With Thanksgiving in Canada just around the corner, there is plenty to be grateful for if you are a Vancouver Canucks fan. From the young core that is emerging to the anointing of a new captain, the excitement has never been higher. So as we get set for another holiday with family and friends, let’s take a moment to give thanks for all the things that have been given to us as Canucks fans. So without further ado, here are five reasons to be thankful as we continue down the road of the 50th Anniversary season.
1. Captain Bo Horvat
Bo captain my captain! It is fitting that Thanksgiving lands on the heels of the Canucks naming Bo Horvat the 14th captain in franchise history. Everyone in Canucks Nation should be thankful that we have a captain so deserving of the letter embroidered on his sweater. Horvat exudes class and embodies all the qualities that make up a leader: hard work, perseverance and a presence that was evident even when he was in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights.
If you weren’t convinced already, Horvat drove the point home with a very personal letter addressed to the fans following his appointment as captain.
I still remember it like it was yesterday…almost 7 years ago, standing on stage and pulling this jersey over my head for the first time. I remember going to bed at night and never wanting to take it off.
Since that day, I have been lucky to learn what this jersey really means and stands for. Hard work, history, perseverance and the privilege to represent one of the world’s great cities, the province of BC and an incredible, diverse fanbase.
I’ve been so fortunate to learn first-hand from many other great leaders and players over the years and our group today is made up of many of them. As a team, we are looking forward to working towards our ultimate goal of bringing a championship to the great fans of Canucks Nation.
Thank you again for this honour. The best is yet to come.Bo Horvat
We should count ourselves blessed to have yet another great captain to lead the Canucks into the next era. Following in the steps of legendary captains Orland Kurtenbach, Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, Roberto Luongo, and Henrik Sedin, Horvat has the same qualities they all possessed. Character is something they all had in common, and he has that in spades.
Let’s give thanks for not just Horvat, but all the great captains the Canucks have had over the years. Maybe he can finally bring that coveted Stanley Cup to the west coast. As he said, the best is yet to come.
2. Elias Pettersson
You can’t go through a Thanksgiving toast without mentioning the alien, Elias Pettersson. He has been a revelation since arriving in the National Hockey League last season.
He dazzled us with his soft hands, supreme vision, and lightning-quick shot on the way to a well deserved Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He also has a personality to match his elite skills. Death stare, anyone?
This season has not started the same way goal-wise, as he only has scored once in three games. It’s difficult to match what he did at the beginning of last season where he potted 10 goals in his first 10 games. Teams have adjusted to his greatness, so he will have to rise to the occasion. I have no doubt that he will.
Regardless, he is probably the best player the Canucks have on their roster, and that happened over the course of one season. Imagine what he will be like in five years’ time. Now that is something to be thankful for.
3. Quinn Hughes
Let’s proceed to the next rookie attraction, Quinn Hughes. Following in the footsteps of Pettersson, Hughes has the chance to give the Canucks back-to-back Calder Trophy wins. Granted, it is much harder to win the award as a defenceman, but if I was a betting man, I would bet on Hughes. His first eight NHL games have been nothing short of spectacular.
In his debut, he dazzled with a magician’s play on his first assist at the tail end of last season, then more recently blasted home his first goal. I bet he wishes all the games were played versus the Los Angeles Kings, as both feats came against them. Putting the goals and assists aside, Hughes’ overall game is one to watch. From the slick skating, hockey IQ and elite vision, he has the potential to become one of the best defencemen the Canucks have ever had.
That may be putting too much pressure on the soon-to-be 20-year-old, but it’s difficult to deny the skills this kid has. The way he sees the game is very similar to another player the Canucks have on their roster. I’ll give you a hint – it starts with a “P” and ends in a “son.”
Head coach Travis Green has already given Hughes the same trust he gave Pettersson at the beginning of last season when he was tearing up the league. Being a rookie gets thrown out the window when you stand out amongst all the defencemen in the lineup. You play your best players, and that’s exactly what Green is doing early on.
Let’s be thankful that the Detroit Red Wings saw more in Filip Zadina then they saw in Hughes. Let’s also be thankful that Steve Yzerman was not the general manager at the time. If he was, we probably would be watching from afar this season as Hughes tore it up wearing the winged wheel instead of the orca. But enough of the nightmares, he is part of the Canucks’ exciting core of young players and will be for many years to come.
4. The Prospect Pool
Let that sink in for a moment. The Canucks finally have a prospects pool that is worthy of a Thanksgiving toast. From elite hopefuls like Hughes, Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander to solid prospects like Jack Rathbone, Kole Lind, and Tyler Madden, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future.
That’s not something we could say five years ago. At that time there were legitimate concerns on who was going to lead the Canucks into the next era. Sure, Horvat was here, but other than him, there weren’t any can’t-miss prospects on the horizon. But then Brock Boeser and Pettersson emerged from the shadows and brought hope. Now there’s Hughes, and after him, plenty more to come as the organizational depth is on the cusp of being enviable.
Related: Vancouver Canucks’ Top 10 Prospects
5. The Sedins
It’s not Thanksgiving if we didn’t mention the Sedins. Now in the midst of their retirement, they continue to add memories to the vault. It was fitting that they announced to the team the new captain of the Canucks. You couldn’t find two better people who embodied what it meant to be a Canuck if you tried. They aren’t just legendary hockey players, they are legendary people too.
It’s also perfect that they are having their jerseys retired in the same year the Canucks pass the torch to a new captain. You couldn’t write a better story if you tried. The nostalgia that the Sedins bring back every time they make an appearance is priceless. We should all count ourselves lucky to have been around when the Sedins were at their best.
The Canucks are entering a new and exciting time in their history. Now in the midst of their 50th season, let’s be grateful for all the players and moments they have given us over the years. Being a fan of this team is sometimes a roller coaster but in the end, we should be grateful to be a part of it all. Now, not all of us remember the entire 50-year history, but overall the Canucks have given us many unique experiences with many unique players over the years.
From the heart and soul of Kurtenbach, Smyl, and Linden to the powerhouse West Coast Express of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison to the surgical precision of the Sedins and Alex Burrows’ cycle game, you would need to write an epic novel to encapsulate it all. I didn’t even include the electric play of Pavel Bure in that description!
The Canucks now enter the reign of Horvat and the magic of Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes. It promises to be a time of greatness and excitement. Let’s roll the tape, and continue to be thankful that we can be part of yet another era of Canucks hockey.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.