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2021 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #4 Nils Hoglander

Young Hogz has arguably been the Canucks best skater early in 2021-22.

NHL: OCT 16 Canucks at Red Wings
Vancouver Canucks Right Wing Nils Hoglander (21) looks to attack the goal during the third period of a game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks on October 16, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI.
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2021 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1997. Seven staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, Kent Basky, CanucksAbbyFan2, Markus Meyer, Noah Strang, Harsunder Singh H) and two outside writers (Daniel Gee & Cam Robinson) cast votes for the project.

Over 100 years ago, there was “The Little Engine That Could.” Now, Nils Hoglander is writing the tale of “The Tiny Power Forward That Could.”

With the classic children’s tale possessing Swedish origins, it’s only fitting that, nearly 120 years later, one of Sweden’s favourite hockey markets is the home of tiny power forward.

Elias Pettersson dropped this quote during preseason action, and it does eloquently describe young Hoglander’s game.

“He’s a power forward but a tiny one.”

Hoglander might be tiny in stature, but he’s a tank out on the ice. Standing at a 5’9”, 190 pounds, the 20-year-old is built similarly to another “tiny power forward,” Brendan Gallagher.

While we didn’t seen Hoglander throwing the body around recklessly compared to someone like Gallagher, what his strength does allow him to do is be a puck possession beast. Because he’s so strong and shifty on his skates, it’s incredibly difficult to knock him off of the puck.

That was evident last season as a rookie, where he shattered everyone’s expectations.

Not only was Hoglander good — he was arguably the best Canucks forward last season.

In the latter half of the season, Hoglander led the team with 14 even-strength points over the Canucks’ final 23 games. On the season, his 26 even-strength points trailed only Brock Boeser.

He was also a strong possession player. According to HockeyViz, the Canucks drastically increased their offensive output with Hoglander on the ice, and they were better than average defensively despite the rookie facing tough competition.

In a season filled with despair, doubt and negative storylines, Hoglander was undoubtedly a bright spot.

What’s Next for Hoglander?

What can the tiny power forward that could do for an encore?

It was a surprise to see him start on the third line with Matthew Highmore and Jason Dickinson to start the season (who had that on their lineup bingo card?), but the rationale became more evident after this quote from Travis Green.

Still, there’s an argument to be made that Green is overthinking his line combinations by keeping Hoglander in the bottom six.

Not only was Hoglander electric last season, but there’s also an argument to be made that he’s been the most consistent Canucks forward through four games this season. Not only does the eye test back that up, but he’s also the leader among Canucks forwards with seven individual even-strength scoring chances.

Although Green has a bit of a love affair with the Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat duo, the fact is that the team’s best six forwards are clearly JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat, Conor Garland and...Hoglander.

So, many the young Swede shouldn’t rank seventh among forwards in ice time early in 2021-22?

Regardless of his short-term use and deployment, there’s no doubt that Hoglander has solidified himself as part of the solution in Vancouver moving forward.

His rookie production was similar to what Horvat produced in his rookie campaign. If the Canucks have indeed found themselves another top-six forward with defensive acumen and a scoring touch, then that only bodes well for the future of this team.

For this season, it seems like 20 goals and 40 points is the bar for young Hoglander — a wonderful development considering that the 40th overall pick from 2019 has already played the fourth-most games in his draft class. Right now, he trails only the top three picks in the draft (Jack Hughes, Kappo Kakko and Kirby Dach) in games played.

So continues a long-loved tradition of talented Swedish hockey players blessing Vancouver with their talents.