He’s a 35-year-old winger coming into his 15th NHL season this year. That’s right, it’s time for us to explore the best and worst-case scenarios for Loui Eriksson’s 2021 Vancouver Canucks season.
Eriksson is coming off of a season that saw him be left out of the lineup for 20 games. He tallied up 13 points in 49 games and saw an extended stretch in the Canucks’ top six forward group. After Tanner Pearson, Eriksson was the most commonly used winger for Bo Horvat last season.
Loui Eriksson Now
After being in and out of the lineup last season, there’s reason to believe that it will be much of the same this year. There was a run of games last season where Eriksson was effective at limiting opposition scoring while playing with Horvat and Pearson in the top six.
Pearson and Horvat had better numbers in the shot share when they were without Eriksson last season. However, they did have noticeably fewer scoring chances against with Eriksson, as their control of scoring chances was 53.9% with Eriksson compared to 46.4% without him at 5-on-5 in 2019-20.
Their goals for significantly dropped without him as well. The trio scored 2.81 goals per 60 minutes, the Pearson-Horvat duo away from Eriksson only scored goals at a 1.64 per 60-minute rate.
The analytics tell one side of the story with this trio, as they were not great at defending in their own zone and some of that is due to a sub .900 save percentage when they were on the ice but that is somewhat balanced when you look at the sub 5% on-ice shooting percentage that Pearson and Horvat had without Eriksson on the ice with them.
To summarize the situation with eye test now included, the Eriksson, Horvat and Pearson trio did a fine job of controlling possession of the puck. Most nights they were matched up against the opposition’s top scoring line and though their goals against numbers were pretty horrible, they did the little things to keep the puck out of their own net.
Eriksson gives a very different look to that line. Some will tell you that he slows the game down, which is also exactly what it looks like in real-time. The numbers tell a different story though, as he actually creates more goals for and against when on the Horvat line.
The Best of 2021 Eriksson
There shouldn’t be any power play time for Eriksson this season. His best chance for offence is to play with Pearson and Horvat at 5 on 5. There has not been a fit for Eriksson with Adam Gaudette on the third line and he should not be anywhere near the Pettersson line. That means he has three landing spots. He could be in a top-six role with Horvat, a fourth-line winger spot with Brandon Sutter and/or Jay Beagle, or in the press box as a healthy scratch.
If Eriksson was able to step up and play on the Horvat line for 56 games, he could potentially produce close to 10 goals. Remember that we are looking at the best potential situation for Eriksson here.
Eriksson actually scored more 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes than Horvat and trailed only Elias Pettersson when it came to controlling on-ice scoring chances. With an on-ice shooting percentage under 7% for the season, there is potential for him to receive some puck luck next year and if that number even jumped up a percent and a half, we could be talking about a player who does have value in the offensive zone.
The Worst of 2021 Eriksson
A lot would have to go right to get the best out of Eriksson and unfortunately for him, that’s just not how things have gone for him as a Vancouver Canuck. Now going into a season where he will turn 36-years-old at the end of, it’s hard to imagine that this will be the year where things finally click.
It’s up to you which one is more likely, but this is what I believe a realistic worst situation for Eriksson could be.
Though he is an option to be a top six player for the Canucks, he is just as much an option to be out of the lineup.
We are fresh off a playoffs that saw Eriksson average 15:56 of ice time over 10 games. In those 10 games, he did not register a point and took three minor penalties.
There are going to be more wingers fighting for a spot on this Canucks roster and those players have the potential to surpass Eriksson in the depth chart at this year’s training camp.
Playing in only 22 games could set up the chance for Eriksson’s 1000th NHL game to happen in Vancouver once fans can hopefully return to arenas in the 2021-22 season. Honestly, I’m so curious to see the in-arena reaction that I am kind of hoping he doesn’t get to 30 games this season.
I know I’ll be ready.
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🤙🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) June 5, 2020
What else does a successful 2021 for Eriksson look like?
Penalty killing: When he was in the lineup, Eriksson was the fifth most used penalty killer for the Canucks. Tim Schaller was killing 2:48 per game and he is now gone. So, looking at the winger depth of who kills penalties, that means one of Pearson or Eriksson will have to step into that role. Eriksson does a fine job on the penalty kill. He covers his zone, can break up a pass but just lacks the overall tenacity that penalty killers need to have. He could find success as a fourth-line penalty killer for the Canucks but he will have to be better while down a man.
Get Some Luck: His shooting percentage would have to rise to somewhere in the 9%-11% range to see a real increase on production.
What Might Get in the Way?
Loui being Loui: With all the positives going on with this team’s young core, it’s actually very possible for Eriksson to be a contributor. I think everyone has accepted that he will not be worth his six million dollar cap hit but if he plays his game he can help a team. There just has not been a noticeable buy-in from Eriksson since he’s been a Canuck. The old tales of the Patcast talking about him being the first player off the ice at practice just shows that there may not be a commitment to improvement for him.
Better Options: This season there are multiple wingers that are making the push towards being NHL players and could only be a step away. Kole Lind, Nils Höglander, Zack MacEwen and Jayce Hawryluk are a few names that instantly come to mind.
I think we know that Eriksson is not going to be a serious contributor to this team but there is still hope that he can be one of the players in the bottom of the lineup who can do a job that they are asked to do. Every team needs bottom six players that can help in some form and there is a path for Eriksson to do that.
Yes, his contract sucks, but this team needs everyone pulling in the same direction and this would be a good year for Eriksson to finally get his hands on the rope.