This is all easier said than done, but when you’ve got players as offensively gifted as Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes all on one team, chances are, your power play is going to be an effective one. Last season, though, the Vancouver Canucks’ power play didn’t have Hughes on it for the majority of the season, and even in the five games he played in, Hughes didn’t get to see time on the Canucks’ first power-play unit alongside Pettersson and Boeser. Instead, Hughes only time quarterbacking the Canucks’ power play came on their subpar second unit.
All season long, the Canucks’ power play successes came almost entirely from their first unit. Even then, their overall power play was tied for 22nd in the league with a power-play percentage of just 17.1%. Through his five games, Hughes picked up two power-play assists, which put him at the same number of power-play points as Adam Gaudette, Jake Virtanen, and Troy Stecher. You might be asking yourself how a 19-year-old who was just getting his feet wet in the NHL had that much of an impact on a power play that quickly. It’s all thanks to the way that Hughes uses his hockey sense and his skating abilities to not only enter the zone with possession but keep that possession and create scoring chances for his teammates as a result.
Quinn Hughes Rejuvenates PP2
Hughe’s zone entries are second-to-none in terms of Canucks defencemen. Think of how many times a Canucks’ defenceman last season got past the red line and dumped the puck in, only for the opposition to instantly regain control of the puck. Or, they turn away from a clear entry path into the offensive zone to look for that good old drop pass.
In the limited time we saw Hughes play on the power play and at even strength last year, he showed that he is more than capable of entering the offensive zone while keeping complete control of the puck. There was the memorable two-assist game he had where he showed off his power-play prowess against the Nashville Predators, a game in which Hughes picked up the aforementioned first two assists of his career — both of them coming on the power play.
The Canucks power play will be successful if they allow Hughes, Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat to find a system that works well for them. You would think that a power play with Pettersson and Boeser’s firepower on it alone would make it a successful one, but that wasn’t the case last season. Teams began to defend the one-timer more and more, and the Canucks power play quickly became one dimensional. One of the problems was that teams were able to back off Alex Edler, who simply no longer possesses the electric shot that he once did.
For the record, I think Edler is a perfectly fine option to quarterback the Canucks’ power play. When he went down with an injury, the power play was even worse than before as it then had Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher on it getting looks with the first unit. That being said, when you have the choice to play a defenceman with an offensive skill set like the one Hughes possesses, you play him. The amount of hype surrounding Hughes was unbelievable and fans got to see the future of the Canucks on full display when Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes were deployed in 3-on-3 overtime, where all three of them showed off their hockey sense and the high level of offensive awareness they possess.
Hughes was a welcome addition to the club right from the get-go, and Pettersson and Boeser are both, rightfully so, extremely excited to play alongside a player like Hughes for years to come. With Hughes’ ability to create space for both himself and his teammates, opposing penalty killers won’t be able to cover overcommit to Pettersson and Boeser. Hughes isn’t the only reason that the Canucks have a huge opportunity to do some serious damage on the man advantage next season.
The team added towering free agent defenceman Tyler Myers to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $6 million per year. While many will point to Myers deficiencies away from the puck (he is a defenceman after all), the offensive boost that Myers will provide the Canucks blueline is one they have desperately needed for years.
Tyler Myers Will Play a Key Role
For two seasons straight, the Canucks blueline featured the aptly departed Erik Gudbranson and Michael Del Zotto on it. The point is, the Canucks defence was not good, and last season, the defence recorded just 27 of the 219 goals that the Canucks scored last season. Believe it or not, this number is actually better than the Canucks of just a season prior, whoin 2017-18, received just 21 of their 218 goals from their blueliners. It won’t just be Hughes who helps to improve this, as Myers, in a more limited role than the one he’ll see with the Canucks, scored nine goals as a member of the Winnipeg Jets last season.
With all of this new personnel, perhaps the most important thing that the Canucks will need to do in order to make their power play one of the best in the NHL is to change up their system. These new guns on the power play have a different skill set than the players we’ve seen on the power play before. The Canucks need to adapt to the way their new personnel, namely Hughes, plays in order to set them up for success all season long.
Finally, the Canucks have a serious shot at having much-increased production from their second unit than in seasons past. They finally have options on both units.
Usually, the Canucks have put Edler alongside Boeser at the point on the first unit power play, but now, they have the option of putting both Hughes and Myers there, with Boeser sliding up front, alongside Pettersson and Bo Horvat. That would mean the experienced Edler would almost certainly be quarterbacking the second unit, with much more skilled forwards on the second unit than before. These forwards could now include players like Micheal Ferland and J.T. Miller, both of whom are big improvements on who was being sent out on the Canucks power-play unit last season.
If the coaching staff plays their cards right and allow their new power-play personnel to play to their full potential, the Canucks could quickly become a team that opposing teams are frightened to take a penalty against. I know that I for one, am extremely excited to see the new-look power play, and truly believe that both Hughes and Myers will have an extremely positive effect on the Canucks special teams.
Is it October yet?
Site Expert at The Canuck Way, contributor at Puck Prose, BCIT Broadcast and Digital Journalism student, English and Communications at Simon Fraser University. Been writing for as long as I can remember, been writing about the Vancouver Canucks for over a year now.