For the last couple of weeks, NHL Network has been unveiling its lists of the 20 top players at each position—always a great source of debate among fans around the league.
Last night, they revealed their top 20 wings—with some Canuck content at No. 19.
But wait—it gets better! The network also posted a list of the top 20 wingers as voted by fans.
The fans gave Brock a big boost, pushing him all the way up to No. 8. Lofty, putting a young guy who plays in a Candian market above established stars like Phil Kessel and Jamie Benn.
Now, run your eyes all the way to the bottom of the list. What the heck is Jake Virtanen doing at No. 20???
No offense to the pride of Abbotsford, but Jake's career highs of 10 goals and 20 points last season tied him for 64th among just right-wingers last season according to NHL.com
—tied with Jesse Puljujarvi and Andrew Shaw. The fans who propelled him into the Top 20 must be anticipating a William Karlsson-like breakthrough season for Jake. Wild Bill famously went from 25 points in 2016-17 with Columbus to 78 last year with Vegas.
A sudden burst like that in production from Virtanen, who turned 22 last week, would certainly wreak havoc with expectations, wouldn't it? Dare to dream.
I'm also growing intrigued to see what the Canucks have in Tim Schaller, their July 1st free-agent signing who has mostly flown under the radar while Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel drew the lion's share of attention.
Looking through his social media, Schaller seems like he's a big personality. He goes by "Dr. Schaller" on Twitter and here's his bio:
I'm a well known Scientist. Vancouver Canucks #59
Schaller did spend four years at Providence College; maybe he studied science while he was there?
He does have one intriguing medical item in his history: back in 2007, he was a bone marrow donor for his brother Dave, who was suffering from a life-threatening blood disease called Aplastic Anemia. After the successful transplant, Dave came up with a unique way to show his gratitude, and the #TimmyHeads that showed up at Bruins games became a tool to raise money for cancer research through The Jimmy Fund in Boston.
For more on what Schaller brought to on the ice, here's a good pre-free-agency read from Bruins' insider Joe Haggerty:
I was stunned that Schaller got $1.9 million per season from the Canucks after earning just $775,000 last year in Boston. Haggerty suggested in June that he figured Schaller had done enough during the 2017-18 season to "shop for a two-year deal in the $2.5-3 million range," so the Canucks did beat that number. I'll assume that's what they felt needed to be done in order to bag their prize. CapFriendly
shows the Bruins with less than $3 million in available cap space with 23 players now signed for next season, so the team didn't have a lot of wiggle room; perhaps they would have been willing to bring Schaller back for a bit less money. Instead, perhaps, the Bruins signed a different 27-year-old New England boy, Chris Wagner, to a two-year deal that pays him $1.25 million a year.
Schaller's a big man, listed at 6'2" and 210 pounds, but is said to be a strong skater for his size. He and Riley Nash were the most-used forwards on Boston's third-ranked penalty kill last season, and three of his 12 goals on the year came shorthanded. Derek Dorsett and Markus Granlund were the only Canucks players with more than one shorty last season—they each had two. Suddenly, Schaller's starting to come into focus as someone who might slot into the high-energy, hard-to-play-against Dorsett role that was so important to the Canucks during the early part of last season.
Word is that Schaller underwent hand surgery around the end of May, which was expected to require about three months of rehab. I'll be cautiously optimistic that he'll be ready for training camp as planned. There's no sign of a cast or bandages in any of his offseason Instagram photos, including this one from late June that clearly shows both his hands.
Jay Beagle has a reputation for being good with the media. Schaller seems like he's also going to be a quotable guy who will take some of the pressure off Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser as they move further into the spotlight after the departure of the Sedins.
One final note to close: we're into the last week of action at Da Beauty League, with the semifinals on Monday and the final on Wednesday.
Your hero Brock Boeser did end the regular season as the league's leading scorer; his 30 points in seven games were six better than second-place Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders, who appeared in eight games.
Boeser's Team Bic will be facing Tria today at 4 p.m. PT, with the action live on YouTube as usual.
Like last year, he'll also hit the ice between games for the opportunity to play with his sister Jessica.