Chris Tanev

Getty

All eyes turn to Quinn Hughes’ development for Canucks

1 Comment

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Vancouver Canucks.

Even though there seems to be no definitive plan with the Vancouver Canucks’ ongoing rebuild, there have at least been two huge developments during this process. In each of the past two years they have had a young player emerge as a franchise player and organizational building block, at least giving the team’s fans some kind of reason for hope that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t just an oncoming freight train.

Two years ago it was forward Brock Boeser who burst on the scene with 29 goals and 55 points before a brutal injury cut his season short after just 62 games. It was enough to give him a second place finish in the Calder Trophy voting. He showed in year two it was not a fluke performance and that he is the real deal.

This past season it was Elias Pettersson instantly becoming one of the league’s must-see players and winning the rookie of the year award.

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

This year the hope is that defender Quinn Hughes can follow in their footsteps and have a breakthrough rookie season.

The Canucks definitely need it.

For all of the flaws this roster currently has, there is no position that is thinner in terms of potential impact players than the defense which has become a black hole when it comes to creating offense.

Alexander Edler is probably the most accomplished player to ever play on the team’s blue line, and while he still has something to offer his best days are in the rear-view mirror. Chris Tanev is a solid defensive player, but is not going to break a game open. Tyler Myers will have a lot of pressure to live up to his contract, but he probably isn’t going to make a huge impact when it comes to making a meaningful improvement in the standings.

Hughes is the type of player that could do that if everything goes as planned.

He only appeared in five games for the Canucks at the end of the 2018-19 season and was eased into the lineup in a very sheltered role, but it was an impressive debut that saw him record three assists and show the speed, creativity, and type of talent the Canucks are desperately lacking on their blue line.

It would be putting way too much pressure on him to expect him to step in the lineup and duplicate the rookie performance of a Miro Heiskanen or Rasmus Dahlin (not everyone is going to be that good, that fast) but he has the potential to make a noticeable impact on the Canucks’ lineup. A big rookie season from him would do more to improve the team’s outlook than any other addition they made this summer, not only because of the position he plays and the impact it could make, but because of how important he is to the team’s long-term development.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Michael Del Zotto picks teeth up off the ice, is a good teammate

Canucks TV
1 Comment

Friends don’t let friends leave their teeth on the ice.

So Vancouver Canucks defenseman Michael Del Zotto did what needed to be done Saturday night in Toronto, picking up several of fellow defenseman Chris Tanev‘s chicklets off the ice after the latter got drilled in the mouth by a deflected puck.

It’s bad luck for Tanev, who only return to the lineup on Saturday after missing three weeks with a groin strain.

The video below shows the carnage, as point shot seems to take a deflection off the stick of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner‘s stick and up into Tanev’s grill.

Tanev, understandably, had to leave the game for repairs.

Mouth guards can only do so much, and it looks like Tanev will have a date with the dentist’s chair sometime in the future.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Report: Canucks, Sutter closing in on five-year deal, north of $20M

28 Comments

Jim Benning wasn’t kidding when he called Brandon Sutter a “foundation piece.”

Just days after acquiring Sutter from Pittsburgh in a multi-player trade, the Canucks GM is reportedly close to inking the 26-year-old to a fairly large extension, per Sportsnet:

If accurate, the extension — which would kick in for 2016-17 — will make Sutter one of just two players on the active roster signed until 2020, the other being defenseman Chris Tanev. The estimated cap hit would also make Sutter one of the highest-paid forwards on the team next season, behind the Sedins ($7M each) and Alex Burrows ($4.5M).

Sutter’s two-year, $6.6M deal expires at the end of this season.

Given the reported money and term, it’s pretty clear Benning sees Sutter as the fix to Vancouver’s second-line center problem. Nick Bonino, part of the package sent to Pittsburgh for Sutter, looked over his head at times last year as the No. 2, and the club isn’t keen on rushing promising prospect Bo Horvat into the role.

“Horvat, the last half the year, played really well for us,” Benning said on Tuesday. “We don’t want to put pressure on him to be somewhere in the lineup that he can’t handle it going forward. We want to make sure that he keeps developing as a player.”

Whether Sutter can fill the No. 2 role remains to be seen. He was largely a No. 3 guy throughout his time in Pittsburgh, though some of that had to do with being stuck behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the depth chart.

Canucks pick up Bartkowski

7 Comments

Not long after announcing they’d re-signed Yannick Weber, the Vancouver Canucks announced they’d signed d-man Matt Bartkowski (one year, $1.75 million), too.

Bartkowski, 27, played 131 games for the Bruins from 2011-15, scoring no goals with 24 assists. For much of that time, Canucks GM Jim Benning was with the Boston organization, so there’s some familiarity there.

The addition of Bartkowski gives the Canucks six NHL d-men under contract for 2015-16, plus Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening are expected to push for spots on the roster.

Alex Edler — Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis — Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa — Frank Corrado
Matt Bartkowski — Adam Clendening

Related: Canucks have a puzzle to solve on the blue line

Canucks have a puzzle to solve on the blue line

14 Comments

Jim Benning learned something in his first year as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

You can never have enough defensemen.

As such, he plans to start next season with eight blue-liners, not just seven, like he did this past season. And he wants even more options down on the farm, in case of injury.

“We’ll start with eight defensemen, but we want to have 11 D capable of playing in the NHL,” Benning told The Province. “That’s something I learned this year from being in the West. The travel wears the team down a bit and it seems to take a toll on your defense.”

Currently, if you had to pick a group of eight Canucks defenders, it might look something like this:

Alex Edler-Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis-Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa-Kevin Bieksa
Ryan Stanton-Adam Clendening

But there’s also young, right-shooting Frank Corrado. The 22-year-old is arguably ready for the NHL. Hence, the speculation Vancouver may try and trade Bieksa.

Of course, trading Bieksa would mean one less defenseman, on a team that wants to have lots of them.

The challenge for Benning is a dearth of waivers-exempt, NHL-capable blue-liners. All nine that have been mentioned above require waivers to be sent to the AHL.

There’s also the mix to consider. The current group, as a whole, failed to create enough offense, and in the playoffs had trouble beating Calgary’s aggressive forecheck.

At the very least, Benning has time to figure out a solution.

“The season doesn’t start for four months,” he said. “If we want to add a certain type of player by trade, it’s something we’d look at. Like, say, a better transition defenseman.”

Related: Despite ‘step in the right direction,’ do Canucks need to alter core?