In this edition of Vancouver Canucks’ News & Rumors, the team finished its season-opening six-game road trip, which saw Quinn Hughes reach the 100 point milestone and Conor Garland set a record of his own. Also, Elias Pettersson struggled to produce during the six-game road trip. There is an update on the Travis Hamonic situation, and Vasili Podkolzin may have an opportunity to return to the lineup for the season opener on Tuesday.
There are reports Hamonic may be in Vancouver or on his way soon to resume his NHL career. The veteran defenceman might have to spend some time with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Canucks before joining the main roster.
The Canucks placed Hamonic on a temporary leave of absence, which cleared his $3 million cap hit. General manager Jim Benning decided against using that money to replace him. Instead, Benning waited for the veteran’s return.
Hamonic’s return should provide the team with a boost as he is one of the club’s best defensive defencemen. His return will likely bounce Kyle Burroughs and Luke Schenn out of the lineup. He will either pair up with Hughes, who he played with last season or Jack Rathbone.
Hughes Reaches 100 Point Milestone
In his third NHL season, defenceman Hughes reached the 100 point milestone. In the club’s 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on October 21st, Hughes registered an assist on the team’s game-winning goal.
Hughes now has one goal and four points in five games this season, adding to his career total of 12 goals and 101 points through 134 games. He reached the mark in the fewest games (133) by any blueliner to debut with the franchise. Additionally, he is the 10th fastest player to reach the mark in Canucks’ history.
To add on, Hughes required the fewest games among active defencemen to reach the 100 point mark. In the last 40 years, only nine d-men have reached the mark faster than Hughes, which includes notable names such as Brian Leetch, Larry Murphy, Phil Housley, Sergei Zubov, Al MacInnis, Gary Sutter, Vladimir Malakhov, Paul Coffey and Chris Chelios. The 2018 first-round pick continues to prove to be one of the best defencemen in franchise history. He will have the opportunity to prove he is one of the best players in franchise history over the next few seasons as he signed a six-year, $47.1 million contract before the 2021-22 campaign.
Garland’s Hot Start
Another player making history with the franchise is Garland. The newly acquired forward scored the game-winning goal against the Seattle Kraken on Saturday, making him the first player in franchise history to record a six-game point streak to open the season. He is tied for the team lead in goals with three and points with eight.
Garland continues to become a fan favourite due to his competitive edge. During Saturday night’s win, the forward stared down a fan who flipped him off prior to the shift where he scored the game-winning goal. Although the forward stated the fan didn’t fire him up, the incident must’ve fueled him a little bit for the next shift(from ‘Everybody loves to hate Conor Garland: The rise of the newest Canucks fan favourite — ‘He has one mode: Win’,’ The Athletic, October 24, 2021)
“He was giving me the finger and yelling at me about two minutes earlier because I was facing him taping my stick. I just happened to score the next shift.” Garland said. “No that didn’t fire me up at all, I just felt a little at fault for the goal that they scored. I was just happy to get on the other side and help us win a hockey game.”
His game-winning goal came in front of his childhood friend, Ryan Donato. The two played on the same team growing up, even competing against each other while playing on different lines. Donato has witnessed Garland’s compete level, which has fueled the forward’s early success with the Canucks.
“It’s everything, everything he does,” Donato said. “He has one mode: Win. It’s been like that since he was a little kid.
Pettersson Struggling to Produce
Although the Canucks have a 3-2-1 record to start the season, their star forward has struggled to produce. Through six games, he’s registered one goal and three points. Pettersson had a similar start to the 2020-21 season, posting two points through eight games. He finished the season with 10 goals and 21 points in 26 games, which means he posted 19 points in his final 18 games before getting injured. The forward discussed dealing with his confidence during his early-season struggles (from ‘Why I’m not worried (yet) about Elias Pettersson and 8 other observations from Canucks’ 6-game road trip,’ The Athletic, October 24, 2021).
“It’s just about feeling good out there,” he continued on the subject of how he’s experiencing this slow start. “Everything is confidence, you make a few bad plays and then you hesitate to make the next play. It’s all confidence, especially for me. I play with a ton of confidence and sometimes you don’t feel as confident, so you simplify and try to find it.
“It just comes and goes, but I need to play confident, I need to be trying to make plays because that’s when I play the best.”
The Swedish forward signed a three-year contract with an average annual value of $7.350 million. His early-season struggles shouldn’t last too long as he is an elite player and has been through a slump before. Once he is out of his early-season slump, he should help the Canucks improve.
Injuries Make Room for Podkolzin
The Canucks were down a few bodies at practice on Monday, which could make way for Podkolzin’s return for the home opener on Tuesday. Justin Dowling took a maintenance day, but Jason Dickinson was a little banged up and left practice 15 minutes in.
Meanwhile, Podkolzin has been out of the lineup since the team’s 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, missing the team’s last two games. The Canucks are returning to Rogers Arena for the first time in close to 600 days, which should lead to an electric atmosphere during the home opener. The home opener could be a great opportunity for Podkolzin to put together his best game of the season.
Canucks Spoil Kraken Home Opener
The Canucks ended their six-game road trip with a big win over the Kraken. The win spoiled the 32nd NHL franchise’s first-ever home game. The game was tied 1-1 heading into the third period before Mark Giordano gave his club a 2-1 lead. The Canucks responded with three straight goals from Bo Horvat, Garland and Dowling to ruin the Kraken and their fans’ night.
The Canucks ended their season-opening six-game road trip with a 3-2-1 record. The team hosts the Minnesota Wild in their season opener on Tuesday night.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.