After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Vancouver Canucks:
The Vancouver Canucks are hoping goalie Braden Holtby and defenseman Nate Schmidt can help them build on their success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
Holtby, who signed a two-year contract with the Canucks on Oct. 9, and Schmidt, acquired in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12 for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, reunite in Vancouver after four seasons together with the Washington Capitals from 2013-17. Holtby won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018; Schmidt has played in each of the past five postseasons (the past three with the Golden Knights).
“I think [winning a championship with Washington] is why it was very important for me to find a team that has that same chance and that same structure of an organization and team that they can win because that’s what you play it for, and I think that’s the opportunity that we have in Vancouver,” Holtby said. “That is very exciting to me.”
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The Canucks lost in seven games to the Golden Knights in the Western Conference Second Round last season. They defeated the Minnesota Wild in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the St. Louis Blues in six games in the best-of-7 first round. It was the first time Vancouver won multiple series in the postseason since its run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
“We just played the Canucks [in the postseason], and there was a buzz about them in the bubble, a buzz about their young players and the talent they have, especially up front, and then on the back end with (defenseman) Quinn Hughes,” Schmidt said. “Sprinkle that in with some veteran guys that have been around the League, and you start to see when you play them you are one goal away the other way from them moving on and from Vegas going home.”
The Canucks lost starting goalie Jacob Markstrom, who signed a six-year contract with the Calgary Flames on Oct. 9, and defenseman Christopher Tanev, who joined Markstrom in Calgary by signing a four-year contract the same day.
Here is what the Canucks look like today:
Braden Holtby, G: The 31-year-old is 50-46-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and seven shutouts in 97 NHL postseason games. Holtby is tied with Capitals goalie Henrik Lundqvist for fourth in regular-season wins (282) since entering the League in 2010-11. … Nate Schmidt, D: The 29-year-old scored at least 30 points in each of his three seasons with Vegas and has 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 68 NHL postseason games.
Jacob Markstrom, G: Was 23-16-4 with a 2.75 GAA, a .918 save percentage and two shutouts in 43 games last season, when he was selected to the NHL All-Star Game for the first time, and went 8-6-0 with a 2.85 GAA, a .919 save percentage and one shutout in 14 games in his first NHL postseason. … Christopher Tanev, D: Scored 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 69 games last season and played a key role in the development of Hughes, who was voted a finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. Tanev scored seven points (one goal, six assists) in 17 postseason games, including the series-winning overtime goal against the Wild in Game 4 of the Qualifiers. … Tyler Toffoli, F: Signed a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12. He scored 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) in 68 games for the Canucks and Los Angeles Kings last season. … Troy Stecher, D: Signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 10. He played in all 69 regular-season games and 17 postseason games for Vancouver last season.
On the cusp
Olli Juolevi, D: The 22-year-old, selected by the Canucks with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut in Game 4 of the Qualifiers on Aug. 7. He scored 25 points (two goals, 23 assists) in 45 games for Utica of the American Hockey League last season. … Zack MacEwen, F: The 24-year-old scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 21 games for the Canucks the past two seasons and played six games in the 2020 postseason.
What they still need
A right-shot defenseman. With the departures of Tanev and Stecher, each a right-handed shot, five of the defensemen in the Canucks’ projected lineup shoot left. Tanev was a fixture with Hughes last season and could be missed by the 21-year-old in his second NHL season.
Goalie Thatcher Demko is among the fantasy sleepers at the position after a strong showing in the postseason; he was 2-1-0 with a 0.64 GAA, a .985 save percentage and one shutout in four games (three starts). It’s a small sample size, but Demko showed flashes of No. 1 potential and should get the opportunity to split starts with Holtby, who has had an average save percentage in the regular season since 2017-18 (.906). Demko is worth selecting in later rounds as a handcuff to Holtby or as a No. 3 bench standalone goalie option with upside. — Rob Reese
J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Loui Eriksson
Antoine Roussel — Adam Gaudette — Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Brandon Sutter
Quinn Hughes — Nate Schmidt
Alexander Edler — Tyler Myers
Olli Juolevi — Jordie Benn