After showing some offensive potential in the 2019-20 season, Zack MacEwen took a step back in 2021.
The Big Fella was a physical force on the ice and played a role for the Canucks but finished the year with only one goal and one assist on the season in 34 games played.
His highlight of the season came when he stood up for Nils Höglander and got the perfect profile picture for the rest of his life:
I liked a lot of what MacEwen did back in 2019-20. He had energy, showed some offensive skill, and was one of the only Canucks willing to drop the gloves when the opportunity presented itself.
This past year was definitely a step back for him as he is still fighting to be an everyday NHLer. Jim Benning was singing his praises just one year ago but MacEwen struggled to live up to said expectations.
“Zack’s been really good. I think he’s an NHL player now…we think he’s ready to be an everyday player in the NHL.” – Jim Benning on Zack MacEwen #Canucks
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) February 18, 2020
During the 2019-20 season, MacEwen benefitted from an on-ice save percentage of 0.953% and an on-ice shooting percentage over 15%. This year, those numbers came back down to a more realistic mix that found his PDO coming in at 1.002.
MacEwen’s most consistent linemates were Travis Boyd and Jimmy Vesey, two players who I’d be surprised to see back in the blue and green next season. He produced some impressive Corsi numbers when he was alongside Tyler Motte on a fourth line this season but that was in limited time due to MacEwen’s healthy scratches and Motte’s injury.
With one more year on his contract, MacEwen will get back into games this coming season. I liked his effort level when it came to shooting pucks from the wing and he held his own pretty well in most analytic possession numbers.
You can tell that MacEwen has some offensive skills and isn’t just a guy who skates around looking for fights. That being said, if a fight is needed, MacEwen is an excellent man for the job as he isn’t afraid to fight any other heavyweight in the league and the presence that he brings to the Canucks’ roster is important for a team that has often been criticized for their lack of toughness over the past decade.
Many fans want to see him land on the fourth line or as a 13th forward next season. He gets around the ice well but last season showed that there needs to be some improvement in the defensive zone for him to be the everyday NHL player that Benning claimed he can be.
All in all, he’s guaranteed to give you energy in every game and his presence means something to the ebb and flow of a game. He had a career-high in games played and Travis Green knows what he is all about for next season.
We aren’t likely to see him have any more AHL stints but he just might not be a player who is written in permanent marker into the lineup every night.
If he can work on some things in his own zone and get some better luck around the net, he will be a critical piece for the Canucks’ fourth line with the added physicality and intimidation factor that he can provide in a playoff atmosphere.
He’s also only putting $825,000 against the cap and will be fighting for his NHL career next season.
I’m betting on MacEwen this season to be one of the surprises in the bottom-six. There’s some talent there, he just needs to find some consistency and get some luck along the way.