toews — Justin Schultz
The first thing that stands out is the defense group which is much stronger than Vancouver’s. Shea Theodore gave the team fits during this year’s playoffs and the talent extends through all three of their pairs. The Canucks do not have nearly the same level of depth though their top pairing of Quinn Hughes and Nate Schmidt can match up well.
Upfront it’s a much more even matchup as BC’s forwards, including the familiar Jake Virtanen, fall off sharply after the first two lines. In net Team BC features veteran Carey Price and breakout performer Tristan Jarry, a slightly stronger duo than Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko.
But hockey games aren’t decided by which team is better on paper and to determine the winner of this series I’m going to be using WhatIfSports. While their simulation engine is far from perfect, it does allow for the creation of Team BC and a seven-game series to be played between the two teams. Each team will play their games at Rogers Arena and it will be done in a playoff format which means no shootouts. Vancouver will get home-ice advantage and thus will be the home team for games one, two, five, and seven if it goes that far.
Braden Holtby will start the series at home for the Canucks and opposite him will be Carey Price. Both goalies aren’t playing with the longest leashes and a few bad performances could lead to one of the backups seeing some action.
It wouldn’t take long for Team BC to break the scoring as Brett Connolly scored nine minutes into the opening frame. Bo Horvat and Antoine Roussel would score for the Canucks but that would not be enough as Team BC cruised to an easy win. The first star would go to Matthew Barzal as the Coquitlam-born centre had a goal and an assist.
Game Two (Team BC Leads 1-0):
Holtby played well last game and will remain in net for the Canucks. The only lineup change was breaking up the lotto-line to have Jake Virtanen join Elias Pettersson and JT Miller on the Canucks top unit.
Carey Price continued his outstanding play as he saved thirty-nine of forty-one shots, only allowing Quinn Hughes and Tanner Pearson to score. Jake Virtanen would make an impact, but it was for Team BC as he scored against the Canucks on a rebound from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The first star went to Carey Price and the second star to Braden Holtby as each goalie made plenty of saves in what could have been a much higher-scoring game. Team BC is now going to get to be the home team as they look to close out the series in four games.
Game Three (Team BC Leads 2-0):
Game three will see the same lineups from both teams as the previous game. The Canucks are looking to get back into this series and hopefully find a way to steal at least one game on the road here.
Evander Kane had a goal and an assist which led to him being named first star of this contest. This one wasn’t as close as the score suggested as Team BC outshot the Canucks 47-29 and led 4-0 before Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte added late goals.
The Canuck stars have been held to very quiet series thus far and are clearly struggling to score against the strong BC defence. In a cruel twist of fate, Jake Virtanen scored his second goal in two games for Team BC even though he had just shy of twelve minutes of ice time, the lowest on the team.
Game Four (Team BC leads 3-0):
Holtby has played well and so I see no reason to switch him. Both teams enter Game Four with the same lineups as the previous two.
What a heartbreaking loss for the Canucks. They fight back after allowing another goal from Team BC’s Jake Virtanen and manage to hold a 3-2 lead with ten minutes remaining. The top line showed up and Pettersson and Miller had a goal and an assist each.
With under five minutes remaining, Tyson Barrie tied the game and then with a little over one minute left it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who drove the dagger into Canucks fans hearts with a goal assisted by Shea Weber.
Tyson Barrie would add an empty netter which would help him secure first star in this match, and with that we have a definite answer as to if the Canucks could beat a team full of BC-born players, and it’s no.
While no Canucks scored multiple goals across the four-game series, Team BC had five players accomplish this feat in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie, Sam Reinhart, Shea Theodore, and Jake Virtanen.
Braden Holtby managed to show up in the “Three Stars” twice in four games despite losing every single one, just another display of how outplayed the Canucks were.
Jake Virtanen had three goals in the final three games for Team BC, yet he couldn't score once for the Canucks. Hopefully his real-life transition into a top-six role will go more smoothly than this, especially because no team in the Canadian Division has a group of defensemen like Team BC.
Overall the most surprising thing I found from this experiment was the quality of defensemen that British Columbia has produced, as it’s a province not usually thought of as a hotbed for NHL prospects. Perhaps the Canucks could do a stronger job of keeping tabs on some of these players as they move up the ranks, with the goal of eventually having them find a way onto their NHL roster.