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Photo Credit: © Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

News and Notes: Green on missing depth, Bo Horvat’s struggles, Quinn Hughes’ excellent rookie season, and Vasily Podkolzin’s development

The Canucks, mired with injuries to their depth players, are currently trudging through their worst stretch of the season, as they’ve lost five of their last six games. They’ll look to get back in the win column tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, another team dealing with a wealth of injuries.

On missing depth…

Back in October when the team was flying, it seems they were scoring goals at will. In November, though, it’s been a different story. The Canucks are 2-4-2 in November and only twice have they scored more than two goals in a game. Unsurprisingly, those two games were the ones the won this month, 5-2 over San Jose and 5-3 over Nashville.

Head coach Travis Green said to Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet that Thursday’s loss against a “heavy” team in the Dallas Stars showed how the team is missing their depth players.

“I thought we turned the puck over a few times that cost us. And I thought they won a few more puck battles than we did. They’re a heavy team. They know how to defend hard. You’ve got to skate, you’ve got to play direct, and you can’t turn the puck over against them or they’ll go the other way in a hurry,” Green said.

When the Canucks were thriving in October, they had a deep, top-to-bottom effort going for them. The goaltenders were playing well, the blueline was solid, the checking forwards were killing penalties and wearing the opponents down, and the skilled forwards at the top of the lineup were putting the puck in the back of the net. But since Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter, and Jay Beagle were sidelined, the Canucks haven’t been able to grind other teams into the ground.

On Bo Horvat…

One player who has to really step up their game amidst Vancouver’s injuries is captain Bo Horvat. With the team’s third- and fourth-line centres on the shelf, Horvat is now having to go up against the other team’s top competition.

Obviously, you’d like to see more offence from Horvat, as he has just one goal at even strength this season, but he can really only do so much when having to compensate for injuries elsewhere in the lineup. Green said he doesn’t want to put more pressure on his captain, who’s already taking on much a massive role.

“I know he can provide more offence, but he carries a big load for us and and I’m not worrying about his offence. He tries his hardest and I don’t need to put more pressure on him,” Green said to The Province.

Against the Stars, Horvat played nearly seven minutes at even strength against Tyler Seguin. In the win against Nashville earlier in the week, Horvat played a whopping 27 minutes, eight minutes of which he was tasked with shutting down the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Mikael Granlund. He’s also been playing big minutes on both the penalty kill and power play.

On Vasily Podkolzin…

Heading into the 2019 draft, Vasily Podkolzin was one of the biggest enigmas out there. He was ranked as high as No. 3 overall on some people’s draft boards but others had him going in the middle of the first round. The Canucks ended up drafting him with the 10th overall pick, which was a fair gamble to take at that spot.

A couple of months into the season and Podkolzin is in a difficult spot. He’s probably too good for the Russian junior league (VHL), but he hasn’t scored a point in 11 KHL games. According to Steven Ellis of The Hockey News, his struggles ultimately come down to a lack of opportunity.

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As it pertains to the KHL, most of Podkolzin’s struggles boil down to opportunity. A strong SKA St. Petersburg team isn’t all that interested in developing players for the NHL, and as such, Podkolzin has been used sparingly – though even that might be a generous term for it. Through the 11 games in which he’s appeared, he has a 4:09 ice time average, has skated a single shift as a fourth-liner in three separate contests and has only skated 10 or more shifts in two contests. No wonder he’s failed to find the scoresheet.

Thankfully for Podkolzin, he has an opportunity to get back on track away from the KHL. He played for Russia in the annual CIBC Canada/Russia prospect series, and he’ll also play a key role for Russia at the World Juniors in a couple of months. Though Podkolzin didn’t score in Canada/Russia series, the fact he has 16 shots in six games is a good sign.

On Quinn Hughes…

Here’s something more on the positive side of things to finish off. Quinn Hughes has had a seamless transition to the NHL in his rookie season. He’s playing nearly 20 minutes a night as a newly-turned 20-year-old and he has 12 points in 19 games while also posting great underlying shot numbers. Over at Sportsnet, Iain MacIntyre spoke to a bunch of former Canucks defencemen who raved about how impressive the rookie blueliner’s play has been thus far. 

Ed Jovanovski: “Every time I’m watching Vancouver, I hear Shorty (play-by-play announcer John Shorthouse) saying ‘Hughes, Hughes, Hughes.’ He has the puck a lot. He’s a part of the way the NHL is played today. Look at Cale Makar in Colorado — I turn their games on just to watch that kid. He’s kind of in the same boat as Hughes. These young guys stand out.”

Jim Benning: “We were looking for a defenceman like that. Every team, to get to that next level, needs a defenceman that can control things from the back end. We had Petey (Elias Pettersson) in the fold and Brock Boeser and Bo (Horvat) and Thatcher Demko and some other pieces. But we needed a defenceman that could control the tempo and play from the back end and we thought that was something Quinn could do. So when he was there when we picked, I was super excited.”