Second Line Candidates: Jannik Hansen

Herbert Vasiljevs
July 26 2011 07:06PM

                                 

It seems like pure lunacy to suggest that a forward with a career high of nine goals should be elevated to the top-six on a President’s Trophy winning roster, but the Canucks have a certain Danish winger who’s a legitimate candidate for second line duty in 2011-12.

Jannik Hansen, the 287th pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, is regarded as a terrific skater and effective checking forward whose offensive ceiling is limited due to his “hands of stone”.

If we go back a few years, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler were considered to be elite checkers with limited offensive upside. Remember in 2006-07 when Burrows took 39 games to notch his first goal and found the net only three times all season? How about when Ryan Kesler had six goals and 16 points that season?

When both players were given top-six roles and more offensive responsibility their point totals increased exponentially. In 2008-09, the fourth season of 30 or more games played for both Kesler and Burrows, the two forwards had breakout seasons. Kesler jumped from 37 to 59 points in 2008-09, while Burrows more than doubled his goal total from the season before, tallying 28 goals and 51 points in 2008-09.

In three seasons in the NHL, Hansen has played bottom-six minutes in defensive zone situations and gradually improved his offensive totals. Entering his fourth NHL season, could Hansen be the next checking forward to develop as a late-blooming offensive talent?

*Note: Hansen is headed to arbitration on July 29, but let’s assume Mike Gillis will have the good sense to bring him back.

Here's a look at the advanced stats of the five top candidates to play with Kesler in 2010-11.

2010-11

G/60

A1/60

P/60

O-Zone %

Fin O-zone %

Higgins

0.90

0.67

1.95

46.3

52.3

Sturm

0.56

0.56

1.69

52.0

54.0

Samuelsson

0.75

0.75

1.80

49.1

50.9

Raymond

0.73

0.60

2.06

55.6

53.2

Hansen

0.55

0.97

1.64

34.3

46.5

 *via behindthenet.ca

Hansen is coming off his best offensive season, in which he tallied nine goals and 29 points. Not outstanding totals, but with 28 even-strength points, Hansen had more than Chris Higgins (26) and slightly less than Mikael Samuelsson (31) and Mason Raymond (29). Hansen amassed those points while playing against tougher competition than Raymond and Samuelsson, and while starting just 34 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. He played the majority of the season with Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra, neither of whom has reached the 45-point plateau in their respective careers.

Hansen’s points per 60 minutes is the worst among the five legitimate candidates to play with Kesler, but his quality of teammates and usage as a defensive forward certainly hampered those totals. If Hansen was deployed in more offensive-zone situations and played with better linemates on the second line, he projects to produce more even-strength points than Kesler’s wingers did last season.

Hansen is an elite skater at right wing and would be able to keep up with the blinding speed of Kesler and whichever forward is used at left-wing, whether it’s Marco Sturm, Higgins or Raymond all three have well above-average speed. Kesler’s line is often matched with the opposition’s top forwards and Hansen has proven to have the ability to handle that level of competition. The Dane is a more than competent checker, just look at his zone starts and zone finish ratio.

Hansen was the team’s best fore-checking winger last season. He led Vancouver forwards with 149 hits, he was tops among wingers with 42 takeaways, while only giving it away on 16 occasions. From an eye-test perspective, I can’t remember a Vancouver forward in recent history who is more adept than Hansen at lifting the stick of defenders and coming away with the puck in battles along the boards.

Hansen’s upside as a goal scorer seems quite limited. The most goals the Danish winger has scored at any level is 24, which he produced with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in 2005-06. As shown here in the Pass it to Bulis every goal series, the majority of Hansen’s goals in 2010-11 were scored within five feet of the net on rebounds. His career shooting percentage of 9.7 percent is far from remarkable, but, playing alongside Kesler and co., Hansen would be afforded more opportunities for garbage goals next season.  

An underrated aspect of the 25-year-old’s game is his playmaking ability, as Hansen had 19 assists at even strength last season. His first-assists per 60 minutes rate of 0.97 was third on the roster, behind only the estimable Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Again, those numbers project to only increase with Kesler on the receiving end of the passes, rather than the likes of Malhotra and Torres.

With the uncertainty of Samuelsson’s recovery from off-season abdominal surgery, Hansen could get a long look at the right wing slot on the second line to start the season. And if history tells us anything about speedy defensive-minded Vancouver forwards in their fourth year in the league, Hansen could be in for a breakout season.

 

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Not the Latvian superstar who captured the hearts of Vancouver fans during a sublime 18 game run in 2001-02. I'm a sports reporter and freelance journalist raised in Vancouver and now based in Alberta. Follow me on twitter @remygreer
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#1 Skeeter
July 27 2011, 03:37PM
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Solid work. Hansen's potential as a playmaker is hugely underrated. His vision on the ice is superb and I hope he'll be given a legitimate shot to skate on the second line with Kesler.

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#2 Jordan Clarke
July 28 2011, 09:10PM
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Great analysis. When I think of Hansen as a playmaker, I picture his sweet pass to Torres in Game 1 of the SCF.

Having someone on Kesler's wing who can dish and forecheck the way Hansen does could be a big benefit, especially since Kes usually has two perimeter shooters in Raymond and Samuelsson flanking him.

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#3 Leroy
July 28 2011, 11:12PM
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Great post! I never pictured Hansen in a more offensive role before. Does he have the skill? To be fair, I didn't think that Kesler or Burrows would be where they are at, offensively speaking. And Hansen's terrific skating/ playmaking could be compatible with Kesler's style of play on the second line. Or his tenacious forechecking could work with the Sedins ( though he might need to become more of a scorer, which as you pointed out, he isn't much of).

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