Höglander Is The Best Thing About The Canucks (Again)

By: Brayden Fengler / November 27, 2021  

Nils Höglander was of course the talk of the town last season, but coming into this season it was looking like the Canucks would have a new rookie take centre stage in Vasily Podkolzin.

Although Podkolzin has stolen some of the spotlight, especially now with his game looking improved from where it was in October, Podz hasn’t quite captivated the Vancouver audience like Höglander did last season.

What has really taken the spotlight for many Canucks fans this year, is the overall poor performance from the entire team. Podkolzin, hasn’t been lights out, so he’s only making a headline here and there, and Höglander, well Höglander is last season’s excitement right? Wrong, more than ever Höglander is in many ways the brightest star on this team.

While We’ve Been Crying, The Hög’s Been Working

It seems like it was only yesterday when Höglander was the only good thing happening when you watched a Canucks game, and well, he still pretty much is. Aside from some positive clutch moments from J.T. Miller, Captain Bo Horvat and newcomer Conor Garland, Höglander as per usual, has been that silver lining on Canucks game days.

Last season there were tangible reasons for why the team was bad, so it didn’t take much head-scratching to piece it together. This allowed for more time to focus on the positives that the team had to offer, and made it easy to look to the future and admire the young players like Höglander.

However, this year the team is just unexpectedly bad, worse beyond reasonable belief and the fact that Höglander is still doing his Höglander thing is great, but it’s not as noticeable due to the overwhelming frustration surrounding the rest of this team.

Höglander has looked dominant on the puck every chance he’s had to skate with it. He’s looked strong, confident and most of all he’s been able to convert on a good amount of chances when the puck has been on his stick. Unlike Elias Pettersson, the Canuck that sits just one point above Höglander on the team’s overall points total leaderboard.

I hate to keep dragging Petey under the bus, but it’s hard not to mention his shortcomings this season, especially while a player that is making a fraction of what he’s making, is outperforming him. Höglander has an average TOI five minutes less than Pettersson every night, and yet Höglander sits with two more goals on the year than Pettersson at five, to EP40’s three.

Höglander looks like he hasn’t missed a step in his sophomore year, now playing in front of an arena full of NHL fans for the first time in his NHL career.

I for one thought that the mythical sophomore slump might show up for him this season, due to the adjusting he would have to do in regards to playing in front of fans, and the size and scope of travel with the NHL returning to 82 games and normal divisions. I never would’ve guessed that Höglander would fare this transition so well, especially as his team has not done the same.

Deployment and Team Performance

Höglander sits with nine points after 21 games played. The same point total that he had last year after the same number of games.

However he should be commended, not just for keeping identical pace as his impressive rookie season, but because believe it or not (and you can probably believe it) the Canucks have had a worse start this year, than last, and yet Höglander has still found a way to contribute at an elite level.

The Canucks as a whole have produced 13 fewer goals for in the same number of games as last season. They currently sit with 48 goals, compared to last season’s 61 goals for after 21 games. This further highlights how impressive Höglander’s start to this season has been, despite his team’s best efforts to sabotage it.

Of the top 10 points earners on the Canucks so far this season, Höglander sits at 6th, of that top 10. Yet Höglander has the second-lowest time on ice, only below him in TOI at 10th place on the points board in points Alex Chiasson.

Chiasson has just seen an average of 9 minutes TOI every night, being that he has seemed to be Green’s favourite choice for powerplay deployment and as such his 4 points on the year have all come on the powerplay. But that’s another potential issue to look at in another article. 

All this to say that Höglander is outperforming some of the top players on his team with significantly less playing time per night. Höglander is outpacing Brock Boeser, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Myers in points, who all also sit in the top 10 for total team points, yet all have more playing time than Höglander. 

Hög’s Future

Höglander is in the second year of his 3 year entry-level contract, which means we are just under the halfway mark of his first mandated tour with the Canucks. He will also be an RFA, the same year that Miller and Horvat will be free agents.

At this rate, I almost feel like I’d be wasting my energy to try and figure out how the Canucks will juggle signing all three players. Because if the Canucks are playing like this when it comes time for those new deals I don’t think Miller or even Horvat will still be here.

Horvat was rumoured to not have attended the Canucks Halloween party. As Bo is a young father, it’s totally understandable that he may miss a social outing here and there. Yet, as a team captain, missing a team event is also a little eyebrow raising.

I feel gross even writing those last two lines. It sounds extremely gossipy, but even still, I don’t believe it’s any secret that Bo isn’t up for more losing. Perhaps he already wants to take the steps to distance himself from the team.

Miller was also rumoured to be involved in a trade with the Wild in exchange for Kevin Fiala and a 2nd round pick, however, it’s important to note that this was the Wild calling and not Jim shopping him around. Although this clearly indicates that teams are circling the waters, and if Jim or whoever is in charge gets a good call, Miller may end up being a part of the solution in a different way.

With all that said, if this team did lose Miller and Horvat, they can’t lose Hög too. We saw Petey sign a bridge deal of three years this past offseason, which is a bet on himself that so far is not paying off, but there is a real benefit for Petey in that deal if he does start returning to form.

This team shouldn’t already be priming Höglander to want to make a similar deal. We want him and future talent to want to be here long term.

Höglander has once again been a shining star for us viewers this season, as he’s one of the only reasons to watch a Canucks game right now, but that is a burden for any player and not one they want to carry for very long.