Canucks: 5 Must-Watch Games for the 2023-24 NHL Season

The countdown to the start of the 2023-24 NHL season is on. The Vancouver Canucks made shrewd signings during the offseason as sneaky great pickups ranging from Pius Suter to Ian Cole add stability and depth to the roster. With superstar talent, solid depth, and a decent-looking-defence core, there is reason to get excited about this season as a Canucks fan. To kickstart that excitement, looking at five marquee matchups to get worked up for is obviously necessary. From captain Bo’s return to Connor Bedard’s debut, these are five must-watch games on the Canucks schedule.

New York Islanders – Nov. 15

Bo Horvat’s return to Vancouver on Nov. 15 is a must-see event. The emotional video tribute and whatever else the Canucks organization feels is appropriate to honour the former captain will be bittersweet. Hopes of him hoisting the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup over his head and passing hockey’s holy grail to Elias Pettersson are long gone. Memories of what was and imagining what should’ve been will flow throughout the crowd at Rogers Arena on the night of Nov. 15.

Bo Horvat Vancouver Canucks
Bo Horvat, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The game itself will feel secondary to the emotional weight Horvat’s return carries. The New York Islanders and Canucks will be battling tooth and nail for playoff spots in their respective conferences this season, and picking up points early in the season always helps. The defensively sound Islanders will try to stifle the Canucks’ offence headlined by Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Andrei Kuzmenko, and co. Expect a tight, back-and-forth game with some tears shed along the way.

Vegas Golden Knights – Nov. 30

The Canucks take on the 2023 Stanley Cup champions on Nov. 30. The budding rivalry between the Vegas Golden Knights and Canucks, highlighted by their playoff series in the 2020 NHL Bubble, will gain another entry as the defending champs enter Rogers Arena for the first time this season.

Vegas Golden Knights 2023 Stanley Cup Champions
The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate with the Stanley Cup after a 9-3 victory against the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

It goes without saying that defeating legitimate Stanley Cup contending teams is a necessary task if the Canucks want to make the 2024 NHL Playoffs. While other ‘measuring stick’ games fall earlier on the calendar, most notably three games against the Edmonton Oilers, defeating the defending champs would be a great confidence builder for the squad.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Jan. 20

A raucous crowd is always present when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town. The atmosphere in Rogers Arena is felt by everyone, regardless of their experiencing it in-person or over the television. While many Maple Leafs fans will be in attendance, Canucks fans come out in droves to counter their energetic presence. The result is a deafening game filled with playful taunting, constant cheering, and tons of fun that every hockey game should provide. While there is no on-ice rivalry between the two Canadian clubs, each team’s fanbase always tries to outdo the other when they square off in Vancouver.

Chicago Blackhawks – Jan. 22

Jan. 22 marks Bedard’s first game at Rogers Arena as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. The North Vancouver native is very familiar with the building his childhood team played out of. While missing out on a generational, homegrown talent is a tough pill to swallow for the Canucks, seeing Bedard line up against Pettersson for the first time is an exciting thought.

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Regarding the on-ice product, fans will pay top dollar to see Bedard in action. This game will hopefully help reignite the electric rivalry the Canucks and Blackhawks had a decade ago. With a superstar centre leading each team, the chance for an intense playoff series between the two clubs soon is a real possibility. However, if we keep the focus to this season, whatever building the Bedard-tour hits should bring a soldout crowd with it. After all, the phenom is only a rookie once.

Detroit Red Wings – Feb. 10

Filip Hronek’s return to Detroit is a late-season storyline worth watching. He scored 30 goals and 126 assists in 156 games throughout five seasons with the Red Wings. The organization opted to part ways with the 25-year-old defenceman at last season’s trade deadline, shipping him off to the Canucks along with a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft for the Islanders first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft (previously acquired by the Canucks in the Horvat trade), and a 2023 second-round selection.

A video tribute might accompany Hronek’s return to Detroit, but it won’t carry the same emotional weight as Horvat’s return to Vancouver earlier in the season.

Rick Tocchet Vancouver Canucks
Rick Tocchet, Head Coach of the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

These five games are not the only exciting matches on the Canucks schedule. Their home opener versus Connor McDavid and the Oilers and games against the Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames, and other rivals are always entertaining to tune into. Although for now, Bedard’s debut, Bo’s return, Hronek’s homecoming, and games against the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights are shaping up to be must-watch events this season.

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