Kuzma: Boeser already a foundation for Canucks to emulate Avs’ revival

 

 
 
 
 
Brock Boeser competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.
 
 

Brock Boeser competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.

Photograph by: Mike Carlson, The Province

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In a humorous red-carpet moment with a pint-sized interviewer, Brock Boeser was asked before Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game what special super power he would most covet.

He chose flying. How appropriate.

The Vancouver Canucks’ right-winger is soaring after a whirlwind weekend in Tampa Bay, Fla. He won the accuracy shooting competition, helped Team Pacific win the 3-on-3 event and won a car for being named the All-Star Game’s most valuable player.

“I would have never dreamt of this at any time in my life,” said Boeser. “I was pretty shocked. I didn’t expect it. A lot of guys on our team could have got the MVP.

“I was definitely nervous and had some sweat going down my palms before the shooting contest (Saturday), but once you meet most of the guys and have some laughs, it’s easier to enjoy the experience.

“I wasn’t too nervous (Sunday). I knew just to smile, have fun and play hockey. I enjoyed all of it.”

If you’re keeping tabs on bonuses in the Plan A schedule of his entry-level contract, the 20-year-old whiz kid has accumulated US$637,500 and will reach other categories to max out at the allotted $850,000. None of this surprises Canucks’ defenceman Troy Stetcher, whose history with Boeser runs from University of North Dakota teammates to current roommates.

“I wasn’t surprised that he has had success, but I am surprised to the magnitude it has taken off to,” Stetcher said Monday. “He’s a confident kid and very humble. He works extremely hard when you look at natural goal scorers. You can say it’s a God-given talent.

“I kind of look at Brock the same way. He has been through a lot and a lot just comes from within. It’s who he is. He had to mature at a young age and it’s how responsible he is handling the spotlight.”

Beyond the financial windfall, Boeser has already become a foundation for the Canucks to build upon.

When you see the amazing turnaround of the Colorado Avalanche — rebounding from a franchise low 48 points last season as the NHL’s worst club — to having a 10-game win streak stopped last week and being in playoff contention — there are lessons the Canucks can learn.

Here’s what has made the Avalanche relevant again:

• Career season from key player. Nathan MacKinnon is second in league scoring with 60 points.

• Getting younger faster. The Avalanche went from eight 30-plus players to just two. The oldest is 32.

• Improving special teams. The penalty kill has gone from 29th to second. The power play from 30th to 11th.

• Better goaltending. Backup Jonathan Bernier went on a 12-7-1 run with a .917 save percentage.

• Good room vibes. Matt Duchene got his trade wish and the Avs got a bonanza in return and started winning.

• Not panicking. AHL championship coach Jared Bednar was allowed to make it to Year Two.

And there’s more. Colorado was also ahead of the game’s development curve.

Tyson Barrie was drafted in the third round in 2009 because smaller and swifter defencemen were starting to not only stake roster claims, they were effective. Up front, 2015 first-round pick Mikko Rantanen has 17 goals and is on the first line at right wing. And college free-agent centre Alex Kerfoot has a dozen goals.

It’s why the Avalanche addressed their back end in the 2017 draft and selected Cale Makar fourth overall and Conor Timmins 32nd.

They were world junior hockey tournament standouts for gold-medal winning Team Canada. The Canucks need to take the same approach because they have prime prospects coming up front in Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich.

And regardless of what Henrik and Daniel Sedin decide about their playing futures, the Canucks need to keep trending younger, even if it means losing leadership and 100 combined points from the twins.

Bo Horvat and Boeser are the foundation of what can eventually be here, even though it might seem unfair to place that much pressure on Boeser.

“Even if points don’t come next year at the same pace, he’s still going to be effective and score goals,” said Stetcher. “What you see is what you get and he’s only going to get better.”

Added coach Travis Green: “Seeing the poise on and off the ice for me is impressive. It’s how he reacts to having success and going forward that is going to be important.

“We want Brock to be part of something that’s special, a winning atmosphere and he’s going to play a big part in that.”

Horvat is going to be the future captain, he’s going to accept a bigger role and he knows a turnaround is not that far-fetched with what the Avalanche have accomplished.

“It gives any team like us confidence that we can do this,” said Horvat. “Brock understands that he’s a big part of this team and it’s time that young guys take over and begin to be leaders on and off the ice.

“Winning has to become second nature to us.”

Maybe Stecher put it best.

“A lot of it has to do with the belief in the room,” he stressed. “It’s one thing to have guys in place, it’s believing in what you want to accomplish. There have been nights where we’ve been embarrassed, but when we play teams higher in the standings, we’ve beat a lot of good teams.

“That’s going to carry over to next year, but it’s going to take time and it’s understanding where we were (14-10-4 when Horvat was injured) and showing your true colours the rest of this season.”

OVERTIME — Erik Gudbranson (back) practised Monday and is expected to play either Thursday or Saturday.

bkuzma@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/benkuzma

NEXT GAME

Tuesday

Colorado Avalanche vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, SNETP, SNET 650 AM

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Brock Boeser competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.
 

Brock Boeser competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.

Photograph by: Mike Carlson, The Province

 
Brock Boeser competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.
Brock Boeser's comfort factor with stars like Patrick Kane, right, will serve him well.
Even a little interviewer wanted a big piece of Brock Boeser in Tampa, Fla.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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