Vancouver Canucks 2021 season preview: The rise of Elias Pettersson

Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire

Thanks to an impressive batch of talented young players, the Vancouver Canucks gave the heavily favored Vegas Golden Knights just about all they could handle in the 2020 NHL postseason. What will they do for an encore?

For one, expect even more out of the otherworldly Elias Pettersson. And seeing Braden Holtby in a non-Washington Capitals crease will be captivating. Here's everything you need to know prior to opening night of the 2020-21 season:

Big question: Have the Canucks lost their safety net?

Jacob Markstrom finished 15th for the Hart Trophy last season, and there's an argument he should have been higher. The goalie posted a .918 save percentage in 43 games for Vancouver, winning 23 of them. He was the last line of defense for a team still learning how to play defense at a championship level. Markstrom took his talents to Calgary as a free agent, as his contract demands were too lofty and lengthy for Vancouver.

Former Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, whose numbers have slid since the second of his Vezina Trophy nominations in 2017, replaces him, alongside incumbent (and brief playoff sensation) Thatcher Demko. The Canucks can't be as reliant on that duo as they were on Markstrom. They have to be a better all-around defensive team.