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Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

A way too early look at the 2020-21 Vancouver Canucks lineup

A lot of things went right for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2019-2020 season.

The defence was relatively healthy, Alex Edler reached milestones, and Quinn Hughes stole the show.

The goaltending was superb. Jacob Markstrom played on another level while finishing fourth in Vezina Trophy voting, and Thatcher Demko was exceptional when called upon, especially in the playoffs.

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J.T Miller set career highs playing with Elias Pettersson, and Jake Virtanen reached the 18 goal mark.

The team made it to the postseason and defeated the defending champs, and took the Pacific division-winning Vegas Golden Knights to game seven of the second round.

Yes, many great things happened this past season, but as Nelly Furtado would say, all good things come to an end, and some even end up in flames.

Unrestricted free agency saw familiar faces move to the Calgary Flames — now commonly known as the Calgary Canucks — while a few others jetted out east. With the 2020-21 season set to start (the earliest) in January, let’s take a look at the roster that Jim Benning has built up to this point in the offseason.

There is a lot of time between now and opening night, and this current squad will be changing. Keep in mind that the team still needs to sign (or trade) their two remaining RFAs in Virtanen and Adam Gaudette.

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Forwards

J.T Miller Elias Pettersson Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson Bo Horvat Jake Virtanen
Antoine Roussel Adam Gaudette Brandon Sutter
Tyler Motte Jay Beagle Zack MacEwen

The unknown of Micheal Ferland’s health leaves a gaping hole on the third line. Kole Lind had an excellent camp 2.0. He impressed management and the coaching staff, thus earning him at least a good and serious look at training camp, but it’s unlikely he can surpass guys like Zack MacEwen and Tyler Motte on the Canucks’ depth chart.

For Nils Hoglander, some scouts feel he needs some seasoning and will be ready after playing out a full season in the SHL. However, he will be attending training camp this season. Either Lind or Hoglander will be knocking on the door to take a spot from Sutter, Roussel, Beagle or Eriksson, but again, it won’t be easy.

With Sven Baertschi on the Canucks’ version of Robidas Island and Loui Eriksson still on the books for another two seasons, adding younger and cheaper players on ELCs will be one solution the Canucks are hoping they can take advantage of.

The Canucks will be rocking a similar lineup as they did in the postseason when Tyler Toffoli was unfit to play, minus Loui eriksson in the top six (hopefully).

Defence 

Quinn Hughes Tyler Myers
Alex Edler Nate Schmidt
Olli Juolevi Jordie Benn

Travis Green adores his veterans, which means Jordie Benn could be seeing more ice time next season. Juolevi played one game in the postseason and didn’t look out of place, so as of right now, he should be the leading candidate to play over names like Jack Rathbone, Brogan Rafferty, and Jalen Chatfield.

If the coaching staff feel that either Rafferty or Chatfield have made better strides than Juolevi, moving Benn to the left side is not a problem. In past interviews, Benning has praised Chatfield’s performance in the past, and he will be pushing hard for a job come this season.

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Goaltending 

Braden Holtby
Thatcher Demko

Having Demko and Holtby in goal is the easiest decision the team has to make. They know the two goalies playing this upcoming season, but the most challenging question will be how many games each goalie will get. Demko is the goalie of the future and should be getting his regular reps-in to take the reins one day.

A split this season and giving the net to Demko next season, assuming the Seattle Kraken don’t take Holtby in the expansion draft, seems like the logical way to go.

This season, the team could take a step back unless Demko and Holtby play as Markstrom did while banking on others to have career years. Expecting the club to reach the second round again could be a stretch; however, with Pettersson and Quinn Hughes in the lineup, anything is possible.