The Vancouver Giants struggled near at the end of 2021 losing 10 of their past 11 games. Despite only picking up two of a possible 22 points, they are still in a playoff spot with more than half the season to go. Here are three things to watch for in 2022.

Players Returning from World Juniors

One of the big reason’s the Giants struggled near the end of the season was losing players to the World Juniors. Vancouver lost Justin Sourdif, Fabian Lysell and Jesper Vikman to the tournament in December. They also lost head coach Michael Dyck as he was named an assistant coach with Team Canada.

Losing your top goaltender and your top two leading scorers would put most teams in a bind. Will Gurski played well in Vikman’s absence, but the defence gave up too many chances and the offence was stymied by some of the best goaltending performances in the league this season. The boost of Lysell and Sourdif returning to the lineup should help solve some of the issues that were present the last 11 games.

Center Depth Continues to Be a Strength

The Giants have some of the best center depth in the league. Ty Thorpe and Sourdif have created a strong foundation in the top six while Jaden Lipinski and Ty Halaburda have shown vast improvement since the start of the season. Zack Ostapchuk has also shown promise as a center this season filling in when injury or World Junior call ups occur.

For the Giants to be successful, they need to keep up their strong faceoff work. All four of the starting centers (Thorpe, Sourdif, Lipinski and Halaburda) are over 50% in the faceoff dot this season. The most impressive player on the faceoff this season has to be Thorpe. His 61.6%-win percentage is the best in the WHL amongst players who have taken more than 100 draws. If the Giants can continue their strong play on the draws, they should see a bounce back sooner rather than later.

Penalty Kill is Crucial in 2022

The Giants finished 2021 with the second worst penalty kill this season. They are currently ranked at 74.4% and have allowed 33 power play goals against. Although they are one of the best teams when it comes to home penalty kill, on the road, they have struggled mightily giving up 23 goals on 75 attempts.

The best way to fix this problem is for the Giants to stay out of the box. They currently lead the division with 12.5 penalty minutes a game and have been shorthanded at least four times in each of their last three games. The good news is the Giants are getting back some of their best penalty killers in Sourdif and Adam Hall. Hopefully, the two can reconnect on the penalty kill and help the Giants improve this vital part of their game.

Plenty to Look Forward to in 2022

The Giants should have a strong 2022 based on their lineup. Players like Alex Cotton, Tanner Brown and Connor Horning will look to lead the blueline while Sourdif, Lysell and Ostapchuk should have no problem putting the puck in the net. Luckily, the majority of games are at home for the rest of the season so travel should not be that big of an issue in the new year. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the Giants as they are sure to bounce back in a big way the rest of the season.