7 Canucks who are built to thrive in the playoffs

Playoff hockey is different than regular-season hockey. That is a fact of the NHL that several Vancouver Canucks are about to discover as they get their first taste of the postseason.

The Canucks have booked their ticket and will begin their first-round series in less than two weeks. They’ve had an incredible season buoyed by some breakout players, but who will be the breakout stars of the postseason?

There’s a certain type of hockey player that usually thrives in the playoffs. Here are seven current Canucks who fit the description.

1. Dakota Joshua

  • Position: LW
  • 2023-24 stats: 60 GP, 16 G, 14 A, 30 PTS
  • Career playoff stats: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS

There is perhaps no more obvious choice on this list than Dakota Joshua. The bruising power forward is one of the best net-front players on the team. He has the perfect blend of skill and power to thrive in the postseason.

Joshua also will help a lot on the penalty kill and perhaps even the power play. Along with linemate Conor Garland he has driven play extremely well and that will go a long way in the playoffs.

2. J.T Miller

  • Position: C
  • 2023-24 stats: 79 GP, 36 G, 65 A, 101 PTS
  • Career playoff stats: 78 GP, 9 G, 35 A, 44 PTS

The Canucks assistant captain J.T. Miller has improved by leaps and bounds. Not only is he scoring at the best rate of his career, he’s developed into a strong two-way centre. That defensive aspect of his game will be crucial in the playoffs against the true superstars of the league.

Miller does have previous playoff experience but he wasn’t the same player then as he is now. During the bubble run with the Canucks in 2020, he scored better than a point-per-game. He’s enjoying a career season and could even best that rate.

3. Thatcher Demko

  • Position: G
  • 2023-24 stats: 49 GP, 34 W, 13 L, 2 OTL, .917% SV%, 2.47 GAA, 5 SO
  • Career playoff stats: 4 GP, 2 W, 1 L, .984 SV%, 0.64 GAA, 1 SO

There’s a reason that the memory of Thatcher Demko was blamed for the Vegas Golden Knights losing in the 2020 playoffs. “Bubble Demko” was a different player. Just glancing at his career playoff stats gives an idea of how ridiculous he was.

He’s extremely competitive and hates to lose. If he can even reach a fraction of the level that he did last time the stakes were raised, the Canucks will be extremely hard to beat.

4. Nils Höglander

  • Position: LW
  • 2023-24 stats: 77 GP, 23 G, 12 A, 35 PTS
  • Career playoff stats: N/A

While he isn’t the biggest player on the team, Nils Höglander is one of the best at winning puck battles. He’s stocky and his low centre of gravity lets him be a menace on the forecheck. That’s a skill that will serve him well in the physical postseason.

He’s never played an NHL playoff game before but with the way that he seeks out collisions and gets low to win battles, he seems naturally suited to the play style we see in the spring.

5. Nikita Zadorov

  • Position: D
  • 2023-24 stats: 51 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 PTS (Canucks)
  • Career playoff stats: 45 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 PTS

Nikita Zadorov has been a lot of fun to watch since being acquired by the Vancouver Canucks midway through this season. The 6-foot-6 defenceman likes to lay the body and has delivered some crushing hits.

He also is a very good skater for his size and isn’t afraid to jump up into the play. The combination of size and skating makes him a good fit for the postseason where he will likely deliver more hits like the one below.

6. Vasily Podkolzin

  • Position: W
  • 2023-24 stats: 16 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS
  • Career playoff stats: N/A

Vasily Podkolzin has looked like a new player since being recalled after the All-Star break. While the offensive production hasn’t been there, he’s played a direct brand of hockey that head coach Rick Tocchet appreciates.

It remains to be seen how much ice time he will get in the postseason. He was on the outside looking in when the Canucks last practiced, but if he does crack the lineup then fans should expect a ferocious forechecker.

7. Ian Cole

  • Position: D
  • 2023-24 stats: 76 GP, 2 G, 9 AST, 11 PTS
  • Career playoff stats: 116 GP, 3 G, 26 A, 29 PTS

With more than 100 career playoff games played and multiple Stanley Cups, Ian Cole is an important presence in the Canucks dressing room. That experience is invaluable and will help the veteran play a big role for the relatively inexperienced group.