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Grading the Performance of Every Canuck in the Season Opener

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The Canucks beat the Oiler 5-3 on opening night but how did everyone’s individual performances stack up?

Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Canucks opened the 2021 season with a big 5-3 road victory over the Edmonton Oilers despite missing JT Miller, their leading point scorer last season. There were plenty of good takeaways for the Canucks, including another superstar debut from a rookie in Nils Hoglander, but they won't have long to rest on their laurels as they play again tomorrow.

The condensed schedule that this season offers will test how deep the Canucks are but if tonight was any indication then they should be able to do just fine.


Forwards

Bo Horvat: A

Horvat’s line was the strongest from start to finish for the Canucks and the captain ended the night with two points, split between a goal and an assist. Horvat played 8:19 of 5-on-5 against Connor McDavid and thrived during that time posting an expected goals percentage of 69.61%.

Elias Pettersson: A-

Pettersson and his linemates were quiet through the first half of the game before exploding in the second half. He made a beautiful pass to set up Boeser’s second goal but a more complete game from start to finish would have earned him a higher grade.

Brock Boeser: A+

Boeser had two goals which were both the result of great shots, silencing the doubters who clamour for “rookie season Boeser”.

He had a few great opportunities on the powerplay as well and finished the night with four shots, tied for the team lead.

Jake Virtanen: C+

Virtanen looked pretty out of place on the top line and didn't take full advantage of the opportunity that was afforded to him. Once JT Miller returns Virtanen will be demoted out of the top-six, especially considering the play of the next player on this list.

Nils Höglander: A+

What a debut for Höglander. He made a strong play along the boards that led to the first goal although he was not credited with an assist and then he scored the second goal for good measure.

Even besides the goal he was noticeable the entire night and looked very comfortable for a guy playing his first NHL game.

Tanner Pearson: A

Pearson had assists on both of the first two goals as he fought to protect the puck and make tough passes that set up his teammates. He continues to show good chemistry with Horvat and if this game is any indication the Canucks are about to have a very scary second line.

Brandon Sutter: B+

Sutter had a few opportunities early yet he failed to capitalize. He had the fourth highest individual expected goals on the team, a sign that he was in scoring positions, but he lacks the high end skill and shot to consistently finish these chances.

Adam Gaudette: B+

Gaudette wasn't used in a large role tonight but he came through when it mattered most, scoring a goal on a slapshot from the high slot to break a third period tie and rewarding fans with a great celebration as always.

Antonie Roussel: B

Roussel had an assist on the Gaudette goal but other than that saw limited ice-time as that line (which included MacEwen) was clearly the fourth and received the least TOI tonight. One thing to note about Roussel was that he did spend three minutes killing penalties for the Canucks tonight and the team’s penalty kill went 4-4.

Tyler Motte: B+

While Motte was on the ice the Canucks did a strong job of driving the play and had chances, they just couldn’t finish them. Still, Motte was credited with two hits and if that line can start converting some chances it will add some tertiary scoring to the attack.

Jay Beagle: B

Beagle was his usual great self in the face-off dot, winning eight of his thirteen draws which was good for 61.54%. He was relied upon to close out the game with some big draws and filled that role well.

Zack MacEwen: B+

Not much to note from the big fella tonight as he played the least out of all the forwards yet he did lead the team in hits so that counts for something.

Defensemen:

Quinn Hughes: A+

For those who were worrying that increased attention would lead to a sophomore slump for Hughes, worry not.

Hughes was his usual amazing self and even managed to get this assist while he was sitting down. He did take a big hit from McDavid late in the game but looked fine after taking a few seconds to get his senses back.

Travis Hamonic: B

Hamonic played over six minutes against both Leon Draisaitl and McDavid and did a solid job at containing them. He helped the Canucks control 75% of the expected goals against Draisaitl on the ice but didn’t do as well against McDavid and also took two minor penalties. An encouraging start considering the circumstances.

Nate Schmidt: B

Schmidt made some nifty plays in his own zone to help the Canucks keep possession but overall spent too much time in his own zone for him to get a higher grade. One stat to take note of is that he blocked four shots, helping out his old friend Braden Holtby.

Tyler Myers: B-

Myers ate up some solid minutes and played on both the powerplay and penalty kill, showing a versatility that coach Travis Green can deploy as he sees fit. Not a flashy game from Myers but not many mistakes either.

Alex Edler: B+

Edler was a workhorse in the third period, eating up big minutes while the Canucks were trying to hold onto a pair of two-goal leads. He led all Canucks in penalty kill time, showing an effective use of his high hockey-IQ.

Edler faded over the second half of last season and managing his minutes this year will be a challenge for Travis Green.

Olli Juolevi: B

Juolevi made some classic rookie mistakes, including one that led to a goal, and got turned around by Draisaitl at one point, but then again many capable NHL defenders have been made to look like pylons by the German forward.

Coach Green kept him in very sheltered minutes but the good news is that he excelled in those minutes, making some smart stick checks and controlling the play well. For his second NHL game he looked pretty good.

Goalie:

Braden Holtby: A-

Holtby made a few big saves, including the one below on Kailer Yamamoto, and made the ones that kept the Canucks ahead late in the game when it mattered most.

He allowed three goals, compared to an expected 3.06, but none of them could be considered very weak. He will make a strong pairing with Thatcher Demko.