Building off a breakthrough: Brock Boeser

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Vancouver Canucks.

There weren’t too many positive storylines surrounding the 2017-18 edition of the Vancouver Canucks, but rookie forward Brock Boeser was definitely one of them.

The 21-year-old burst onto the scene by scoring an impressive 29 goals and 55 points in just 62 contests. Despite missing 20 games, he still managed to lead the Canucks in scoring (Daniel Sedin also had 55 points but he hit that number over 81 games). Only Pavel Bure (34) and Trevor Linden (30) have scored more goals during their rookie season in franchise history. That’s some pretty good company for Boeser to be in after his first season.

Boeser and Islanders center Mathew Barzal were in a tight race for the Calder Trophy until the Canucks forward suffered a season-ending back injury when he crashed into the boards awkwardly against the Isles back on Mar. 5. Thankfully for the entire organization, it sounds like he’s going to be 100 percent healthy for the start of training camp.

Asking him to carry this Canucks team to the playoffs might be a little much. After all, Vancouver has been near the basement of the NHL standings for the last three seasons. But for them to take a positive step forward they’ll need their talented youngster to build on his rookie season.

[Canucks Day: 2017-18 Review | Under Pressure: Benning| 3 Questions]

“There’s always pressure, at least you think there’s pressure, but I try not to let pressure situations get the most of me,” Boeser said, per NHL.com. “I definitely exceeded my expectations [last season], so I think I can take that into [this season].

“I really can’t get away from the style play that I play. I think I just need to go in there and hopefully be a better player than I was last year, make sure I come to the rink every day working hard and help make the team better.”

Boeser spent most of last season playing with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. All three players will be back this season, so you’d have to think that they’ll be even more comfortable suiting up together as a line now that they have that experience under their belt.

Even though Boeser and the Canucks probably won’t be competitive this season, they have to be thrilled that help appears to be on the way. Elias Pettersson is one of the better prospects in hockey, Quinton Hughes, who is going back to the University of Michigan this season, probably isn’t too far away from the NHL, either, and Thatcher Demko appears to be the future in goal. So, yeah, Boeser will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting this year, but there’s some talent coming to help out in the near future.

As of right now, all he has to do is worry about not falling into a sophomore slump.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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