By: Trent Leith / November 9, 2021
The Vancouver Canucks are 12 games into the 2021-22 season and have begun with a sluggish 5-6-1 start for only 11 points. While the team is not performing to their highest potential as a whole, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few diamonds in the rough. This is StadiumChinatown.ca’s first-ever player power rankings.
5th Place – Höglander
Nils Höglander almost didn’t make my top-five simply because of his lack of production. Höglander is having himself a strong start to his sophomore season despite what his counting stats will tell you. He only has one goal, three assists for four points, and has played in all 12 games so far this season, but his impact goes deeper than the numbers.
Early in the season when talking about Höglander’s performance, Travis Green said “I’d like to keep Hög between 14-18 minutes and move him around to kickstart lines”. That quote tells you all that you need to know about the young Swedish sophomore, despite his age, the coach relies on him to get the veterans around him playing better.
His lack of production can’t be totally ignored, but it is worth pointing out that he is only shooting at 3.7% and only had a shade over 21 minutes of powerplay time which is the lowest of any top-six forward by almost an entire powerplay and half. His deployment has a lot to do with his lack of points. However, there are two ends to the rink and Höglander has been very strong defensively with an impressive crosi percentage of 54.2% and a team-leading 0.4 GA/60 which is what ultimately edged him into the top five.
4th Place – Conor Garland
Conor Garland is the shiny new toy and fans have taken a liking to their Angry Little Elf as he strangely dances along the boards in the offensive end. Garland is good for second place in the points race for the Vancouver Canucks with three goals and eight assists for 11 points. What Garland lacks in physical size, he makes up for with a pure work rate.
Garland has played up and down the line-up, and not due to fluctuating performance, but due to being able to help other lines produce, and due to a plethora of (alleged) talent on the top three lines. Garland has quickly won the hearts of fans, with not only his unique style of play, but with his point pace as well. Garland has come as advertised with his strange, but effective board work, work rate, and ability to chip in on the offence, and for that, he makes the top five best Canucks so far this season.
3rd Place – J.T. Miller
Miller leads the Vancouver Canucks in points, goals, assists and f-bombs. Miller so far has five goals, nine assists for 14 points. In his time with the Canucks, Miller has been the heart beat of the team. When Miller is playing his best, so are the Canucks, when he is off, the team is floundering. Just look at Sunday night’s game. Miller had two goals, both on the powerplay and the Canucks won the game 6-3 and the powerplay had it’s best game of the season.
Miller hasn’t been without his flaws however, according to Hockey-Refrence.com, he leads the team with nine giveaways. Watching Miller play can be an exhausting experience, you will see him make a bad pass that leads to an odd man rush, you’ll see him bobble a puck on a scoring opportunity and see him lazily skating on the backcheck with his man uncovered. But yet Miller will finish the game +2 and with three points despite all the headaches he causes. I am not sure how he does it, but he does. Miller moved himself up the rankings after Sunday’s game, but even prior to that he has been one of the Canucks’ most important players.
2nd Place – Quinn Hughes
Quinn Hughes will win a Norris trophy soon. Maybe not this year, but soon. Currently, he has 10 points in 11 games (2G, 8A) and is showing no signs of slowing down. Hughes has the highest corsi percentage of any defender on the Vancouver Canucks (57.6%) and third highest on the team. Hughes shook off his sophomore slump and then some, having a strong bounce-back year even without his previous defence partner Travis Hamonic.
If the Canucks are going to do any damage this season, the team’s best players need to be their best players and Hughes got the memo and has taken it to heart, returning to bring himself to what looks like rookie season form. Hughes is in the top ten for points in the entire NHL for defencemen, and only 2 behind the leader. If his play keeps up and he can stay healthy, he will compete for the title, and anytime you do that, you get Norris votes. Hughes is definitely the team’s most important defenceman and is quite possibly the most important skater all together.
1st Place – Thatcher Demko
If you are reading this, I am surprised you bothered to come down here to see who I put as the most important Canuck to date. We all already knew who it was, there is no surprise here. It’s T̶h̶a̶t̶c̶h̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶B̶u̶b̶b̶l̶e̶,̶ ̶B̶u̶b̶l̶y̶,̶ Double Bubble Demko. Demko has a 0.918 sv% and a 2.59 GAA and that may seem pretty pedestrian on paper, but if you watch the games, it is abundantly clear how great Demko has been this season.
The Canucks have not deserved to win most of the games they have played this year, and they haven’t won many of them, but Demko has given the skaters every chance humanly possible to win. At even strength, Demko has a save percentage of 0.939 sv%. Where the dip happens to his overall number is on the penalty kill, where it drops to 0.814 sv% and that is not Thatcher’s fault necessarily. The Canucks have a league worst 63.9% PK. The PK is far and away the Canuck’s biggest weakness to date this season, and as a result, it is hurting Demko’s numbers.
So while his numbers may not reflect it, it would only take a period or two of the eye test to realize just how important Demko is to the Vancouver Canucks right now. Just as Hughes should watch for Norris votes, keep an eye out for Vezina votes for Demko. Also, don’t be surprised if you see him in the red white and blue come February at the Olympics.