The Canucks are making a Zach Hyman-type bet with Jake DeBrusk’s contract

Photo credit:© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
2 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks upper management of Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford believed to have their sights out on Jake this free agency. Most believed it would be Jake Guentzel, but once his rights were traded to Tampa Bay, all focus switched to Jake DeBrusk.
The former Boston Bruin forward signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract that carries a $5.5 million average annual value (AAV). This is the largest annual contract of DeBrusk’s career, as his previous high was $4 million per season. But given the term on this deal, it’s clear that the Canucks are betting on DeBrusk to outproduce this contract — just like one of their division rivals got out of one of their free-agent deals.
In the 2021 free agency class, the Edmonton Oilers signed former Toronto Maple Leaf forward Zach Hyman to a seven-year $38.5 million contract with a $5.5 million AAV. Since joining the Oilers, Hyman has fit in seamlessly alongside Connor McDavid, scoring 117 goals. But the contract didn’t look to be one of the league’s best until Hyman exploded for 54 goals this season.
You can say what you want about how he gets these goals, or you can say he’s the beneficiary of playing on a line with McDavid, but 50 goals is something only 99 players in league history have ever done. It’s impressive, no matter how you slice it. Despite what some Montreal Canadiens reporters say, it wasn’t all because of his family’s riches.
Now, expecting that from DeBrusk might be a stretch. However, there are years of growth left in his young career for him to have years like Hyman, where DeBrusk can make that $5.5 million AAV look like a bargain.
Let’s examine these players’ trajectories before they signed their big-ticket deals and consider whether DeBrusk can realistically follow in Hyman’s footsteps.

Comparing The Players

Jake DeBrusk
Coming into DeBrusk’s contract year, he had a bit of a down season compared to his regular form. He scored 19 goals and 40 points with a plus-five rating. While it’s certainly not encouraging to give this amount of term to somebody who had a down year, it’s mainly due to a broken hand he sustained a week before the All-Star break. And that makes sense when you look into his game logs. DeBrusk found the scoresheet in just one game — scoring one goal and one assist — between January 24th to March 2nd. DeBrusk returned to full health a week before the playoffs, and boy, did it show. The former first-round pick led the Bruins in postseason scoring, finishing with five goals and 11 points in 13 games.
Here are DeBrusk’s career 5-on-5 numbers to this date:
When comparing these to Hyman’s stats below, the games played aren’t as close. However, it’s important to keep in mind the time on ice is more of an indicative comparison. 
DeBrusk has shown his versatility by adding penalty killing to his repertoire. Throughout his first five seasons, DeBrusk never averaged more than 42 seconds of penalty-killing time per game. However, through the previous two seasons, he’s been a valued member of the Bruins penalty kill, averaging 1:21 and 1:37 minutes per game shorthanded. DeBrusk is a speedy winger — clocking in at a top speed of 23.23 MPH just two seasons ago — who, with the improved defensive game, converts that to an excellent transition game.
Let’s take all of these stats and compare them to Hyman’s stats:
Zach Hyman
The season before Hyman signed his deal with the Oilers, he was on pace to have a career year points-wise. He scored 15 goals and 33 points in the shortened 58-game Covid-seasons, with a plus-19 rating. However, like DeBrusk, Hyman’s season was shortened due to separate knee and wrist injuries, leading to him playing just 43 games. During that playoff run, Hyman wasn’t as successful points-wise – only scoring one goal in seven games – as DeBrusk. However, he finished the series against the Montreal Canadiens playoff series with a plus rating in four of the seven games. This indicates that his defensive impact output helped his team, leading to team offence.
Here are Hyman’s career 5-on-5 numbers up until he signed with the Oilers:
DeBrusk played more time on ice, leading to more goals and points. However, being a super nerd like me. If you divide their point total by point per minute, DeBrusk averages 0.0328 points per 5-on-5 minute, while Hyman averages 0.0316 points per 5-on-5 minute. This indicates that the point totals are strikingly similar despite the total discrepancy.
Unlike DeBrusk, Hyman elevated his way through the lineup due to his defensive game. He was a mainstay on the penalty kill, never averaging less than 1:57 minutes of penalty-killing time (outside of his rookie year) before his time with the Oilers. However, like DeBrusk, he’s a speedy winger – clocking in at a top speed of 22.92 MPH just two seasons ago – who, with his defensive game, converts that into an excellent transition game.
After signing DeBrusk, this is how Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin described his newly acquired forward:
“We like his speed, his versatility; he can play both special teams and has experience playing in the playoffs. What I’ve seen over the years, Jake has consistently been able to elevate his game in the playoffs. He’s a responsible two-way guy.”
And, after signing Hyman, this is how Oilers General Manager Ken Holland described his newly acquired forward:
“He’s got great hockey sense. He’s got tremendous work ethic, he can think at the level the superstar players can think at, but he can also play down the lineup. If he’s playing a grindy game or a forechecking game, he can play with those players. At the same time he can do it right wing and left wing and brings a tremendous amount of versatility to our lineup.
What do both of those quotes have in common? Both described these players as versatile. And given they’re both speedy, goal-scoring wingers who can shine defensively with mirroring 5-on-5 stats, further back their similarities.
DeBrusk is one season removed from a career year. He set a career-high in points (50) and tied his goals (27), all while finishing with an impressive plus-26. Who’s to say he can’t find that next level that Hyman found in Edmonton in an elevated role on the Canucks top line with the best centreman he’s ever played with, Elias Pettersson?
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