Pressure exists for everyone involved in the chase for the Stanley Cup. And while much about this season’s pursuit will differ from other years, that same pressure to perform at the highest level will still exist the moment the puck drops in the play-in round. For the Vancouver Canucks, there will be pressure on a number of players to perform if the team is to advance past the Minnesota Wild and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2015. In order, here is where the pressure falls on individual members of the Canucks organization as they begin their qualifying series with the Wild on Sunday:

  1. Jacob Markstrom. As a goalie in a hockey-crazed Canadian market, the pressure will clearly be on the 30-year-old Swede getting his first taste of NHL post-season action. Take into account the four-month lay-off and the fact Markstrom had to rehab a knee injury during the COVID break, there are some questions about his game. He looked like he knocked much of the rust off with a strong second week of training camp, but he’ll need to find his mid-season form in a hurry because everyone knows what Markstrom means to Canucks and their fortunes. Speaking of fortunes, remember too, it’s a contract year and Markstrom has to set aside any distractions that may cause. There will be a time to talk dollars and cents when the season is over. Right now, his focus has to be on being the difference maker he’s been the past two seasons when he’s been named team MVP. Anything less from Markstrom and the Canucks could be in trouble.

 

  1. JT Miller. Incredibly, the Canucks leading scorer this season has managed just 3 goals in 61 career playoff games. That number has to change – and likely significantly this summer – if Canucks are to get on any kind of post-season run. Miller is likely due for a bounce or two with a career 3.2% career playoff shooting percentage (3 goals on 95 shots). A front-liner on this team, he’ll be in position to make a difference at both even strength and on the power play. With what he’s shown in his first season in Canuck colours, Miller seems overdue for individual playoff success. But make no mistake there is some heat on him to make that happen. You may have heard, but the Canucks paid a steep price to get him.

 

  1. Brock Boeser. Based on his performance over 10 days of training camp, Boeser looks primed to break out in a big way. He needs that and so does his hockey team. He enters his first NHL post-season having gone his last 12 regular season games without a goal. A second-liner and on the second power play unit, Boeser may not have the same scoring opportunities he’s been accustomed to at other points in his young career. Regardless, he needs to be heard from in this series against his hometown Wild. The conversation around Boeser can’t be about chances and shots on goal when series with Minnesota is over. People need to be talking about big goals and big games from a player capable of delivering.

 

  1. Travis Green. Pressure applies to coaches, too, especially one getting his first look at the NHL post-season from behind the bench. Despite great goaltending and a number of players having career offensive seasons, Green’s Canucks were still just a bubble team when COVID hit in mid-March and there are questions about the team’s defensive structure. As the higher seed, Green’s Canucks will have ‘home-ice’ advantage in these neutral site games against Minnesota which should lend itself to his hard line-matching preferences. And keep in mind, he’ll be up against Dean Evason, a long-timer NHL’er and veteran assistant coach, but a guy who has just 12 games of NHL head coaching experience. There will be heat on Green to get things right. Will he? We’re about to find out.

 

  1. Tyler Toffoli. The pressure here is to make his trade from Los Angeles worthwhile from a Canucks perspective. The team dealt prospect Tyler Madden and a second round pick to the Kings to acquire Toffoli who fit in seamlessly with six goals and 10 points in his first 10 games. That stretch was a nice primer for these games that matter more. The Canucks paid a hefty price for his goal-scoring and stout two way game and they’ll need that in the weeks ahead. A former Stanley Cup winner, Toffoli brings plenty of veteran playoff experience to the mix and that should help him as the stakes are raised. Also, as a pending UFA, Toffoli has an opportunity to boost his value with a strong post-season run

 

  1. Bo Horvat. This is the first post-season on Captain Bo’s watch. That carries weight and pressure. As the leader of the hockey club, Horvat is expected to produce. Additionally, in the role in which he’s used, he’ll likely be matched-up against Eric Staal and expected to come out on the right end of that battle. Horvat has developed into a power play ace with a team-high 12 goals with the man-advantage, but his even-strength offense dried up over the second half of the season. Horvat will likely log big minutes in the post-season and with those big minutes come big expectations. That's just the way it works.

 

  1. Jim Benning. The general manager’s work is done for now and yet there is still plenty of pressure on him. The Canucks have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons and surely Benning wants to see that streak end right now. Is the team he has assembled good enough to beat the Wild? Benning doesn’t play the games, but he’s the one that has laid out the blueprint for this hockey club. He’s made moves to bring in veterans he believes are built for games and series just like these. Will all of that experience pay off? Is there enough insolation around the team’s budding core? We’re about to find out. There aren’t many general managers in North American professional sports that go five straight years without winning a playoff round.

 

  1. Jay Beagle. That’s Stanley Cup champion Jay Beagle, to you. And that’s exactly why the Canucks were willing to extend a four-year offer to the veteran centre two summers ago. A face-off and penalty killing specialist, Beagle doesn’t provide much in the way of offense. He has to show he can hold his own defensively in this series. His most important contribution, however, may be imparting wisdom on his young teammates who are experiencing post-season hockey at this level for the first time.

 

  1. Micheal Ferland. The fact Ferland is included on this list is a good sign. Two weeks ago, he remained a massive wild card to even make the team’s traveling roster to Edmonton. After a strong second week of training camp, Ferland now looks primed to make his return to the line-up for the first time since December. The pressure on Ferland is to show he can still be a physical force while chipping in offense. As much as it’s great to see him back in the game, remember, he has three more years left beyond this one on his contract. He needs to show he can play at this level now and moving forward.

 

  1. Elias Pettersson. There really isn’t much pressure on Pettersson relative to his older and more experienced teammates. Sure, the Canucks will need him to be his usual offensive dynamo if they’re going to stay in the hunt for the Cup, but this is Pettersson’s first look at the post-season. We’ll give him a longer leash than others when it comes to applying pressure. Besides, he has taken all challenges in his young hockey career head-on and come out on top more often than not. It’s hard to see why this strange summer tournament would be any different.

 

  1. Quinn Hughes. Much of the same applies to Hughes. He’ll likely get special attention from the Wild, but they have to catch him first. And that’s not easy. He has looked game-ready from the first day of summer camp and a motivated Quinn Hughes should be an exciting prospect for the Canucks and their fans. He has achieved at every level he’s played and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be a factor in his first post-season appearance.

 

  1. Adam Gaudette. The pressure for Gaudette will come if the Wild try to exploit the young centre in his own zone. While Gaudette has proven to be a capable offensive generator for the Canucks in sheltered usage, he may be seen by Minnesota as a player they can attack with their match-up game. As such, it will be worth monitoring how Gaudette is used by Travis Green. In his last game, despite scoring against the New York Islanders on March 10th, Gaudette logged just 8:15 of ice time. That was a non-conference regular season game. Now we’re talking post-season and we’re about to find out how much ice time a player like Gaudette will get and his defensive play may dictate his usage as the play-in series moves along.