NHL preseason games got underway with the young Vancouver Canucks travelling to Los Angeles, beating the Kings 4-3 in overtime Saturday before coming home to host the franchise debut for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
The Knights drubbed the Canucks 9-4, exposing Vancouver’s young defensive play, and its goaltending depth, which may be thinner than some suspected.
The big takeaway from the weekend was that the Canucks fan base needs top prospect Brock Boeser in Vancouver all season, and he deserves it.
While the score is essentially meaningless in such a game (only two players from last season dressed for the Canucks after the veterans left for China), the optics of a 9-4 loss to the expected-to-be-hapless expansion Knights aren’t good to Canucks fans.
Also, it’s fair to remember the front office’s mantra that they want their youngsters to develop around a culture of winning, not losing.
Jim Benning and company are playing the long game, betting their draft picks have an eventual higher upside than their lottery competition.
In recent years, draft hauntings (perceived or real) have had a tendency to shine a spotlight on Vancouver.
So, of course, Cody Glass, the western Canadian centre Vegas took with the #6 overall pick in this spring’s draft – right after Vancouver selected Elias Pettersson, who is still in Sweden – had two assists at Rogers Arena in the first game ever played by the franchise.
Overall, prospect news was mixed for Canucks fans.
Top D prospect Olli Juolevi shone at times but showed he needs more seasoning before being ready for the NHL level.
Presumed netminder of the future Thatcher Demko gave up four goals in just over half a game.
Power forward Jake Virtanen has shown promising improvement, finishing checks, getting shots and becoming a net-front presence.
Which brings us to Boeser, the 6-foot-1, 191-pound 20-year-old right winger out of the University of North Dakota.
He scored the game-winning goal on a great shot in L.A. on Saturday, before adding two more nice goals plus a smart assist Sunday at Rogers.
This start, after potting four goals in a nine-game cup-of-coffee at the end of last year’s lost season.
The younger squad is at Calgary Wednesday and Edmonton Friday, while the veterans play the Kings in China Thursday (4:30 a.m.) and Saturday (12:30 a.m.) before two complete roster games hosting the Flames and Oilers to wind up the exhibition season at the end of the month.
Some of the many questions facing the Canucks entering the 2017-18 campaign are: where will goal-scoring come from? How soon will the future start to arrive? How can we get fans excited and in the seats?
The answer to all of these questions appears to be Brock Boeser.