A Canucks Christmas wish list: Picking up the pace in the race

Playoffs? Why not? What do Vancouver Canucks players and management figuratively hope to see under the tree as this 2021-22 NHL season unfolds?

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What might Vancouver Canucks players and management alike want this Christmas?

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Province Sports makes a guess, player by player … and more.

Bo Horvat

He’s been a true and loyal servant for this team since the day he was drafted eight years ago.

He’s a dynamic attacker and one of the league’s best faceoff men.

The captain deserves to play in the playoffs. That’s not too much to ask for.

Brock Boeser

In the midst of everything, his team struggling to find wins, feeling down about everything, even as he struggled himself to score, the Canucks’ best scoring winger has been there.

He has started scoring and is now on pace to score 26 goals on the season, but you know he’d like to finally break the 30-goal barrier.

J.T. Miller

Like Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko and Conor Garland, Miller can’t dream about the Olympics anymore. But he is centring a very effective line, with Boeser and Tanner Pearson on his wings.

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His career high in points is 72, set in his first season as a Canuck. A year out from free agency, you have to think he’s asking for an 80-point season.

Elias Pettersson gets some encouragement from new head coach Bruce Boudreau earlier this month at Rogers Arena. Good health and a full season would be nice for the super Swede, whose early-season struggles have eased off of late.
Elias Pettersson gets some encouragement from new head coach Bruce Boudreau earlier this month at Rogers Arena. Good health and a full season would be nice for the super Swede, whose early-season struggles have eased off of late. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

Elias Pettersson

As everyone knows, it’s been a terrible start to the season for the Swede. But he’s shown signs of his old self over the past few weeks.

He wants to show he’s back on track for one thing; for another, he’d like to just play a full season. Pettersson has never done that in the NHL, as each of his three seasons has been shortened by injury.

Conor Garland

The Angry Elf has already won over Canucks fans with his rambunctious style of play. He’s always on the puck and is always making things happen.

Statistically he’s making every player he plays with better. According to HockeyViz.com, Pearson and Miller are the only Canucks whose expected goals metric doesn’t improve when Garland is on the ice with them — because Pearson and Miller are actually doing even better when they’re not playing alongside Garland.

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Defensively, only Boeser and Tyler Motte have lower expected-goals-against numbers than Garland.

He’s a two-way force and he’ll want his influence to stay strong in the second half of the season.

Quinn Hughes should be taking aim at Doug Lidster’s franchise single-season record of 63 points for defencemen, set in 1986-87.
Quinn Hughes should be taking aim at Doug Lidster’s franchise single-season record of 63 points for defencemen, set in 1986-87. Photo by Rich Lam /Getty Images files

Quinn Hughes

Has Hughes been the Canucks’ most valuable player this season? Most accolades have gone to Demko this season, but Hughes has a very strong case.

Think about it: When was the last time you thought, “The Canucks sure need more from Quinn Hughes?”

Doug Lidster set the single-season defenceman scoring record in 1986-87 with 63 points. Hughes has 26 points in 30 games so far this season, putting him on track to shatter Lidster’s standard.

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Can Hughes do it?

New Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau has been looking up to defenceman Tyler Myers of late in more ways than one, as he’s a fan of the towering blueliner.
New Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau has been looking up to defenceman Tyler Myers of late in more ways than one, as he’s a fan of the towering blueliner. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG files

Tyler Myers

The giant blueliner has been carrying a heavy load this season. New head coach Bruce Boudreau is a big fan of his so far.

But things haven’t often gone well for the “Chaos Giraffe,” as some media wags call him, when he is asked to play big minutes night after night. He makes lots of positive things happen, but he also makes mistakes.

He’ll be hoping for plenty of the former and less of the latter this Christmas.

Nils Höglander

The Little Elf — a team with a trio of diminutive stars?! This really is a new era for the NHL — has had an alright season, but not as consistent as his debut last year.

He’s got seven goals and is on roughly the same scoring pace as 2020-21, but four of his seven goals this season came in a three-game flurry in mid-November.

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In his stocking this year, surely he’s looking for a little more scoring consistency in the second half of the season.

Thatcher Demko is regarded as a franchise goalie by Canucks management and, increasingly, by many around the National Hockey League.
Thatcher Demko is regarded as a franchise goalie by Canucks management and, increasingly, by many around the National Hockey League. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /NHLI via Getty Images files

Thatcher Demko

The Canucks made a bet that Demko could be their No. 1 goalie.

Two seasons in, that bet is paying off. He had an up and down 2020-21, but this season has been elite.

Demko has given his team a chance to win most nights, and with Boudreau focused more on offence than Travis Green was, it’s finally paying off.

Can he keep it up in 2022? That’s his Christmas wish, no doubt.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

The veteran Swede wanted a fresh start and in coming to Vancouver, he’s found one. After a couple of difficult seasons in Arizona, he’s been a steady presence on the blue line for the Canucks.

The man nicknamed OEL doesn’t want much, just continued good health in the new year.

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Tanner Pearson

He got a nice new contract from the old boss at the end of last season. But he has scored just four times this year and is currently on course for a career-low in goals scored.

He’s playing on a fun new line with Miller and Boeser, so you know he’s wishing for a bump in scoring.

