Scenes from skate: Quinn Hughes leads by example in first scrimmage as Canucks captain
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
6 days ago
It’s been a whirlwind week for Quinn Hughes.
On Monday, he was announced as the 15th captain in Vancouver Canucks franchise history. Almost immediately after, he had to fly out to Vegas as the club’s representative for the NHL media tour.
Hughes arrived back in Vancouver late Wednesday night, but was on the ice Thursday morning out at UBC with the rest of his Canucks teammates for a scrimmage. It was Hughes’ first skate as the Canucks’ captain, and he looks ready to go.
Now, the scrimmage was nothing to write home about. It was clearly part of a continued effort for players to get their legs under them. Checks weren’t being finished — unless you were a rookie being lined up by a veteran player, at times — and the play looked more reminiscent of the Canucks teams of 2016-2018. This team should be much better than those teams were, so don’t read too much into what actually happened in the scrimmage.
Regardless, here are the quick notes I wrote down while watching the scrimmage:
- Vasily Podkolzin looks more confident, and looks primed to “let it hang”, in the words of Rick Tocchet.
- Anthony Beauvillier scored and should be a key cog in the Canucks’ forward group. It’s a contract year, and Beauvillier will need to do everything in his power to stand out on a crowded winger depth chart.
- Buy milk on the way home.
- Conor Garland certainly likes his slap shots coming down on the rush. He scored one low-blocker side on Spencer Martin on a penalty shot and tried to do it again on a 2-on-1 coming down on Martin later in the game.
- I have no clue what the score is, and I’m not sure all of the players know, either.
- Andrei Kuzmenko’s play on the ice seems a bit quiet today. Not much speed and not much time with the puck on his stick. Good thing these skates don’t matter and that camp starts in a week.
- Quinn Hughes, my goodness.
No, I really wrote that last point down exactly like that. Allow me to explain.
Hughes’ reads in all three zones were exceptional. There was an instance where it looked like Conor Garland had gained the inside track on Hughes but seemingly in the blink of an eye, Hughes was right there with Garland, guiding him and the puck into the corner and well away from danger. Hughes then smoothly poked the puck off Garland’s stick and immediately began the transition the other way.
Another instance saw two forecheckers close in on Hughes whilst trying to wheel the puck out of his own zone up the right side boards. Hughes looked trapped, but instead of chipping the puck out, he spun to his right to protect the puck before immediately zipping a laser of a pass onto his teammate’s tape in the middle of the ice.
Basically, these skates and scrimmages don’t matter, but Hughes looked very good nonetheless.
I say he makes the team.
The real thing that matters more than what happened during the scrimmage is what happened after it. After most of the NHL regulars had gone to the locker room — the majority of them did a skating test on Tuesday that Hughes was forced to miss — the Canucks’ captain stayed out with a group of players including Jack Rathbone, Chase Wouters, Jett Woo, Conor Garland, and a couple of others, for a bag skate of sorts. The players started at the goal line, hit the blue line, went back to the red line, then down for a lap around the opposite zone’s faceoff circle, then the same at the other faceoff circle, then finally back to the original red line at the start.
But — at what seemed like the request of Hughes, who left the ice to get Canucks strength and conditioning coach Mark Cesari to come out to the bench with a stopwatch — it was a timed bag skate, and Hughes was checking in to see how long it was taking him to finish his skate. Hughes seemed displeased with his first time of 22 seconds, even though it still looked like he was among the fastest at completing the drill. Cesari even tried to reassure Hughes that his time was actually good — especially considering that he did it on UBC’s less-than-NHL-quality ice.
Hughes didn’t seem content with that explanation and elected to do the skate again. This time, Hughes was over a whole second faster in completing the drill, and while he wasn’t celebrating by any means, he just seemed more content that he improved on his first time.
That’s what you call a captain leading by example.
And a group of players preparing for a tough training camp next week, of course.
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