Last night, the Vancouver Canucks beat the Ottawa Senators in a thrilling overtime win as Elias Pettersson scored his first NHL hat trick and became the fourth active player to score 40 points in his first 40 games. He was also chosen to represent the Pacific Division at the upcoming All-Star Game. In other Canucks news, the team made a goalie swap with the Senators that paves the way for goalie prospect Thatcher Demko to move to the big club.
In this post, I want to review this news and provide some insights about the Canucks’ upcoming schedule.
Item One: Senators & Canucks Trade Goalies
The Canucks and the Senators made a trade this week. Joining the Canucks is goalie Mike McKenna, forward Tom Pyatt and a sixth round pick in the 2019 Entry Draft. Heading to the Senators is backup goalie Anders Nilsson and minor-league winger Darren Archibald.
Nilsson, who is 28 years old, was 3-8-1 with a 3.03 goals-against average (GAA) and an .895 save percentage (SV%) as a Canuck while playing backup to Jacob Markstrom. Archibald had played nine games with the Canucks this year with one goal and one assist. He had 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 23 games with the Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Utica Comets.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning noted that the trade “gives us flexibility and keeps our options open.” One of those options is Demko’s upward movement, which I will talk about later in this post.
For now, newly-acquired McKenna will back up Markstrom on Thursday in Montreal when the Canucks visit the Canadiens. The 35-year-old McKenna was 1-4-1 with a 3.96 GAA with Ottawa this season. Pyatt cleared waivers before the trade was finalized and will join the Comets.
Item Two: Pettersson Scores His First Career Hat Trick
Canucks’ rookie Pettersson scored his first NHL hat trick in the team’s 4-3 overtime win over the Senators on Wednesday. As teammate Brock Boeser said: “He’s had so many chances to get a hat trick so far this year, so to finally see him get that third one is a special moment.” Boeser, looking into the Canucks’ future, added: “He’s going to have a lot more hat tricks.” That’s probably a pretty safe forecast.
Canucks head coach Travis Green is, obviously, pleased to see Pettersson’s success. He noted that his rookie had a good day Wednesday, with his all-star selection and his first hat trick. What was his assessment of Pettersson? “He’s just getting better.” That, too, is good news for the Canucks.
Related: 3 Reasons the Canucks Have Surged
Item Three: Here Comes Thatcher Demko
Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet reported that the Canucks’ recent goalie swap with the Senators opens the door for fans to soon see 23-year-old goalie prospect Demko in action. In a move many Canucks fans have been hoping for, Benning suggested Demko would be recalled from the Comets “soon.”
The trade of Nilsson to the Senators widely opened that door. As Benning said, the team wanted to make room to get Demko “up here and get him going.” Demko, the 36th pick in the 2014 Entry Draft, is 7-5-0 in the AHL this season with a 2.63 GAA and a .909 SV%.
At least for this season Demko will back-up Canucks’ number one goalie Markstrom, whose record is 16-10-3 with a 2.81 GAA and a .910 SV%. He is coming off a great December, when he was 8-1-0 with a 1.66 GAA and a .943 SV%. That’s good, fans.
Markstrom’s recent history of solid goaltending means Demko’s development within the Canucks’ system will be more measured than if he were the starter. He has been building his foundation in the AHL for two-and-a-half years and is beginning to play really well. Benning notes that the team has, “been patient with Demko’s development.”
Like Canucks’ fans, it sounds as if Benning is also anxious to see what Demko can do. He added, “Now it’s time for him to move up here so we can get a look at where he’s at versus NHL competition.”
MacIntyre believes Demko will be on the Canucks’ roster when Vancouver’s current six-game road trip ends Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Moving Demko then will offer him a more comfortable homestand than if he were starting on the road. So far, Demko has only played one game for the Canucks – last season’s 5-4 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 31. The former Boston College star was expected to challenge for an NHL roster spot in training camp but sustained a concussion and didn’t play for two months.
Item Four: Pettersson Already Making Canucks’ History
Although only a rookie, Pettersson is already joining elite NHL and Canucks company. On Wednesday, he was awarded Rookie of the Month honors. And, as noted earlier in this post, he was named to the NHL All-Star team and scored his first career hat trick.
What’s also noteworthy is that Pettersson became one of four active players to score 40 points in his first 40 career games. Who else is on that exclusive list? Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid. That’s a pretty star-studded cast, which now includes the Canucks’ young rookie.
Also noteworthy is that Pettersson scored the third goal of his first hat trick in overtime. It was his seventh game-winning goal of the season and set a rookie record for most game-winning goals once held by none other than former Canucks star Pavel Bure. If you are a Canucks fan, you can likely see some of the same on-ice charisma in Pettersson that Bure possessed in spades.
The Canucks’ January schedule offers a long homestand for the team. After two games against tough eastern opponents (the Canadiens and Maple Leafs), the team comes home for the rest of the month. Although all NHL teams can be tough, the Canucks’ schedule is a bit less difficult with the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings showing up.
With a strong homestand, there is a chance the team can put itself into playoff contention. The next month might be fun if you are a Canucks fan.