Canucks: The number that explains Dakota Joshua’s season

Dakota Joshua was signed to be a depth player with upside. He’s delivered this season. So have Conor Garland and J.T. Miller.

Get the latest from Patrick Johnston straight to your inbox

Article content

After being out injured for six weeks, Dakota Joshua finally returned to the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup on Thursday night.

Advertisement 2

Article content

And it was no small role he was filling: before he was hurt, he’d been a linchpin on a hard-working third line with Conor Garland and Teddy Blueger.

Article content

But life moves fast and now. His hand healed, he’s found himself skating against the Dallas Stars on a line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser.

Miller and Boeser have spent a lot of time this season soaking up tough matchups and holding their own, then turning around and scoring.

Joshua, who arrived as a fourth liner a season ago, has grown his game leaps and bounds and is now an essential two-way presence, a player who on paper looks like a great fit for the Miller line.

He’s as physical as it gets, using his size and strong skating to cause chaos on the forecheck.

That’s in Miller’s wheelhouse and more in Boeser’s too.

Advertisement 3

Article content

It’s a line where you need to keep your stick on the ice, ready to shoot because Miller’s a magical passer, whether in tight or from far away.

Joshua learned to be ready for moments like that playing with Garland.

We start this week’s look at some Canucks numbers by considering an important one about Joshua.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing MacKenzie Entwistle, left, and Vancouver Canucks center Dakota Joshua fight during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Chicago. Photo by Erin Hooley /AP


When Joshua is on the ice this season at even strength, the Canucks have had 3.63 more high-danger chances per 60 minutes on the opposition net than on their own.

And the opposition have managed just 8.89 chances per 60 minutes. That’s an impressive defensive record, reflective of the Canucks’ overall improvement defensively.

How big is the improvement? Joshua’s record last season spoke to the team’s overall chaotic defensive play: The opposition was getting 12.42 high-danger chances per 60 minutes of Joshua five on five ice time.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

The game is being played at the right end of the ice when Joshua is on and it’s not solely due to him, but he helps a lot.

The intriguing thing: he’s thrived in structured hockey before. In his 30-game rookie season with St. Louis in 2021-22, the Blues posted similar numbers with Joshua on the ice.

He was just playing 3.5 minutes per game less than he is this season.

The Canucks hoped he’d have high upside and he’s delivered. Not every fourth-liner with good numbers pans out when handed a bigger role, but if you’re smart in which one you make your bets on — high-character players with smarts like Joshua are a good target — you can make your team better.


One other reason why Joshua has had such a strong season has been all that time with Garland.

Advertisement 5

Article content

It’s not just that Garland is crafty with the puck, it’s how he’s thrived in the Canucks’ system of high expectation.

Garland is skating with Elias Pettersson of late and looks like he’s found a new home, but on the season he’s actually averaged the least amount of per-game ice time over his three seasons in Vancouver: just 12:08 per game. That’s 46 seconds per game less than last season and 1 minute 50 seconds less than 2021-22.

Yet he’s thriving.

Like the rest of his teammates, shot-attempts against are way down. Indeed his shot-attempts against per 60 minutes of five on five play is a career low: he’s never gone a full season with his team giving up less than 50 shot attempts per 60, but this season the Canucks are yielding just 47.5 shot attempts per 60 with him on the ice.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Coupled with the Canucks’ strong offensive play with Garland on the ice — 59.9 shot attempts per 60 minutes of five on five — the Canucks are taking 55.8 per cent of the shot attempts when Garland is on the ice at five on five.


Finally a note about the remarkable play of Joshua’s new centre.

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 season and before Thursday’s game versus the Dallas Stars, Miller has tallied 272 points.

That’s good for 10th overall in the NHL in that span, an impressive place to be. That’s as many point as Mitch Marner in that span, though in 19 more games.

But the point is the company is impressive. He’s just behind Auston Matthews (12 points), Artemi Panarin (18 points), David Pastrnak (19 points) and Matthew Tkachuk (20 points).

Advertisement 7

Article content

And in terms of the Canucks’ all-time list, he’s again in heady company. He’s sitting on the fourth-most productive three-year stretch in team history, behind Henrik Sedin’s 288 points, Markus Naslund’s 278 points and Pavel Bure’s 277 points. (Side point: just imagine Naslund playing in the modern era.)

Miller’s wrapping up his fifth year as a Canuck and it’s reasonable to think of him as one of the faces of franchise history at this point. He was a pretty good player when he arrived here in 2019, but he’s only got better and this season has been outstanding.

“J.T. is a much better player than he was when Benning traded for him,” one NHL scout said recently.

So here’s to Joshua, Garland and Miller: all three are thriving this season.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Call them graduates of the Rick Tocchet Institute of Higher-level Hockey Play.

[email protected]

Recommended from Editorial

Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add and to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.

You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.

Article content


Leave a Comment