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Title - Shaun Maddex
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Vancouver Canucks and Secondary Scoring
By Shaun Maddex
HometownHockey.ca

Vancouver Canucks and Secondary Scoring
The Vancouver Canucks made a lot of changes to their roster this off season, but have they done enough to make the Playoffs?

Edmonton - July 11, 2014 - The Canucks have made some pretty significant changes to the lineup this off season, moving out Kesler and Garrison, bringing in Vrbata, Bonino, Sbisa, Vey, and Miller. That is a lot of changes, but these changes were bred of necessity and unfortunately have not addressed the need for secondary scoring. There are some potential long shot options rising through the organizational ranks, Horvat, Shinkaruk, Vey and Virtanen. These guys are going to get the opportunity in training camp to win a spot, but the only real potential winner of an NHL spot is Vey.

Horvat, Shinkaruk, Virtanen and Vey

Let’s start with Bo Horvat. Horvat was an 18 year old in the OHL last season, in 54 games he put up 74 points, he had a points/60 of 3.6, and his Goal share percentage of 40.4% ranked 31st in the CHL for 18 year old skaters. It is hard to determine the most effective way to judge these numbers. But in comparison to fellow 18 year olds, Horvat is not setting the world on fire. His P/60 ranks 12th in the CHL for 18 year olds, his 74 points on the season ranks 22nd in the CHL for 18 year olds. But Horvat’s strengths and contributions aren’t going to be mainly offensive. He is better known as a gritty player, with solid defensive awareness. He is not likely going to turn into a top 6 center for the Canucks, but rather a top 9, who can make appearances in the top 6 when injuries happen. He needs time to develop his defensive game against men, and as a result he is a prime candidate for AHL seasoning.

Hunter Shinkaruk had a tough season in 2013-14. Coming off a season in 2012-13 where he scored 86 points in 64 games, Corey Pronman of ESPN had this to say about Shinkaruk heading into the draft:

Despite being a little on the smaller side, he deserves a top 10 ranking, as he possesses an immense amount of unique offensive talent. He moves effortlessly as a skater, showing the ability to gain power from each stride. That allows him to divert more energy to playmaking. His agility makes him tough to check in open ice. He turns his hips a lot, and his wide skating stance makes it difficult to predict where he will move. That said, his speed only ranks as good, not top end. Shinkaruk has rapid hands, and he can be very dangerous due to his creativity and coordination. Shinkaruk's physical game is his main issue. He is a small player, but he does work hard. He shows the ability to grind for the puck, but he will need to become stronger to keep it at the next level."

He is kind of in the Jeff SKinner model, but injuries have taken a toll on his development. This most recent season he suffered injuries which held him to 18 games and was held to just 16 points. Because he is so small he needs to find a way to utilize his skill and explosiveness, while getting strong enough to handle the rigours of the NHL. If he doesn’t, he will become just another undersized forward at the NHL level. The size of Shinkaruk, combined with the size of the teams in the Pacific Division is likely why his name has been in trade rumors recently. His potential to be a top line player makes him an intriguing prospect, but he needs to come back and have a great 2014-15 outside the NHL to get his development back on track.

Recently drafted Jake Virtanen is the most offensively gifted of the group of junior players. He brings power forward style with good speed, a great shot, and a fierce competitive style that helps him win battles along the boards. Virtanen is not well rounded in terms of his overall game and he needs some time to develop his strength and conditioning. Ripping it up in the WHL for another season is going to work wonders for Virtanen. He can focus on developing his overall game, build his confidence, and learn the ins and outs of being a true power forward. He is going to be a great player, and rushing him into a role he isn’t ready for will do way too much damage to his future.

Linden Vey is the most likely of the bunch to be in the NHL next season. He is a very high skill center who is capable of putting up points and has shown well in the AHL with 48 points in 43 AHL games last season. However, he hasn’t been able to translate his point production to the NHL (just 5 assists in 18 games), and playing in Los Angeles has actually worked against him as he has been caught behind their incredible depth. There is opportunity in Vancouver, and with a lack of scoring punch in the top 6, Vey needs to come into training camp and show that he is capable of producing at the NHL level. He is not going to score a lot of goals though, his strength is playmaking. He actually sets up well for a future role alongside Virtanen. But Vey needs to find a way to translate his playmaking ability into points at the NHL level. If he does, it will solve a lot of the worries surrounding secondary scoring for Benning, but I wouldn’t count on it at this point.

Outside Options

It is very apparent that secondary scoring could be a huge issue in the upcoming season. The top line is stacked with the addition of Vrbata, and healthy Sedins, that line will have no problem scoring. But who scores after that? That is a serious concern. Bonino is coming off his most impressive offensive season to date, but if he is not placed with skill guys I see him taking a step back offensively. The options for secondary scoring left in free agency aren’t great either and a lack of cap space is a hindrance as well.

The best option remaining in terms of offensive production is Dustin Penner who put up 35 points in 67 games. But Penner is a big man who has a lack of motivation at times. He is not someone that can be relied upon for a full season of productivity. Penner is not a great option and as a result if Benning is going to shore up offensive depth, he is going to have look at the trade route.

The assets available in trade are not great. Shinkaruk has had his name floated but coming off his injury his value isn’t high. Markstrom is a goaltender looking to be moved out after the singing of Ryan Miller, but he has shown little by way of NHL starting calibre. There are names available in trade, teams like Chicago, Philly and Boston are up against it cap wise and may be willing to make some moves to get some more breathing room, but the Canucks themselves lack cap room to make a trade for a big contract. Evander Kane has had his name in the rumour mill since the team moved to Winnipeg, the problem is that a player of Kane’s calibre is going to cost a significant amount of assets and Winnipeg would have to be willing to take back some salary. Does Benning have those assets at his disposal? Unless he is willing to move the 2015 1st round pick then I would say he doesn’t.

In Closing

If I were to guess based on the options and cap space for the Canucks, I would assume Benning is hoping that Vey comes in and fills a top 6 wing position, it’s a long shot considering his lack of production at the NHL level thus far in his career. He is very skilled, and if given the opportunity could produce. But if the Canucks are going to compete for a Playoff spot in 2014-15, they need to find a more reliable scoring winger to put in the top 6.

This article uses information from hockeydb.com and extraskater.com

Follow Me on TwitterShaun Maddex has a passion for playing, watching, and analyzing hockey. Growing up in small towns throughout Alberta meant always playing or watching hockey. He has experience as an editor/columnist for Vavel International and enjoys analyzing all aspects of hockey. He brings a straightforward but insightful experience to the Hometown Hockey readers. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at smaddex@hometownhockey.ca


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