The Vancouver Canucks made a splash in free agency, adding a number of low-risk pieces to what was (and arguably still is) a fairly shallow roster. The team added forwards Sam Gagner and Alex Burmistrov, defencemen Patrick Wiercioch and Michael Del Zotto, and goaltender Anders Nilsson. Where some of these signings will help the most is with the man advantage. After finishing 29th in the league last season and 28th the year prior, the Canucks were in desperate need for some help on the power play. Despite the team being in a transition phase, it still needs to show some respectability, and a new-look power play would go a long way towards accomplishing that.
Vancouver Canucks Power Play Set for a New Look
Free Agency Additions
In free agency, the two premier pickups were Del Zotto and Gagner, both of whom have been praised by management for their offensive prowess. Gagner, 27, put up a career-high 18 goals and 50 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. Eight of those goals, and ten of his points were scored with the man advantage. Gagner averaged 2:26 of power play ice time per night and just 13:43 in total time on ice. Del Zotto, meanwhile, has a history of putting up solid numbers on the power play. Despite just one power play assist last season, he scored a quarter of his points with the man advantage in 2014-15, and managed 22 power play points back in 2009-10. Combined with a puck moving skill set, Del Zotto will greatly improve a blue line that lacks offensive prowess, both at even strength and up a man.
Injection of Youth
Another aspect that will play in the Canucks favor is the incorporation of more youth onto the power play. In nine games to end last season, top prospect Brock Boeser managed four goals and five points. Of those four goals, two came on the power play. When also taking into account his prowess with the man advantage in the NCAA, should Boeser make the team in September, it is safe to say he’ll provide a spark to one of the Canucks two units.
2016-17 should also see the rise of Bo Horvat as a power play weapon. Despite showing solid production (10 points), Horvat rarely got time on the top unit. This season, he should at least be given a shot on the Canucks first unit, and as a result, should see his production rise.
It is possible, in a somewhat lesser role, that both Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher continue to develop their offensive games, and are given a chance to unleash them on the second, or perhaps the first, unit. The idea that former Swedish Hockey League MVP Anton Rodin could make an impact cannot be discounted either. Rodin was recently brought back on a one-year deal.
While the Canucks are certainly entering a rebuild phase, this should not mean their power play should collapse into obscurity. In signing key free agents, the Canucks have created an environment that will foster success in their young core. While a playoff run should hardly be the expectation for next season, the Canucks should work to give their up-and-comers the best opportunities possible, and creating an effective power play would be part of that equation.