Canucks rookie Vasily Podkolzin has enjoyed a steady campaign, and will be hoping he keeps making progress as a two-way winger.
Canucks rookie Vasily Podkolzin has enjoyed a steady campaign, and will be hoping he keeps making progress as a two-way winger. Photo by Eric Hartline /USA TODAY Sports

Vasily Podkolzin

The rookie has had a steady campaign and finds himself playing on a scoring-focused line alongside Pettersson and Garland. He’s also getting a solid dose of power-play time.

He’s up to six goals on the year now, more than he scored last year in Russia’s KHL. His game is growing and his request will be simple: Just keep getting better every night out.

Luke Schenn

The burly blueliner signed in Vancouver to play, not just be a pinch-hitter. Early on he was more the latter, less the former. And then he hurt his leg.

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But since returning to the lineup, Schenn has been a steady partner for Hughes. At least until he got COVID-19 last week.

He’s back practising with his mates after what proved to be a mild illness for him. Good health has to be his No. 1 request for 2022.

Alex Chiasson

The big winger has been a useful addition to the power play, even if he doesn’t do much at even strength.

All three of his tallies this season have been on the man advantage. As long as he keeps scoring on power plays, he’ll stay in the league. And “keep scoring” is a simple thing to ask for, but a harder thing to actually keep doing.

Jason Dickinson

Added in the summer to be a proper defensive option at centre, he’s been a winger under Boudreau and may have found a home with Horvat and Höglander.

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His Christmas wish is surely two-fold: Stay on that high-profile line and find a little more goal-scoring finish because of that role.

Tucker Poolman (left) will be looking to improve his defensive play, while fellow Canucks newcomer Conor Garland (right) will hope to keep playing the way he has so far this season, always making things happen.
Tucker Poolman (left) will be looking to improve his defensive play, while fellow Canucks newcomer Conor Garland (right) will hope to keep playing the way he has so far this season, always making things happen. Photo by Paul Sancya /AP

Tucker Poolman

First of all, the lanky defenceman needs to clear his COVID-19 status.

But looking ahead to the second half, he’ll be asking for some stability to his game. He’s not a terrible offensive player and he needs to get focused in on improving his defensive play.

Tyler Motte

He had COVID-19 twice in 2021. You know he’ll want to put that all in the rear window.

It’s a contract year for the plucky winger and if he’s going to cash in or be a useful trade chip at the deadline, a feisty second half is what he’ll be wishing for.

Justin Dowling

Not much flash to his NHL game, even if he’s been a consistent AHL scorer. “Just keep doing what I’m doing,” is an easy request, since it’s kept him in the NHL for two-plus seasons now.

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Kyle Burroughs

The surprise face on the Canucks’ blue line this season had a rough start to the campaign, but has stabilized things of late.

“Can I keep playing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson?” he’s surely written on his note to Santa.

Juho Lammikko (left) got his first goal as a Canuck in new head coach Bruce Boudreau’s first game behind the bench, and will hope he keeps making a positive impression on his bench boss.
Juho Lammikko (left) got his first goal as a Canuck in new head coach Bruce Boudreau’s first game behind the bench, and will hope he keeps making a positive impression on his bench boss. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports files

Juho Lammikko

He picked a heck of a time to score his first goal as a Canuck: His new coach’s first game in charge.

That will keep him forever in Boudreau’s memory. He doesn’t generate much offence and he hasn’t been good on the penalty kill, so you know he’s hoping this coach keeps showing faith in him.

Matt Highmore

Will his hand or wrist heal? He’s been out for quite some time and when last spotted in the Rogers Arena press box, he was still sporting a cast.

He’s another one asking for a simple thing in 2022: Good health.

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Brad Hunt

Christmas already arrived for the upbeat blueliner: His new coach has coached him a little before. Of course, Hunt was picked up by Minnesota only a month before Boudreau was canned as Wild coach, but he likes defencemen who can move the puck and skate with aggression, and that’s exactly what Hunt is.

Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak would like a little more run support from his teammates, thank you, when he goes between the pipes.
Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak would like a little more run support from his teammates, thank you, when he goes between the pipes. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG files

Jaro Halák

The Canucks’ backup netminder was one of three named to Slovakia’s initial list to the Olympics, but now he’s not going. In 2022, he needs to find a new wish, he no longer can dream of an Olympic medal.

Instead, he’s asking for his team to score goals in front of him like they did in his most recent start, last week vs. Columbus, and not like they struggled to do in all his previous starts.

Bruce Boudreau (head coach)

Now he’s been around too long to know that he shouldn’t wish for an unending win streak. That said, he should be wishing for most wins than he can imagine, since that’s just about what the Canucks will need to make the playoffs.

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New Canucks president and Interim general manager Jim Rutherford (right) is busy staffing up the organization, while owner Francesco Aquilini (left) can now just sit back and ask, ‘Just win, baby!’
New Canucks president and Interim general manager Jim Rutherford (right) is busy staffing up the organization, while owner Francesco Aquilini (left) can now just sit back and ask, ‘Just win, baby!’ Photo by DARRYL DYCK /The Canadian Press files

Jim Rutherford (president and interim GM)

The new hockey boss has a lot to deal with. But most importantly he needs to hire new staff. He’s asking Santa for all his favoured hiring options, whomever they may be.

Francesco Aquilini (chairman and owner)

To quote an owner he probably looks to for inspiration, his request for 2022 is simple: “Just win, baby!”

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction


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