Since Quinn Hughes arrived in Vancouver, the question has been: Who is the best defensive partner for him? This season, there are four options in Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, Tucker Poolman and Travis Hamonic. Although none are prefect, one does stick out as the clear favourite.
With the Vancouver Canucks hitting the midseason point of their schedule, it is time to rank the pairings from stay away to best option. If this team is to have success, Hughes needs to have a partner that can support him. Here is where each of the four players rank.
Stay Away- Travis Hamonic
The big issue with finding Hughes a partner has been consistency. He had some chemistry with Chris Tanev before he left in free agency, and last season, it looked as though Hamonic may have been the answer. That is no longer the case, as he continues to be out of the lineup with injuries.
Even when healthy and in the lineup, the duo has not worked. They have a 50% Corsi when partnered on the ice, which is the lowest amongst the four choices and over their two seasons playing together, they have been outshot and outscored while five on five. There is also the fact that he has missed most of the season with personal issues and injuries. Hughes needs a partner that is going to be there game after game, and this season Hamonic has been unable to keep himself in the lineup consistently.
Only in Emergencies- Tucker Poolman
Hughes makes everyone on the ice look better, and that includes Poolman. When the two are on the ice, they have a 53.38% Corsi at five on five and have outshot opponents 128 to 115. Overall, the pairing has not looked bad, but at the same time has had some problems.
One big issue with this pairing is that both players like to jump up in the play, which usually leads to high danger chances against. This season, they have been on the ice for 53 high danger chances against while the team has only generated 40. Luckily, they are even when it comes to high danger chance goals for and against. If there are injuries and this pairing needs to play together, it may work for a game or two but should not be used as a permanent fix.
Good Option- Tyler Myers
Myers and Hughes, as partners, are an interesting dynamic. Both are offensively minded defensemen who like to join up in the rush, and both have shown a commitment to improving their defensive zone play since Bruce Boudreau took over as coach. Usually used when the team needs a goal, this duo has shown the potential to become a solid defensive pairing.
In 170 minutes of ice time, Hughes and Myers have a 55.69% Corsi, and are over 50% in shots for percentage, goals for percentage and expected goals for percentage. This means the duo can control play well and are able to keep the puck in the offensive zone for the majority of the time. The issue, however, is they give up more high danger scoring chances than they produce as they both like to jump up in the play. As mentioned, there is potential for this pairing to have success; they need to ensure one of them is committed to staying back and not giving up as many chances against.
Best Option- Luke Schenn
Schenn is built to play with Hughes: a stay-at-home defenceman who has a decent shot, plays a physical game, and can protect him from cheap shots. Better yet, the analytics show these two can play together at a high level. At five on five, these two have created a strong partnership that the Canucks should use the rest of the season.
When it comes to analytics, every category is above 50% when they are on the ice together. The team generated more shots than allows, scores more goals than it concedes, and does a good job generating high danger scoring chances while ensuring they are not giving them up. The only issue is playtime as Schenn can not be on the ice for 19-20 minutes a game at five on five. Regardless, he should be Hughes’s primary partner going forward.
Schenn and Hughes Make A Strong Partnership
Overall, Hughes’s ideal partner is Schenn. They have already played 181 minutes together so the sample size is big enough to show these two work together. Yes, they may not be able to play every five on five shift together, but coach Boudreau and the Canucks staff should keep them together if they want to have success throughout the rest of the season.
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Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.