Expectations for the Vancouver Canucks this season are…not high. There is likely going to be pain as the franchise transitions from one era to the next, but one of the most important pieces in that rebuild is asking fans to keep an open mind.
“Erase the memory of last season,” said rookie right winger Brock Boeser. “Start fresh. I heard the Sedins had a great summer of training and I know they’ll be in shape like they are every year. Everyone is super-excited to get here. They signed some really good free agents, so it should be a good year.”
Boeser, who won an NCAA championship as a freshman with the University of North Dakota, hooked up with the Canucks last year once his sophomore campaign with the school was complete. The Minnesota native found immediate success, notching four goals and five points in a nine-game stint, while also finding chemistry on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. “Right off the bat they were welcoming and took me under their wings,” Boeser said. “They always communicated if I was doing something wrong or if I had to do something differently. The way Bo plays and how hard he works, and how Sven is super-skilled, that’s what clicked. We really meshed together.”
Which is great for the Canucks, because that could be the team’s best line as soon as this season. Horvat is a fantastic two-way player and at 22, he is just entering his prime years. Boeser, a first-round draft pick (23rd overall in 2015) with a wicked shot and great offensive instincts, will be a key triggerman for Vancouver in the coming years and getting his feet wet last season was crucial for him. “Those nine games helped me tremendously,” he said. “Just learning what all those NHLers do, the way they take care of their bodies, how hard they work. It made me work harder. Going to Vancouver a little this summer taught me a lot. I had a really good summer, so I’m looking forward to training camp.”
Another highlight of Boeser’s off-season was his participation in Minnesota’s Da Beauty League, a competitive (and fun) summer circuit featuring a slew of NHLers such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, Kyle Okposo and Jake Gardiner. “It’s a tremendous league and it means a lot to me to be a part of it,” Boeser said. “There was so many talented NHL guys there, all-stars. And it was pretty cool to see the community come out and support everyone and Da Beauty League gives back to charity, so it’s pretty special.”
One particularly meaningful exhibition came when Boeser got to play against his older sister, Jessica. She and some cohorts from the Minnesota Special Hockey program took on the pros for a 10-minute showcase, allowing the Boesers to go head-to-head.
That was fun – as was the NHLPA Rookie Showcase that brought Boeser to Toronto recently – but now he's concentrating on the upcoming NHL season. He knows nothing is guaranteed in Vancouver, so he intends on working as hard as he can to secure a roster spot this fall. Boeser has spoken with new Canucks coach Travis Green several times and said he is getting an idea of what the bench boss wants from him. One mission this summer was to get more explosive when it came to skating.
With his powerful frame and ability to pop in goals, Boeser will be key to Vancouver’s future. And even if the Canucks end up near the bottom of the standings this season, at least fans can see hope in a player like him.