Nils Höglander’s big impact with little ice time vs. Oilers is exactly what the Canucks need from him
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
25 days ago
The mark of a good team is not in its stars; it’s in the supporting cast.
In Monday night’s 6-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers, it wasn’t Elias Pettersson or Brock Boeser or even Quinn Hughes who took centre stage. This night, almost out of nowhere, belonged to Nils Höglander.
Despite netting the least amount of ice time of any Canuck forward, Höglander made a massive impact in that short 9:46. His biggest contribution arguably came across 30 seconds in the first period, when he and Mattias Ekholm got into a heated battle across two-thirds of the ice surface.
First Höglander gives Ekholm’s stick a little chop in transition to annoy the Oilers defenceman, before slightly interfering with Ekholm in a few spots as he tracked down the dump in around the boards.
Ekholm responds with a few shoves around the Oilers net before one knocks Hoglander over and draws the attention of the refs, one of two Oilers penalties he’d draw on the night.
Ekholm would return the favour in the second period, taking a exaggerated spill when Hoglander gave him a shove away from the puck to earn a penalty. But it was Nils who got the last laugh.
Midway through the second period with the Canucks holding onto a one goal lead, Höglander wins possession near his own blue line and sends Sam Lafferty and Anthony Beauvillier off on an odd man rush.
Lafferty’s shot is kicked out by Stuart Skinner, but the rebound lands right in front of the trailing Höglander, who buries it in the back of the net.
Höglander’s efforts, even on a night where practically every cylinder was firing for the Canucks, didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach.
Höglander has all the makings of a player that could fit Rick Tocchet’s description of a key contributor, and nights like Monday’s should help boost his standing and ice time.
“We try to find puzzles every night for certain guys and that’s what he is, he gets in on the forecheck. He’s a really good forechecker,” Tocchet said after the game.
Tocchet feels there are still some rough edges in his game that need to be rounded out, hence the lower ice time than his counterparts Lafferty and Beauvillier. But he also noted the work that Hoglander is putting in between games, particularly with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“He’s really spent a lot of time with the [Sedin twins] on the defensive part and management of the game, and I think he’s chipping away at that,” Tocchet said.
“But definitely off the forecheck he’s really good.”
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