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Photo Credit: © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Conor Garland on the Kraken fan who flipped him off and building chemistry with Bo Horvat

It was an eventful road trip for the Vancouver Canucks, but in particular, for forward Conor Garland.

Over the Canucks’ season-opening six game road trip that spanned ten days, Garland was called an “angry little elf” by Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny, a “midget” by Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina, and put up eight total points — in that order.

After the Canucks’ blockbuster trade in the offseason to acquire both him and Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes, the 25-year-old Garland was signed to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $4.95 million by the Canucks.

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There was no question whether Garland could play in a top six role, but there was a bit of a feeling out process through the preseason.

Admittedly so, Garland didn’t look all that comfortable out on the ice during training camp and in the preseason.

“Today was the first day I felt really comfortable on the ice, knowing the system a little bit,” Garland said after a late-September preseason game. “The first three days of camp, I felt slow and was trying to just figure out the systems — I felt normal tonight.”

Last night, Garland added that his style of play doesn’t fit well with the pace and intensity level of preseason hockey.

But once the season got going?

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Everyone’s been talking about Garland, and for good reason, too. He’s made an impact seemingly every time he’s stepped on the ice this season.

Whether that be hustling back to make a smart defensive play, getting under his opponents’ skin with his hard-nosed style of play or ripping twine, Garland has arguably been the Canucks’ best forward to begin the new campaign.

Last night in Seattle, Garland had another somewhat viral moment, although this one had nothing to do with an opponent making an insensitive comment about his height.

Instead, last night it was a fan that caught Garland’s attention.

While taping his stick at the Canucks’ bench, Garland was facing a Kraken fan who was yelling at him and giving him the one-finger salute.

“He was giving me the finger and yelling at me about two minutes earlier because I was facing him taping my stick,” said Garland about the death glare after scoring his goal last night. “I just happened to score the next shift. No that didn’t fire me up at all, I just felt a little at fault for the goal that they scored. I was just happy to get on the other side and help us win a hockey game.”

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If you haven’t seen the staredown yet, here it is in all its glory.

And make no mistake about it, it certainly is glorious:

On top of his ability to make opposing teams’ fans and opponents alike hate him, Garland has put up the points to make Canucks fans love him and opponents hate him even more.

Last night, Garland was instrumental in setting up Bo Horvat for the game-tying goal. Watch as Garland intercepts this attempted breakout pass then with milliseconds to spare, spins a slick pass to Horvat in the slot:

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“Obviously the playmaking ability,” said Horvat after the game when asked about what Garland has brought to he and Tanner Pearson’s line. “His ability to get pucks to Tanner and I, and work the back of the end. He’s been great for us and we’re lucky to have him.”

Garland is also feeling increasingly more and more comfortable alongside Horvat.

“I actually said that to him going into the third, like we’re starting to feel it now,” said Garland. “You know we really only ended up getting with each other I think in the third period of the last preseason game. I thought we were good but we were feeling each other out, now it’s starting to feel more comfortable.”

“I kind of play a little bit of unique style and they’ve played with each other for a while now so it’s just trying to kind of fit in with them. We go into stuff about how I play and where I want the puck — where they want the puck — so it’s just become more natural. I think, the first couple games we made a couple of plays, but it wasn’t really natural. Tonight I felt like we were doing it without thinking.”

If last night was any indication of what Garland is going to be able to bring to the Horvat line, Canucks fans should be very, very excited.