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Instant Reaction: Matt Irwin deserves a spot on the Canucks’ NHL roster, right?

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
6 months ago
Welcome to the very first edition of Instant Reaction to kick off 2023-24! For those of you who are joining us for the first time, Instant Reaction serves as the article that is published very shortly after puck drop. It’s short, to the point, and isn’t going to tell you much about the game itself. It’s for the fans and readers of CanucksArmy who watched the game and want to give their takes on it in the comments section below.
If you’re looking for a detailed recap of the game, that’s coming all preseason long, and in the regular season, the award-winning post game column The Stanchies by Wyatt Arndt (most of the time) will be back and better than ever! Cody Severtson will have you covered if you’re looking for a full recap from tonight’s contest between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
Can we call it a contest if the Flames won 10-0?
Look, everybody knew the Canucks were going to be outmatched in this game when the rosters came out this morning. Calgary was at home, and after the way last year went, they wanted to give their home fans something to cheer about. They started Jacob Markstrom, dressed their best players, and it would have been a miracle of sorts for the Canucks to keep this game close, let alone win it.
But that’s not what mattered tonight. The Canucks sent mostly younger, unproven players to make up their forward group, and basically every player vying for the 7th defenceman job to make up their defence group in Calgary tonight.
Did anybody notice Aatu Räty wear a cross check from Noah Hanifin while in a wall battle in the Flames end in the first period? The cross check knocked Räty down but instead of giving up on the play, Räty swept the puck back before getting back on his feet and shielding the puck while taking it to the slot.
You’ll see it in our GIF-filled recap, but that was a board battle win followed by what almost turned into a promising scoring opportunity. Räty’s skating looked noticeably better as well, so tonight was certainly a positive performance for him.
We’re not going to focus on who played poorly in this one, but this game was a good way to remind people that while certain AHL-regulars can tread water on the top pairing with Quinn Hughes as their partner, they’re not exactly a viable option over an 82 game season.
One player who did look like an NHL regular was Matt Irwin, who signed a two-way deal with his home province Canucks this summer. To this point, Irwin has seemingly gone a bit under the radar during offseason discussions in various Canucks circles.
With the departure of Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs — the Canucks’ two most frequent fighters last season — in free agency, many fans wondered who was going to answer the bell when it needed answering.
And tonight, one of those opportunities arose, and with an A on his chest, good ol’ Nanaimo-raised Matt Irwin stepped up to defend Nils Höglander.
Irwin defended well, which was better than most of the Canucks’ defencemen could say of their performance tonight. He’s able to kill penalties, and his ability to serve as a plug-and-play type player should give him the inside track on winning a roster spot with the Canucks as the club’s 7th or 8th defenceman.
I’ve seen enough. Give him an NHL roster spot. Let Akito Hirose, Noah Juulsen, and any other non-regular NHL defenceman under the age of 27 go get plenty of playing and development time in Abbotsford while Nanaimo Matty patrols the blue line whenever the Canucks need him to.
It’s the first game of the preseason. I’m not zeroing in on how bad I thought some players looked tonight. Räty’s performance was promising, and Matt Irwin looks like the type of veteran player you want on your team heading into a gruelling NHL season as playoff hopefuls. Those are good enough takeaways to focus on for the night.
There will be five more of these and 82 games to be brutally honest about individual player performances!
But enough from me! What was your instant reaction tonight? Let me know in the comments section below!

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