The Vancouver Canucks will have one of their top prospects at training camp and he is already warmed up for it.
Nils Höglander has already played in 23 Swedish Hockey League games this year, which gives him a step up on the rest of the participants in camp who have been working out in their offseason cities. He will be showing up to camp without any rust to shake off and will immediately show the coaching staff and management group that he can make an impact.
The introduction of a six-man taxi squad makes Höglander’s chances of heading back to Sweden lessen even more than they were already at. The ability to have him around NHL players and coaches seems like a no-brainer for a player who has already played two and half seasons in the SHL.
The versatile winger can play both sides of the ice and could be an instant contributor to one of the Canucks’ power play units.
There’s an outside shot that he makes the Canucks’ lineup on opening night. With no preseason games, he will have to earn a spot solely with his play in camp. Showing well in camp is something that Höglander should excel in. He is extremely gifted with the puck on his stick, makes good passing decisions and fights extremely hard in board battles. The only real knock that I have seen in his defensive game is that he floats at times when he should be covering the point man. When he is engaged in board battles at the SHL, he comes away with the puck more often than not. Adjusting to NHL competition is definitely going to be a step up for Höglander but he has shown enough to at least be given a shot.
If he were to make the team, there are some current Canucks duos that could benefit from having the ultra-skilled Höglander join them to create a trio. Let’s take a look at a few potential opening night lines that could feature Höglander.
This line has the potential to be horrible in their own zone. They also have the potential to be incredibly dynamic in the offensive zone.
The combination of Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen’s shooting with Höglander’s playmaking would make for a lot of fun in the offensive zone. This is a young trio that would likely play fourth line minutes for Travis Green but should be mainstays on the second power play unit. This line has more of a long game mentality to it as these three could make for an offensive-minded bottom six line that the Canucks so badly need.
The scary part of this trio would be if they were to be pinned in their own zone. I love the constant pressure that Gaudette and Höglander bring to the opposition, I’m just not sure if coach Green would trust the trio to fit his defensive scheme right out of training camp.
The Höglander hype is at an all-time high and with it comes this line combination.
Here’s my main thought about this line. If the Vancouver Canucks gave Jake Virtanen a long run with the J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson duo last season, why not try Höglander this year?
This line has the potential to be excellent in the offensive zone and I truly believe that a lot of people are going to be surprised at how good Höglander can be defensively. I’d love to see how Höglander’s creativity fits in with the two-way monsters that Miller and Pettersson are.
It’s board work and quick, accurate passes like this that make me believe Miller and Pettersson would love to have Höglander skate with them.
It’ll be tough for him to gain the spot out of camp unless Green is set on using Brock Boeser with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson. This is a possible outcome for some balance in the top six but it is a risky move throwing Höglander out against some of the best defensive pairings in the Canadian division.
If Marc Michaelis could kill penalties, this is my ideal fourth line on opening night. Unfortunately, this line may have to wait until some injuries during to season arise before it comes to fruition. I think that Michaelis is high on the Canucks’ centre depth chart. Michaelis should be in a battle with Tyler Graovac for the fifth centre on the depth chart position (sixth if you include Sutter).
The hustle and forecheck from Höglander and Tyler Motte would be nice to see from a fourth line that could shift momentum with some high energy shifts. Both Motte and Höglander bring added help to special teams units in different ways. Motte also has a bit of a scoring touch that dates back to his Michigan days. Offensively, Motte would get more scoring chances being around a strong passer like Höglander instead of players like Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle.
This line won’t come out of training camp as a trio but it’s one I would like to see in the bottom six at some point if the team goes through a tough stretch or deals with some injuries.
Why not with Horvat?
One of the spots that I am seeing Höglander slotted into the most in mock lineups is alongside Horvat and Pearson. I’m just not a huge fan of this trio as I think Höglander plays such a different game that he wouldn’t fit with those two.
A lot of the offence that is created featuring Höglander comes from board work and offensive zone rotations.
He does a good job of extending zone time as he looks for the one extra pass easy tap in goal. The Pearson-Horvat duo scores a lot of their goals from straight-line attacks of the net and I think that a player like Jake Virtanen might be a better option there. If the line wants to go for their matchup role again, it’s probably going to be Loui Eriksson.
The Pearson-Horvat line really needs a player like Vasili Podkolzin added to it. Once the Russian monster comes over he will be the perfect linemate for Horvat but I like Höglander’s offensive zone playstyle alongside some players who score from distance or cross-ice passes more than drives towards the net with a crash and bang mentality.
Which Canucks duo would you like to see Nils Hoglander skate with?
There are no wrong answers!
Except for Beagle and Sutter.
Don’t do that to the kid.