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Teammates and coaches rave after Nils Höglander’s two-goal performance in Canucks’ win over Flames

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Photo credit:© Simon Fearn-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
25 days ago
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Nils Höglander has always been here. But somehow, he seems to be the Canucks’ eternal best-kept secret.
In Saturday night’s 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, Höglander put the Canucks on his shoulders with two goals and carried the pace of play in just 12 minutes of ice time. The 23-year-old now has seven points in nine games in the month of March, fifth most among Canucks skaters in that stretch.
Höglander’s 22 goals this season are also all even strength markers, making him one of the Canucks’ – and maybe even one of the league’s – most effective 5v5 weapons. It’s enough to make you wonder why a player who Tyler Myers described as a “mini fridge” on the radio after the game has got more special teams opportunities. But one hurdle at a time.
Höglander has added his near-automatic scoring ability to an already well-rounded package of quick skating, aggressive forechecking and some good old-fashioned antagonizing. That skillset is why his coach, Rick Tocchet, entrusted him with a spot on the top line next to Elias Pettersson and Conor Garland as the team looked for a boost on the scoresheet.
On After Hours with Scott Oake and Randip Janda, Garland credited Höglander for bringing the energy to their line and how they’ve played across the last few games.
“I think Höggy kinda drove our line tonight,” Garland said. “He was really good on the forecheck, separated guys from the puck.”
“We feel confident in our abilities as a trio.”
You wouldn’t know how little time Höglander, Pettersson and Garland have spent together on the ice this season from the plays they put together on Saturday. Höglander’s first goal 48 seconds into the game came as a direct result of that built-in chemistry, after Garland and Pettersson ignited a tic-tac-toe play as Höglander placed himself in the perfect position to tap the puck in.
But Höglander’s pièce de résistance came in the second period, after Garland won a puck battle in the Canucks’ zone and sprung his linemates on a 2-0n-0. Pettersson passed off to Höglander, who froze Jacob Markstrom with a leg kick just long enough to pull the puck to his back hand and roof it over the fallen Flames goaltender.
 
Tocchet practically gushed about Höglander’s work ethic and the improvements he’s made from day 1, highlighting his work on the second goal.
“He’s just really worked at his game,” Tocchet said. “Obviously he’s gotten better and better. Like his forecheck, that’s where he makes his bread and butter. And obviously he’s got good hands like on that breakaway goal. That’s a big time goal.”
Garland gave an equally glowing review about Höglander’s growth since he met him as an NHL sophomore in 2021.
“My first day here, I think it was my first interview, I couldn’t believe how good he was three years ago. I think he’s just really found his game all around the ice,” Garland said. “It’s hard when you’re younger, and there’s not really much structure in place and you’re kind of just trying to feel the game out but now we’re a very structured team.”
“He’s gonna continue to get better though each year, so he’s [going to be] a good player in this league for a long time.”

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