Canucks preview: Golden Knights to rule the Pacific Division this season

The Vancouver Canucks aren’t ready to challenge the Golden Knights, but they should compete well against the rest of their Pacific Division teammates.

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The Vancouver Canucks have improved scoring depth on their first three attacking lines for the 2021-22 season (Conor Garland only gives them more scoring depth), but the defense remains a mixed bag. They are hopeful that Quinn Hughes can regain the rookie season form that teased a great future and that Oliver Ekman-Larsson can rediscover some of his lost magic.

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Like the 2019-20 team, they should be able to fight for a playoff spot and, in the weakened Pacific Division, they have a good chance of doing the dance at the end of the year.

Here’s a look at the NHL’s Pacific Division and how the Canucks stack up against their rivals:


Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks watches during the second period of a game against the San Jose Sharks at the Honda Center on September 30, 2021 in Anaheim, California.
Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks watches during the second period of a game against the San Jose Sharks at the Honda Center on September 30, 2021 in Anaheim, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey /fake images

Anaheim ducks

The Ducks still have a legendary captain in Ryan Getzlaf, but he’s far from the dominant force he once was. They bring several younger players with them, but a large part of their roster is in their 20s and 30s.

The Ducks were brutal last season, recording just 17 wins, and are confident that their young players are ready to take a big step forward.

They don’t have a number one center like Elias Pettersson, but their defense, while aging, runs even deeper in the first two pairs than the Canucks.

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Calgary Flames goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Calgary Flames goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Calgary Flames

That the flames turn out to be less than the sum of their parts has become an annual thing. GM Brad Treliving continues to have opportunities to fix his team.

Not much changed from last year’s team, with Blake Coleman being the only real addition this offseason. Connor Zary is a great face for the future, but he’s injured to start the season.

And the disappointing Sean Monahan remains his number one center.

They sure look a lot like the team that just played rope against the Canucks last spring.


Connor McDavid (97) of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated by his teammate Leon Draisaitl (29) after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on May 3, 2021 in Vancouver.
Connor McDavid (97) of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated by his teammate Leon Draisaitl (29) after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on May 3, 2021 in Vancouver. Photo by Rich Lam /Getty Images, archive

Edmonton Oilers

They still have two of the best players in the game: Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

They are still far from a perfect team. They may have three key new faces in Cody Ceci, Duncan Keith, and Zach Hyman, but all three feel more like a lounger movement than a step toward improvement.

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There are still doubts about depth up front and defense. And they are running again with an old goalkeeper in Mike Smith, backed by the overpaid Mikko Koskinen.

Despite their high elite level, are they much better than the Canucks?


Jaret Anderson-Dolan # 28 of the Los Angeles Kings skates the puck ahead of teammate Carl Grundstrom # 91 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the third period of their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 1, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  .
Jaret Anderson-Dolan # 28 of the Los Angeles Kings skates the puck ahead of teammate Carl Grundstrom # 91 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the third period of their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 1, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. . Photo by Ethan Miller /fake images

Los Angeles Kings

Like the Ducks, the Kings have been focused on the future for the past two seasons.

They still have their old core of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. They also added old friend Alex Edler on the blue line. Winger Viktor Arvidsson is definitely a great player.

But most of the rest of the lineup is young. They signed Philip Danault to a six-year contract and will be leaning on him to play heavy defensive minutes, freeing up offensive ice time for kid geniuses like Gabriel Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan and hot prospects Quinton Byfield (off with an ankle fractured), Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev.

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They will surely battle the Canucks for a playoff spot this season.


Simon Benoit # 86 of the Anaheim Ducks fights Jeffrey Viel # 63 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period of a game at the Honda Center on September 30, 2021 in Anaheim, California.
Simon Benoit # 86 of the Anaheim Ducks fights Jeffrey Viel # 63 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period of a game at the Honda Center on September 30, 2021 in Anaheim, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey /fake images

Sharks of San José

Like kings and ducks, sharks have had their eyes staring straight ahead. They only won 21 games last season, the same as Los Angeles, but they aren’t about to take a huge leap forward like the Kings are.

Their blue line has a pair of former stars in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, they still have Logan Couture up front but Evander Kane, their best player in last year’s lackluster campaign, is out.

And they don’t have any exciting talents, at least not yet.

The Canucks should be better. Emphasis on should.


Vancouver Canucks' Phillip Di Giuseppe, left, records Seattle Kraken's Jeremy Lauzon on the boards during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Vancouver, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
Vancouver Canucks’ Phillip Di Giuseppe, left, records Seattle Kraken’s Jeremy Lauzon on the boards during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Vancouver, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Photo by LA PRENSA CANADIENSE / Darryl Dyck /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Seattle Kraken

The newest NHL team had a strange expansion draft. They mainly opted for intermediate players, leaving the higher profile players intact.

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That left room in the salary cap and Seattle went after him, signing Phillip Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Wennberg.

It looks like they will be a hard-working team, a solid roster but no stars out and out. Are they a playoff team? Probably? Most importantly, his defense is quite solid and Grubauer was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year.

This will be a tough team to score, to say the least. The I-5 Rivalry is sure to be fun from the start.


Johan Larsson # 22 of the Arizona Coyotes attempts to rebound Robin Lehner # 90 of the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 7, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Johan Larsson # 22 of the Arizona Coyotes attempts to rebound Robin Lehner # 90 of the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 7, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller /fake images

Vegas Golden Knights

In truth, this division is Las Vegas, then everyone else.

GM Kelly McCrimmon didn’t change much about his team, which lost in the semifinals to the Montreal Canadiens last summer. Marc-Andre Fleury was transferred to the Chicago Blackhawks, ending a fold controversy and handing over the keys to Robin Lehner.

This team remains deep throughout, but with its core now in its 20s, the time to build the next team will soon be at hand. These guys will know it’s time.

If they don’t win the division, something will have gone very wrong.

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