Canucks News & Rumors: Hughes, Podkolzin & Pettersson

Of course, it’s the offseason. That said, when Vancouver Canucks fans look at the new players who have joined the team, it’s hard to think the 2019-20 season won’t be an improvement over last season. In fact, this club might even have the potential to be really solid.

The defense has improved and the young players are a season older. There’s an infusion of offensive possibility, which leads to a reasonable hope that goals will be more plentiful than they were during the 2018-19 season.

Related: Pettersson vs. Binnington: Who Will Win the Calder?

New players like JT Miller, who came from the Tampa Bay Lightning, will surely help. In addition, Micheal Ferland might add 20 goals himself if he stays healthy and plays on the team’s top six, which he should. And, I expect the team’s young stars, like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, to improve.

Micheal Ferland Tyler Myers Jordie Benn J.T. Miller
Recent additions to the Vancouver Canucks. (THW Archives)

Perhaps the Canucks’ biggest improvement will be on their defensive corps, which is much stronger than last season, now including Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg. Given these improvements, my optimistic analysis is that it might be a good season to be a Canucks fan.

The only big, anxious question I have now is when will Brock Boeser sign?

Given this stance of general optimism, I want to look at some of the news that’s emerging from the team in this post.

Item One: Canucks Have Two Prospects Ranked in Top 50 by Sporting News

Rumors are that Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s job might be on life support if the team doesn’t make the postseason in 2019-20, and he’s been working furiously since the team played its last game of the 2018-19 regular season. In truth, whether you like Benning or not, he has to be given credit for his ability to assess and sign good, young players. He’s been especially good at picking up quality prospects during the draft.

Related: Vancouver Canucks All-Time Team

In this year’s draft, Benning picked up young Russian Vasili Podkolzin (number 10 overall). In the 2018 Draft, he picked up Hughes (number seven overall) and in 2017 he stole Pettersson (number five overall). He found Boeser (23rd overall) in 2015, and chose Thatcher Demko (36th overall) in 2014. That’s a nice core of young players.

Benning’s ability hasn’t gone unnoticed, and when Steve Kournianos of The Sporting News listed his top 50 NHL prospects for the 2019-20 season, both Hughes (12th) and Podkolzin (15th) made the list. Kournianos, who creates this list every year, aced it last season by ranking eventual Calder Trophy-winner Pettersson as his first choice. He also had Hughes (28th) and Demko (30th). Hughes moved up and Demko is no longer considered a prospect.

Quinn Hughes Vasily Podkolzin Nils Hoglander
Quinn Hughes is the Canucks’ best prospect. (THW Archives)

In fact, is there a chance the Canucks could win the Calder Trophy two seasons in a row? Hughes, a world-class skater and great puck-mover, certainly should be on people’s radar as a Calder Trophy candidate as he enters his first full NHL season.

Sadly, Canucks fans will have to wait a couple seasons to see Podkolzin, who has two years left on his KHL contract. One can hope that the Canucks team he joins in 2021-22 will already be a regular participant in the NHL’s postseason.

Item Two: NHL Network Names Elias Pettersson as One of the Top 20 Centers

Early this week, the NHL Network listed the top 20 centers in the NHL, and Vancouver Canucks’ Pettersson was named to that list. A year ago, who would have thought the young Swede would have reached this status?

Elias Pettersson, Jacob Markstrom Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Now, he’s the reigning Calder Trophy winner, who had a great season in 2018-19 (28 goals, 38 assists, and 66 points). There’s every indication he might even be better in 2019-20. First, he’s older and has gained experience. Second, he has stronger line partners. When Boeser eventually signs, Pettersson might have both Boeser and newcomer Miller as goal-scoring wings.

I’m looking for the young center to become a point-a-game player, at the least.

Related: The RFA Deals the Canucks, Boeser Are Waiting For

David Satriano of, who did the rankings, ranked Pettersson number 20 on his list. It’s no surprise that Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins were ranked numbers one and two respectively. They’re generational players.

As a Canucks commentator and fan, I’m hoping to see Bo Horvat have a great season and eventually make Satriano’s list. I’m also hoping this is the season Horvat is finally named team captain.

Item Three: Pettersson Chosen for NHL 20 Swedish Cover

This week, Pettersson was honored by being chosen as one of the cover NHL athletes for EA SPORTS NHL 20. Obviously, Pettersson graces the cover for Sweden.

The Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine was named the cover athlete of EA SPORTS NHL 20 in Finland. By being recognized with this honor, Laine becomes the first hockey player to star on EA SPORTS NHL covers for two years in a row.

The honor suits Pettersson, who loved video games as a youngster and, when he played EA Sports, used to dream about playing in the NHL.

In fact, Pettersson noted, “As a lifelong fan of EA Sports NHL, it’s a tremendous thrill for me to appear on the cover of the NHL 20. Playing in the NHL has been a dream come true, and it feels great to follow up my rookie season with this huge honor.”

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By the way, Pettersson is not the first Canucks player who has been on the Swedish cover. The Sedin twins and Markus Naslund also made the covers.

What’s Next?

The next piece of the Canucks puzzle to be set into place is the signing of Boeser. But that might have to wait until the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner is signed. He seems to be the tipping point for restricted free agents around the NHL, and the signings have been going slowly this offseason because he has not agreed to terms yet with his team.