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Photo Credit: © Brace Hemmelgarn | 2020

Brock Boeser’s success in 2021 will depend on more than just his linemates, but that’s the biggest determinant

2021 will be a year of questions for the Vancouver Canucks and one at the top of fans’ minds is what the club really has in Brock Boeser.

The 23-year-old sniper saw his shooting percentage drop under 10% for the first time in his career last season. After posting 16.2% in 2017-18 and 12.4% in 2018-19, last season Boeser hit the net 169 times while only scoring 16 goals, giving him a 9.5% shooting percentage on the year.

Brock Boeser Now

There were times last season where Boeser was a part of arguably the best line in hockey. He, J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson came together to make The Lotto Line and they were a top-tier trio in the league.

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Outscoring opponents at a 2-1 ratio shows that the trio did exactly what you would ask from a first line. Boeser improved his playmaking last year and saw his 5-on-5 assist rate be much higher than any other season in his young career. With the increased assist numbers also came a significant drop in his own attempted shots. In his rookie season he averaged one shot attempt every 3:57 at 5-on-5, this past season he averaged one shot attempt every 4:39.

With fewer shot attempts also came more scoring in general. In his rookie season, the Canucks scored a goal every 20:29 when Boeser was on the ice. Now that his linemates have improved, the Canucks were able to score a goal every 14:13 of when the Lotto Line was on the ice at 5-on-5.

A lot of Boeser’s success will rely upon where he plays in the lineup. The easy answer is to have him play with Pettersson and Miller. That could change depending on how the Canucks construct their top six. Jake Virtanen has not played well with Bo Horvat in the past and if the Canucks decide to go with a more balanced top six that features Virtanen with Pettersson and Boeser with Horvat, we will likely see a significant drop in Boeser’s offensive output.

So let’s look at what Boeser’s best-case scenario looks like.

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The Best of 2021 Boeser

Games Played Goals Assist Points
56 24 28 52

The best-case scenario for Boeser is that he plays 56 games on the wing with Pettersson and Miller. The Lotto Line was excellent last season and it makes a lot of sense to see them continue their success in 2021. There’s chemistry between Pettersson and Boeser already and Miller really ties the line together to make them more reliable in their own zone.

Boeser would have to raise his 9.5% shooting percentage from last season. More specifically, he would have to be more dangerous on the power play once again. It’s well known that Pettersson is deadly on the right side and if Boeser can raise his 8.77% power play shooting percentage back up to anywhere near his rookie season production, he should be able to score at a 30 goal pace this season.

With Tyler Toffoli now out of the picture, there is an opening for Boeser to be back on the first power play unit. This is a spot where he can have a lot of success. With teams keying in on Pettersson and Horvat, the door is wide open for Boeser to rip his wicked shot just as he did back in 2017-18. I don’t think even the best-case scenario sees him get back to a 17.24% power play shooting percentage but if he were able to hover around 12.5%, he could be in the realm of 8-11 power play goals in a shortened season.

The Worst of 2021 Boeser

Games Played Goals Assist Points
53 12 22 34

There’s a chance that Boeser doesn’t get an extended amount of time alongside Pettersson and Miller, but it’s pretty unimaginable to believe that he will not at least get a 10 game run at some point in the season. If he was not able to get back his power play scoring touch, the Canucks might find another player like Tanner Pearson, Adam Gaudette, Nils Höglander or even Jake Virtanen to use on the first unit. This would be one of the worst-case scenarios for Boeser but even with a demotion to the second unit, he would be used as the primary shooter with the second group.

If Boeser is unable to shoot the puck with accuracy as he did in his first two seasons, his goal total could go down again. There has been an improvement in his two-way game and that is something that he may be forced to lean on even more if he is asked to play on the Horvat line. That line will still get a lot of tough matchups and with those tough matchups comes more time in their own zone.

Boeser missed 12 games last season due to injury, and while some of the injuries have been freak situations, the worries about his wrist will be there until he starts shooting the puck with a high shooting percentage once again.

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What Else Does a Successful 2021 Look Like for Boeser?

Back to Brock: At second training camp this summer, Boeser looked like one of the best players coming out of camp. If he is able to get back that extra step he showed in the summer and rips his shot like we know he can, it will be a successful season for him.

Continue the D-velopment: Boeser was a much better defensive player last season. His awareness in the defensive zone improved and he was able to assist in zone exits more than any of his other NHL seasons. This is a great step for Boeser who already shows as a top six winger. Any added boost to his defensive game would benefit the team as a whole.

What Could Get in the Way?

Not Having the Pop: When Boeser is shooting at 100%, he has one of the deadliest shots in the NHL. After a rookie campaign that saw him terrify goaltenders every time he flexed the carbon and epoxy, Boeser has seen his shooting percentage and goal total drop each of the past three seasons. He will need to buck the trend, otherwise, the dreams of him being a 30 goal scorer could go down the drain.

No Lotto Luck: If Boeser gets a long run with Miller and Pettersson he will put up points. It’s as simple as that. Though Horvat and Boeser have had some success in the past, it’s still unknown how that line will be deployed in 2021. We know that Pettersson’s will score goals and Boeser will surely hope to be on the line doing exactly that.

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There’s a lot to gain for Boeser at this upcoming training camp. If he can secure a spot on the Canucks’ top line it will bode well for him to have a bounce-back season. He didn’t necessarily struggle last year but there is definitely more scoring in his game.

Let’s hope he finds himself in the best situation to get back to being Brock in 2021.