“It was a long four months, so it feels really good to get back out there,” the 21-year-old forward said Wednesday between games at Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer league featuring players with connections to Minnesota. “I feel like I’m playing my game again. It’s been a good summer since they cleared me.”
Boeser, the runner-up to New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, had 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 62 games, fifth among first-year players.
It was a breakout season, but one that could add pressure for a repeat, especially with the Canucks beginning a new era following the retirement of forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin after 17 seasons in the NHL.
“There’s always pressure, at least you think there’s pressure, but I try not to let pressure situations get the most of me,” Boeser said. “I definitely exceeded my expectations [last season], so I think I can take that into [this season].
“I really can’t get away from the style play that I play. I think I just need to go in there and hopefully be a better player than I was last year, make sure I come to the rink every day working hard and help make the team better.”
If Boeser’s performance in Da Beauty League is any indication, he could take a step forward this season. He leads the league in goals (10), assists (12) and points (22) through five games.
“He looks great out there,” said Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, a teammate of Boeser’s in Da Beauty League with Team Bic. “He has a knack for finding the back of the net, that’s for sure. I’m just glad we’re on the same team when he’s scoring all those goals.”
With success comes the potential for great reward. Entering the final season of a three-year, entry-level contract, Boeser can become a restricted free agent July 1.
“It’s obviously in your train of thought, and it will be throughout the year whenever [the Canucks] start talking to us or whenever they want to get [a contract] signed, but I’ve just got to go into the year not worrying about it at all and just play my game,” Boeser said. “Once we start having talks about contracts, then we’ll have it then, but I love it [in Vancouver]. The fans were super fun last year, they supported me, so it’s a great organization.”
Boeser said he has been working on the finer points of his game, including skating and explosiveness. He’s also ready to help take on a leadership role with other young players and prospects in Vancouver, including forwards Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen.
The Canucks will look to improve after finishing with 73 points last season, 22 behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
“It’s really exciting,” Boeser said. “I think us young guys are excited to get out to the season and see what we can do. We just take it year by year and hopefully take this team back to where they were.”