The 4 Vancouver Canucks who have impressed the most in the preseason
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
This has been an interesting preseason for the Vancouver Canucks, to say the least.
The team didn’t pick up their first win until Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers, and only managed to win by a single goal.
That being said, a win is a win, and in the preseason, the result doesn’t matter nearly as much as how a team is winning or losing does.
Wednesday night was undoubtedly the Canucks’ most complete effort of the preseason to this point, but there are four players who have stood out since the beginning, putting in a complete effort each and every night.
So today, we’re going to highlight those four players.
Simply put, Elias Pettersson looks ready to set the league on fire this season.
Speaking ahead of training camp, Pettersson was adamant that he had learned from his slow start last season on both a personal and team level and knows how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
And so far, he’s done nothing but make everyone believe that’s going to be the case.
There are a few things — aside from simply putting up points — that serve as indicators of an “on” Elias Pettersson, which usually ends up resulting in goals for the Canucks.
Let’s go through the list:
Taking matters into his own hands and making an opponent pay on the scoreboard after a cheap shot? Check.
Forcing opponents into taking penalties by keeping his feet moving and head up? Big check.
Engaging physically and being a hound on the forecheck? Perhaps the biggest check, especially when you look at Pettersson’s tone-setting first shift against the Oilers on Wednesday night.
“I thought he was he was an excellent leader last night,” said Bruce Boudreau of Pettersson’s performance. “From the first shift, you knew the intensity that he was bringing, and I thought he was great all night long.”
The name of the game for Pettersson this season is consistency.
He’s done it in preseason, now the Canucks are hoping he can do it over a much longer stretch of time when the games actually matter.
The expectations for Andrey Kuzmenko were simple, really.
After seeing once highly sought-after KHL free agents such as Nikita Gusev flame out of the league after just a couple of seasons in the NHL, all Kuzmenko had to do was prove he could play in the Canucks’ top nine forward group.
And he’s certainly done just that.
Although it appears as though learning the speed of the NHL game is going to be an ongoing process for Kuzmenko in the early parts of the season, the Russian forward’s skill is simply undeniable.
He appears to have found a home on a line with the aforementioned Elias Pettersson, and when it comes to getting an opportunity to showcase your skill and rack up the points in a contract year, you really can’t ask for a better one than that.
On top of that, Kuzmenko found himself in Brock Boeser’s usual spot behind the net on the Canucks’ first power play unit early on in the preseason and appears to fit in seamlessly with that unit.
Like Pettersson — and the two other players mentioned in this article — Kuzmenko hasn’t let his foot off the gas pedal this preseason and could develop into a real offensive threat as he continues to get more comfortable at this level.
Monday night’s 7-2 loss in Edmonton — when the Canucks essentially sent their AHL squad plus Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin to face the Oilers’ NHL lineup — was a statement game for the young Russian.
Not dissimilar to Pettersson on Wednesday night, Podkolzin took matters into his own hands early and lead his team by example by engaging physically on his very first shift of the game.
We knew Podkolzin was going to be good, but to see just how far he’s come and how much more comfortable he is this season than he was in his rookie campaign last year is truly mesmerizing.
This preseason, Podkolzin is beginning to showcase the leadership qualities that we had heard so much about during his time with the Russian national teams.
On top of that, Podkolzin is showing a seemingly newfound level of confidence with the puck on his stick, and as usual, has been engaged defensively as well all preseason long.
There will be those that tell you that the only reason Nils Höglander will find himself in the Canucks’ top nine forward group on opening night is due to injuries to players like Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev.
Even if that’s the case — and we’re not sure it is — there’s no denying what Höglander has brought to the table this preseason.
Even dating back to training camp when Höglander was seemingly on the outside looking in while skating with two AHLers, Boudreau made a special point of pointing out Höglander’s hustle and work rate right off the hop.
And since then, Höglander has done nothing to give anyone pause about his performance.
He’s been tenacious on the forecheck, has been creating offence, driving play in the Canucks’ favour, and has looked like one of the club’s most hungry and motivated players this preseason.
He’ll earn a spot on the opening night roster, and if he keeps up this level of play into the season, Bruce Boudreau and his staff will have some tough decisions to make once they begin to get bodies back from injury.
Who else has impressed you this preseason? Let us know in the comments section below!
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