Which Canucks will exceed expectations in 2013?

The 2013 Canucks are a mystery

This is a different chapter in Vancouver Canucks history. We are in a cap-restricted, John Tortorella era, and there are now different types of players that will need to contribute.

Who will rise to the occasion in 2013?

Jordan Schroeder

Jordan Schroeder

Jordan Schroeder has comparable numbers to Ryan Kessler at this point in his career.

The diminutive forward has so far posted numbers that compare favorably to Ryan Kesler’s numbers from a similar point in his career. In the final 33 games with Manitoba before his NHL call-up, Ryan Kesler scored 11 points. In his final AHL stint before his NHL call-up, Jordan Schroeder scored 33 points in 42 games.

Kesler scored 5 points in 28 games during his call-up, and Schroeder scored 9 points in 31 games during his.

We also have to consider the Tortorella factor here.

The new Canucks bench boss has no problem playing hard-working, younger forwards in place of expensive veterans when the vets aren’t getting the job done. Expect Schroeder to get much more of an offensive opportunity under Tortorella than he would have gotten under Alain Vigneault.

Schroeder could slot in on the second or third line. This year will have to be the year he makes it, or else we may see another player-for-player swap like the Hodgson-Kassian trade.

Brad Richardson

Brad Richardson is a difficult player to gauge because his role on the team may depend on Schroeder’s role. If Schroeder is used as a third line centre, Richardson will be a fourth line energy guy.

If Schroeder is given an offensive opportunity, we can expect the third line to consist of Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson, and Jannik Hansen.

Richardson has some offensive skill, although he hasn’t been used much in an offensive role. The combination of Richardson, Higgins and Hansen is exciting because all three of those players have some skill, can skate and are defensively responsible.

They all have grit.

They are all the type of players who just barely lack the skill to be consistent offensive contributors but have much more skill than the average bottom six forwards.

I can see such a combination becoming one of the better third lines in the league.

Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian provides a physical element and a deterrent on the ice .

This is the fourth line that I would most like to see the Canucks start the season with in 2013. While I would rather see Kassian get big time offensive minutes, my experience as a fan has led me to temper my expectations.

It might seem at first glance somewhat wasteful to put three young players with potential on the fourth line, but there is a precedent and I have a theory here. Hear me out.

Last season the Ottawa Senators used a very young fourth line consisting of Cory Conacher, Erik Condra and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. They played key minutes on special teams and produced points in the playoffs.

The Senators were a more well-rounded team than those playing one-dimensional goons, and this gave them a competitive advantage.

Brendan Gaunce is a good face-off man, something every team always needs. It’s not a stretch to envision the rookie killing penalties alongside a veteran like Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen.

Zack Kassian provides a physical element and a deterrent on the ice to those who would seek to run the Sedins. He has shown a willingness to drop the gloves as well, as to hit anything that moves. Kassian provides the grit of Dale Weise while adding scoring touch.

Jensen has some of these qualities, although to a lesser degree and with a bit more skill. All three youngsters have size and will only get stronger as the season goes on. This option also has the added benefit of creating chemistry and familiarity among line-mates that could continue into a viable top six line in the future.

I would be excited to see a roster consisting of these line combinations, as it would mean the Canucks are, in a strange way, more rounded than they have been in years.

No more games where the third line is without an identity, and the fourth line leads to panic attacks for Canucks fans.


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About Travis Erbacher

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