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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting and projecting the Vancouver Canucks’ defence and goaltending stats

Welcome back to part two of my 2021-22 point projection for every Vancouver Canucks skater who makes the final 23-man roster for opening night.

I made predictions for the team’s top nine forwards in part one, and today we will look at the five blueliners who are locks on the backend plus the two projected goalies. The third and final article will focus on the remaining depth players who will round out the roster.

Let’s begin.

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Defencemen

Quinn Hughes

2020-21 stats: 56 games played, 3 goals, 38 assists, 41 points.

2021-22 prediction: 80 games played, 10 goals, 53 assists, 63 points.

Over the past 20 years decades, Hughes has recorded the second-highest point per game average (0.75) among all defencemen over their first two seasons, trailing only Cale Makar (0.93). Hughes’ sustained his historic rookie production last year even with the team struggling as a whole, but his defensive game took a steep decline.

It’s very possible that he could become an even greater offensive player heading into his third campaign, but Hughes has already stated that he’d like to improve his two-way game. Pair that with a potentially new defensive system under assistant coach Brad Shaw, and I believe that the 21-year-old will focus more on becoming an all-around player while producing at a similar level to his previous two seasons.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

2020-21 stats: 46 games played, 3 goals, 21 assists, 24 points.

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2021-22 prediction: 78 games played, 9 goals, 26 assists, 35 points.

For as much talk as there’s been able OEL’s recent decline, his offensive production has remained remarkably consistent for most of his career. There have only been two seasons since 2012-13 in which the veteran didn’t score at a 40-45 point pace. However, expect to see his numbers take a slight drop this year due to his lack of power-play exposure.

With Hughes pinned to PP1, OEL will likely see less than a minute and a half on the man advantage, which is a significant drop from the 2:22 minutes he averaged last season with the Coyotes. 14 of his 24 total points last year also came on the power play, which is why I expect him to score less than his usual pace.

Tyler Myers

2020-21 stats: 55 games played, 6 goals, 15 assists, 21 points.

2021-22 prediction: 80 games played, 9 goals, 22 assists, 31 points.

Myers’ scoring bounced back last year after having an unsustainably low individual points percentage (IPP) in his first season as a Canuck. I expect him to maintain a similar level of production in 2021-22, but his numbers could take a hit if Jack Rathbone becomes a full-time player and takes Myers’ spot on PP2.

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However, even if that happens, it probably won’t affect the 31-year-old too much considering he already averaged less than a minute on the man advantage last year and only chipped in with three assists. Unless he experiences some steep decline, expect Myers to produce at his usual low-30s point pace.

Travis Hamonic

2020-21 stats: 38 games played, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points.

2021-22 prediction: 65 games played, 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points.

For the majority of his career, Hamonic has produced at a 15-25 point pace, and I see no reason why that’ll change now. Being Hughes’ partner could give him a boost considering he’ll be on the ice with some of the Canucks’ best offensive players, but that probably won’t matter given Hamonic’s defence-first mentality and lack of power-play time.

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With that said, the bigger question surrounding the veteran is his health. Hamonic has only played about 75% of his team’s games over the past five seasons, so his lack of availability diminishes the stats of a player who is already limited offensively.

Tucker Poolman

2020-21 stats: 39 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point.

2021-22 prediction: 67 games played, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points.

It’s safe to say that the Canucks didn’t sign Poolman for his offensive chops. Outside of his 2019-20 season in which he scored 16 points in 57 games, Poolman has only put up one goal and two assists in the other 63 matches that he’s suited up for.

Even so, it’s reasonable to expect him to produce more this year considering he had a 6.25% IPP last season at five on five, which is so low that it seems like a typo. Of course, even a bounce-back season won’t amount to much when it comes to his counting stats, so don’t expect Poolman to score at more than a 15 point pace.

Goalies

Thatcher Demko

2020-21 stats: 35 games played, 0.915 SV%, 2.85 GAA, 1 SO.

2021-22 prediction: 55 games played, 0.917 SV%, 2.91 GAA, 3 SO.

After a pedestrian start, Demko caught fire and went on a dominant run in the second half of last season. Now the team’s undisputed #1, I expect Demko to put in a more consistent performance this year and be arguably the Canucks’ most important player.

Unfortunately, the defence in front of him has taken a step back in terms of personnel, which doesn’t bode well for Demko considering that the Canucks were already among the most permissive clubs in the league last year. A new defensive structure under Shaw and potential bounce-backs from Hughes and OEL should hopefully provide him with some leeway, but those things are pure speculation at this point, which is why Demko could improve while also conceding more goals on average than last season.

Jaroslav Halak

2020-21 stats: 19 games played, 0.905 SV%, 2.53 GAA, 2 SO.

2021-22 prediction: 25 games played, 0.903 SV%, 3.10 GAA, 1 SO.

Halak is one of the hardest players to project considering his advancing age and change in environment. Jim Benning was universally applauded for this signing (and rightfully so), but I fear that last year marked the beginning of Halak’s decline rather than just a down season.

Halak saved seven fewer goals than expected in 2020-21, which was the first time he was in the negative since the 2017-18 campaign. He was legitimately one of the more underrated goalies during his first two seasons in Boston; Halak saved over 12 goals above expected between 2018-20, proving that he played a major role in the Bruins’ stingy defence rather than being a product of the system. Unfortunately, at 36 years old, it seems unlikely that he’ll reach those heights again since he showed signs of decline last year and just switched from an elite defensive team to a potentially porous one.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Evolving-Hockey.