3. Vancouver Canucks
What I thought: I thought the Vancouver Canucks were a talented team, but they were a bit too top-heavy for my liking. Back in October, I wasn’t sold on their goaltending. Even in a weak Pacific Division, I didn’t think they’d be serious contenders to make the playoffs, even in a best case scenario.
Why I was wrong: There were several things I was quite wrong about. The biggest thing I was wrong about was just how good Quinn Hughes would be as a rookie. Did I see him being a legitimate All-Star and borderline top pairing defenseman already? No. Hughes was always primed to have a special year, I just didn’t think he’d be one of the best defensemen in the NHL already.
Secondly, I underestimated the addition of J.T. Miller. To be fair, his spot in the lineup was a bit of a question mark. Would he play with Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat? It turned to be primarily the former and they helped form a remarkably effective trio with Brock Boeser. Miller is having a fantastic season and I’ll be the first to admit I underestimated what he brings to the table.
Thirdly, nobody saw Jacob Markstrom being a very good goalie this season. He was always good, but this season, he’s taken his game to another level. Markstrom’s .918% save percentage is a career high. Thatcher Demko has been decent in a backup role, but for the first time in his career, Markstrom’s looking like a bona-fide starting goalie. Fourthly, the Pacific Division was way worse than many thought.
In short, the Canucks had a perfect storm happen. I’m still not sold on them as serious Stanley Cup contenders, but they’re clearly a lot further long than I initially thought.