The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.
Last season: 40-30-12, 5th Pacific, 18th overall. GF: 18th, GA: 8th, PP: 9th, PK: 30th
No more hypotheticals now. With a full summer, training camp, and, hopefully, all 82 regular-season games, we’ll get to really see how good the Canucks are under Bruce Boudreau. They turned a sharp corner after hiring him last season, and while it’s doubtful they will maintain their 106-point pace this season, they won’t regress enough to completely fall out of playoff contention.
Bringing back J.T. Miller was a signal that this team is being built to compete for the Cup; it would’ve been difficult to replace their leading scorer via trade or free agency, and if contract talks weren’t going to happen during the season, then the Canucks felt like they had no choice but to commit to Miller, and by extension a core of Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes that has so far fallen short of expectations.
For fantasy purposes, the return of Miller and giving Boudreau a full off-season to prepare is very good news. It means the Canucks are trying to be competitive, and under Boudreau, they had regained some of the offensive swagger that had been lost under Travis Green at the beginning of the season.
The Canucks also added Andrei Kuzmenko, an All-Star in the KHL, and the speedy Ilya Mikheyev from the Maple Leafs to bolster a lineup that wasn’t really struggling to score goals.
The worry for the Canucks, and it’s their biggest one since wondering if Dan Cloutier was a playoff-winning goalie, continues to be their lackluster defense.
Best Fantasy Option: J.T. Miller, C/LW
It’s tempting to pick Pettersson here, but we’ve been teased for two seasons now and one category Pettersson could win against Miller is scoring.
Miller is Boudreau’s preferred number one center, and, with the Canucks prepared to go three deep down the middle moving Pettersson to center full-time, he’s bound to get less ice time than Miller, who ranked sixth in the league among forwards in TOI/GP last season.
Miller is unlikely to score close to his pace last season, but at worst he’s a point-per-game player with a lot of extra value in faceoffs and hits, and as a left-wing-eligible player, that has immense value. Miller’s likely a reach as a first-round pick because it’s widely believed his scoring rate will regress, but he’s still a consensus top-25 player.
It should be noted that THN’s Pool Guide has Pettersson projected to lead the Canucks in scoring, but with only 80 points and two more than Miller.
Hidden Gem: Andrei Kuzmenko, LW
There are many candidates here because the Canucks’ forward corps is pretty deep.
Conor Garland was one of their top five-on-five players last season, and he has both LW and RW eligibility for extra roster flexibility. Tanner Pearson has a top-six role carved in stone but his job isn’t really to create offense, nor can he actually do it. Vasily Podkolzin is maybe one more season away from really breaking out. Boeser is a good option, but his career has been riddled with injuries and he’s slated to miss the start of the season after undergoing surgery on his hand and you wonder if he’ll ever score 30 goals. Mikheyev has outside 20-goal potential but could play on a line with very good scorers, but his status is currently unknown after getting injured in his first preseason game.
That leaves Kuzmenko, a very talented scoring winger who led St. Petersburg in scoring with 53 points in 45 games in the KHL last season.
Part of the Canucks’ pitch was playing Kuzmenko on the power play, and his offensive ability is easy to see. His usage might significantly favor offensive-zone situations for that reason, at least until Boudreau trusts his two-way game enough to play him against all matchups and situations. With no previous fantasy record, Kuzmenko will likely fly under the radar (until you read this) or otherwise be unranked, and his top-six potential makes him a great value pick after the middle rounds.
THN’s Pool Guide projects Kuzmenko will score 54 points, fifth-best on the team.
This is where the Canucks don’t need to worry at all. Thatcher Demko is one of the best goalies in the league, and his numbers would be Vezina-level if the defense in front of him wasn’t so porous. Because the Canucks aren’t as competitive as the Flames or Rangers, Demko’s fantasy value drops, though he may make up some of that lost value with a higher number of saves.
Regardless, Demko is a borderline top-five goalie in most fantasy formats, and his workload should hover around 60-65 games again depending on how good backup Spencer Martin is given his inexperience.
It’s the classic Canucks story – tease and tease but never pull through. They have a very good top six even though none of them are elite superstars (yet), a pretty good third line, and one of the best skating defensemen in the league. Along with Demko, there is no shortage of options on the Canucks, but you always wonder how many of them will hit their potential.
The only three players who can really take their game to the next level are Pettersson, Hughes, and Podkolzin, and they only have fantasy value in certain formats, ie. points only, to make them worthy reaching for in drafts. You know what you’re getting with the rest, and perhaps that’s an indictment of the Canucks’ general direction – good enough, but not quite good enough to ever demand your attention.