Vancouver Canucks: 4 Players Poised for Breakout Seasons
NHL general managers can make all the trades they want and sign every player they can afford, but the best way to grow a hockey team is from within.
Each season fans cross their fingers and hope that some of their favourite team's younger players can take the next step and finally fulfill their potential, and Canucks' fans are no different.
Although they already possess one of the deepest rosters in the league, the Canucks have a few young players that they're hoping can fill some holes and start making larger contributions. Nothing's a guarantee, but if just one roster player can have a jump in production it could be the difference between being a great team and being the best team.
Here are four players that appear to be on the verge of a breakout season.
Although it's almost guaranteed that goaltender Eddie Lack will start the season in the AHL, there's a good chance he could see some NHL games this year.
There's always the possibility that someone gets hurt, and although no one would wish injury on either of the Canucks' goalies, it could provide Lack with his first NHL experience.
Then there's the Cory Schnieder situation. With Schneider in the last year of his contract, it's possible Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis could finally pull the trigger on a trade that would send the Canucks' backup out of town. Such a move would surely lead to a promotion for Lack, who was one of the best goalies in the AHL last season.
If Lack proves he can handle playing in the NHL, it would fill the void that will be left by Schneider's inevitable departure, whether that be during this season or next summer, and could take the pressure off their No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo.
A former first-round pick, Cody Hodgson has a legitimate chance to make the team this year with Ryan Kesler on the shelf for at least a month to start the season.
A former OHL standout and World Junior star, Hodgson was a highly touted prospect when he was drafted back in 2008, but has yet to live up to the expectations of many fans. However, with the Canucks desperately needing a second-line center to start the season, the time may be now for Hodgson to step in and finally start playing a bigger role with the Canucks.
The Toronto, Ontario, native has looked good in the preseason, even if he hasn't made an impact on the score sheet. Hodgson will be given every opportunity to make the team, and if he can fill Kesler's spot effectively for the first month of the season, it could help the Canucks get off to the fast start they'll be looking for.
After splitting his first two seasons between the Canucks and the AHL's Manitoba Moose, Jannik Hansen was a permanent fixture on Vancouver's third line last year.
Although he didn't exactly light things up offensively, he was one of the team's best penalty killers and was able to chip in with a few key goals throughout the season. Hansen did seem to show flashes of offensive aptitude at times, and his excellent speed could be a real weapon if he could add a scoring touch to his game.
With Mason Raymond out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, it's unclear at this point who will fill the two wing positions on the second line to start the season. Mikael Samuelsson, Chris Higgins and Marco Sturm have all been mentioned as possible candidates, but what about Hansen?
He's gotten better every season and may be given a chance in top-six role. If he could elevate his game, the Canucks would surely have one of the most potent forward groups in the league.
Although his last campaign can probably be considered a breakout season for the young blueliner, Chris Tanev looks as if he's ready to take his game up yet another level this year.
Tanev showed poise beyond his years last season, filling in admirably for a number of injured defensemen and never looking out of place. His defensive game is sound and he has a great first pass out of his own zone. If he can tap into some of his offensive potential, he likely has the makings of an excellent top-four NHL defenseman.
With a spot on the defence open after the departure of Christian Ehrhoff, Tanev should be a lock to start the season as the Canucks' sixth defenseman. If he keeps improving, the Canucks shouldn't miss a beat on the back end this season.