Let’s face it - there is a lot of negative news in the media right now. While many of us are stuck in our homes under quarantine, we are fed a daily loop of COVID-19 news or videos of people disregarding medical professionals and lengthening our period of self-isolation.
Yet as we all try to stave off the insanity that comes with being stuck inside for possible weeks on end, we can think back to some of the great moments of this Canucks season and hopefully they will bring a smile to your face. From Quinn Hughes amazing rookie season to the 9-3 drubbing of the Bruins, this season had enough ups to hopefully sustain my Canucks hockey addiction for the time being.
Quinn Hughes is a Vancouver Canuck
The above statement is something I repeat to myself on almost a daily basis. Starting with Brock Boeser I have found my expectations for Canuck rookies shattered on an annual basis, and based on this evidence I have no choice but to conclude that we should expect Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander to become impactful players during their freshman campaigns as well.
It seemed Quinn was the only one who didn’t get the memo that 20 year olds need some time to adjust to playing in the NHL, especially if they play defence. Whether it was evading forecheckers with some nifty skating (something he does countless times every night) or throwing a breakout pass across the ice right onto a forward’s stick, Hughes dazzled and at the very least was exciting to watch every single night.
Consider this: Hughes is currently 41st all time for points by a Canuck’s defenceman, and would have broken the top 40 easily had the season not been cancelled. Clearly, the team has never seen an offensive dynamo like Hughes from the back end.
The idea of Hughes quarterbacking the power play for the future is enough to put a smile on my face. For those who enjoy the fancy stats, the numbers back up the eye test. Looking at Canucks defenceman, Hughes’ Individual Point Percentage - the percentage of Canuck’s goals that Hughes gets a point while he is on the ice - was 54.08% (big thank you to naturalstattrick.com for all the advanced stats). To put this in perspective he is over 10% higher than any other Canucks defenceman, and he was eighth in the entire NHL among defenceman with at least 1000 minutes played.
The Evolution of Jake Virtanen
It can't be easy being drafted by your hometown team as a teenager and having the world handed to you, but still Jake Virtanen had been one of Canucks fans favourite whipping boys through his early career. He possesses a tantalizing combination of speed and size that made scouts drool as he tore up the WHL, but has failed to translate that success to the NHL level. Expectations have been high and when he does things like fail his physical at training camp, it can be hard to have patience.
Yet this season was a big leap for Virtanen as he set career highs in goals, assists, points, and started to look like the player fans envisioned when he was drafted. His wrist shot is a deadly weapon and fans got to see more consistent flashes of the big guy putting it all together. Virtanen plays a game that will serve the team well when the whistles get swallowed. He can be a pest and he occasionally lays some big hits.
Virtanen’s career season was cut short so he will most likely not reach the 20 goal mark but there is now more reason for optimism in the future. One area where he provides extra value is in the penalties drawn category. Virtanen was second on the team in penalties drawn this season, trailing only Elias Pettersson, as he could often use his speed to wheel around defenders and cause a hook or hold.
More Amazing Adam Gaudette Celebrations
Seeing Adam Gaudette celebrate may be one of the greatest joys for Canucks fans.
Every time this kid scores he makes it look like its the Stanley Cup Finals, and I love it. To see his enthusiasm is great and gets the whole building going. Gaudette got plenty more chances to show off his creative celebrations as he broke the double digit goal mark for the first time in his young career.
Gaudette showed off some substance to go with his style as coach Travis Green put more trust in the former Hobey Baker winner this season. Gaudette had his shaky moments no doubt, especially defensively, but he showed enough to know that he can help give the Canucks some of the best centre depth in the league going forward.
Gaudettes Goals For % - the percentage of total goals that are the Canucks while he is on the ice - took a jump from 48.98% last season to 55.42% in 2019-20. If Gaudette can continue this strong play it gives the Canucks a formidable trio of centres with him, Elias Pettersson, and Bo Horvat. Centre play is key to making it deep in the post season and these three will be at the forefront when it does happen.
While there are many more exciting storylines from this past Canuck season that I could not fit, hopefully these three reminded you of better times and helped out everyone during this period of social distancing. Everyone stay safe and hopefully we will see Canucks hockey again before too long. I know we all just want to see Petey in the playoffs.