With the NHL play suspended for the foreseeable future, it seemed as if it might be time to look at some of the news that’s emerging from the Vancouver Canucks organization and review where the season stands just in case it will be officially over sometime in the near future.
In this post, I want to help Canucks’ fans stay up-to-date with any news and rumors emerging from the Canucks.
Item One: Remembering Elias Pettersson at the 2017 Draft
The June 2017 NHL Entry Draft will be remembered as a defining moment for the Canucks. As the draft approached, fans weren’t in a good mood because the team hadn’t had a great 2016-17 season. In addition, as (bad) luck would have it, the lottery dropped the team from the second choice to the draft’s fifth choice.
Just before the Canucks’ fifth-overall pick, general manager Jim Benning had been working a deal on the phone with Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee about Vegas moving from sixth to fifth – offering the Canucks an extra draft choice to do so.
However, at the last second, McPhee called off the deal and the rest is Canucks history. Benning chose Pettersson as the team’s first choice.
At the time, many Canucks fans were less than impressed. This skinny young Swede certainly didn’t seem like a franchise-altering choice. But how things have changed. Unless some drastic accident occurs where the young Swede is injured and can no longer play hockey, drafting Pettersson will likely go down as one of the most important moments in Canucks’ NHL history.
Related: Top 10 Swedes in The NHL Today
As sports writer Ed Willes noted in his recent article, it was a “pick where the great cosmic roulette wheel, for once, landed on the Canucks’ number.” (from “In picking Pettersson, Canucks prove you can’t lose them all at draft,” Ed Willes, The Province, 03/26/20)
Item Two: Tanner Pearson Sets Career High in Scoring
Last season’s trade for Tanner Pearson looks like a winner for the Canucks. Pearson obviously got his mojo back and, although it was a shortened season, scored 21 goals and 45 points in 69 games. His 45 points represent a new career high for him, just beating out the 44 points he scored during the 2016-17 season with the Los Angeles Kings.
Pearson also averaged 16:31 of ice time, which was a career high. That isn’t a bad season for a player who had worn out his welcome with the Kings and then the Pittsburgh Penguins before he landed with the Canucks during 2018-19.
Item Three: Jack Rathbone Unsure About Turning Professional
During the same 2017 NHL Entry Draft that brought the Canucks Pettersson, the team also drafted Jack Rathbone in round four (95th overall). In a wise personal choice, the 20-year-old defenseman chose to attend Harvard University, which is always a good idea for a young man who’s looking past an NHL career into his long-term future.
Apparently, the Harvard sophomore is also thoughtful about world events, and he announced last week that he and his parents have decided to wait until the COVID-19 pandemic crisis eases before making any decision about signing a professional contract. When the Canucks selected the youngster when he was 17 years old, they chose him because he had good character and offensive skills – perhaps not in that order. Neither of these skills has obviously left him and, in fact, has raised his status within the Canucks’ pool of prospects.
Rathbone, who’s a thoughtful young man, noted: “The Canucks have expressed interest (in having me turn pro) and that’s something I’m really excited about because it means I’m taking the right steps. But honestly, with everything going and how chaotic things are, and school stopping and hockey coming to an abrupt end like it has, my family and I just didn’t feel this is the right time to make that decision. It just didn’t feel right. We’re going to make that decision later on.”
Item Four: J.T. Miller Had His Best Season Ever
During the season, it seemed as if any time I wrote a review of the Canucks stellar play, J.T. Miller’s name would come up. No wonder. In reviewing his season, he’s proved to be one of the best pick-ups in Canucks’ recent history. During the 2019-20 season, Miller set new personal highs with 27 goals, 45 assists, and 25 power play points in 69 games.
Fans have to wonder what the New York Rangers or the Tampa Bay Lightning organizations think about Miller’s emergence in Vancouver. He was never offered a prominent role in either organization, but he’s certainly showed himself capable of helping to carry a team this season.
With the Canucks, the 27-year-old forward has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game and has played regular shifts on the power play. When I watch him during games, he also seems to have assumed a leadership position of sorts on the team.
Item Five: Vasili Podkolzin Still Has Another Season in the KHL
Writing of Canucks drafts, as I have above, in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the team chose Vasili Podkolzin, an 18-year-old right-winger, as their first pick (10th overall).
In a tweet not long ago, TSN radio’s Rick Dhaliwal reported that the Russian prospect sent him a text message noting that he has “one more year on my contract. Of course, every player has a dream to play in NHL and I want to prepare myself for this as much as possible.”
If things continue as they seem to be going, it looks as if, when Podkolzin arrives in a couple of seasons, he’ll be joining a contending team.
What’s Next with the Canucks?
As is the case in these troubled times, no one really knows what’s next with any NHL team. I, for one, am missing hockey and – as much as I hope it might continue soon – wouldn’t want to risk illness to make that happen prematurely.
Although I’m not that kind of a doctor, I encourage Canucks fans to be well where you are.