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5 Warm and Fuzzy Christmas Storylines for the Canucks

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Other than Elias Pettersson lighting the NHL on fire, what else has gone right in Vancouver?

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks
 Dec 16, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin (77) and forward Bo Horvat (53) and forward Brock Boeser (6) celebrate forward Elias Pettersson (40) goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Rogers Arena. 
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

To put things nicely, this season has been, well, less sad than other Canucks seasons of late.

Much of that has to do with the emergence of Elias Pettersson, so let’s get right to stating the obvious with these 5 Warm and Fuzzy Storylines for the Canucks so far in 2018-19

Elias Pettersson Blossoming into a Superstar

Blossoming into a superstar, or already a superstar?

There’s a hefty argument trending towards the latter, which is what makes Pettersson’s NHL debut so remarkable. He currently has 35 points in 30 games, and is on pace for 40+ goals and 90+ points.

Did I mention that he just turned 20?

Right from the preseason onwards, Pettersson has displayed some unreal talent, talent that most NHL players don’t possess. He’s only going to get better in 2019. If for some strange reason you haven’t hopped on the Dekey Pete bandwagon, find a spot and glue your ass to the seat.

Horvat’s Game Reaches New Heights

While Pettersson has been under pressure as a novice centreman in professional hockey, Bo Horvat has had to endure pressure of his own. What might that entail, you ask?

Well, In a nutshell, that includes spending a majority of his time playing with AHL-level players while taking virtually every face-off for this team while both Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter were out of the lineup.

How did he take that challenge? Well, he’s on pace for career-bests in goals and points despite having everything go against him from a match-up perspective. He had to drag the lifeless Tim Schaller around for a month, and still managed to produce. The only thing that would have been more impressive is if he was able to help Schaller score.

Horvat be playing like a bonafide first line centre, but he isn’t a miracle-worker.

Jake Virtanen Flashing First-Round Potential

It seems like for the first time in years, all of the moaning and groaning about the Jake Virtanen selection has slowly dwindled away.

That’s what a consistent effort will do, and it’s abundantly clear that Virtanen is playing the best hockey of his career at the moment. His 11th goal of the season against the St. Louis Blues was a career high, and we aren’t even at the midway point of the season.

In past seasons, Virtanen did show flashes of a player who could be a productive NHL player. Virtanen’s underlying numbers are actually similar to previous years, it’s just that his opportunity has increased in 2018-19. This year, his 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 11.7% isn’t some crazy-high, unsustainable number, but it’s better than the 6.3% he boasted last season.

If he keeps getting the minutes (which he should) Virtanen should continue to produce.

The Resurgence of Ben Hutton

Remember the 12 healthy scratches, the public shots thrown at his fitness, and the two healthy scratches to start the season?

Ben Hutton has come a long ways since then.

His resurgence has been one of the better stories on a Canucks defence that is still near the bottom of the league. After starting the season as the seventh defenceman on the depth chart, Hutton quickly became the Canucks number one defenceman after injuries to Chris Tanev and Alex Edler late in October.

Vancouver Canucks v New York Islanders
Tom Kuhnhackl #14 of the New York Islanders scores at 5:11 of the first period as he is being tripped by Ben Hutton #27 of the Vancouver Canucks at the Barclays Center on November 13, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The underlying numbers aren’t that flattering, but Hutton has shouldered tougher minutes against top opponents while playing with Erik Gudbranson. Data tracked by Harman Dayal of The Athletic also shows that Hutton is one of the team’s best defenders in transition, with Hutton having the best defensive zone exit percentage on the team.

After a season where he had six assists, seeing him post four goals and 14 points through 36 games is a wild success for Hutton.

Roussel Provides Canucks With Missing Element

Out of the three contracts signed on July 1st by Jim Benning, it was Beagle’s that certainly received the most criticism. However, most were still baffled by the four years given to Roussel as well.

Now? Nevermind overvalued, you could even make the argument that Roussel is undervalued. I have time for that argument. Apparently, this “undervalued” Frenchman is stating to remind Canucks fans of someone.

Roussel should be feeling pretty dam good about that comparison.

For the most part, Roussel has given the Canucks good bang for their buck. After coming off of a concussion to start the season, Roussel looks as tenacious as he ever has in the NHL. His 15 points in 33 games don’t tell the whole story of a player who can play up and down the line-up, provides energy, and does something that most other Canucks don’t do: he pisses the other team off.

At 28 years old, there’s a good chance that if Roussel stays healthy, he will continue to provide good value for the Canucks throughout his contract. For now, he’s provided the Canucks with a missing element, and he’s one of the most entertaining Canucks to watch on the ice as well.