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Underrated Canucks Will Surprise in the New North Division

The Vancouver Canucks jumped out of the gate with a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

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Call this an early overreaction but the Vancouver Canucks are, and will only be an increasingly dangerous team. Their season opening 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers was an early statement of that fact. This comes after a 2020 NHL playoffs that offered further proof this young hockey club is capable of being a contending team as they quickly mature.  

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What often gets overlooked regarding the Canucks roster is their depth. Case in point was Vancouver’s third goal Wednesday night – a tally by bottom sixer Adam Gaudette, from recently signed Travis Hamonic and Antoine Roussel. Even more evidentiary is the fact that Vancouver won this game without power forward JT Miller.

This is a team that can play a variety of ways and still beat you.

The Canucks’ Crease

Any kind of controversy in the crease seems ludicrous. Albertan goaltender Braden Holtby looked sharp in his Canucks debut, making 31 saves for the win. This should be a great scenario for young Thatcher Demko over the long-term. He will platoon with a Stanley Cup champion six years his senior and pick up valuable experience that should translate into long-term value. If there was ever a season when a team needs to rely on two goaltenders – this is it.

Braden Holtby – Vancouver Canucks

Even I may have underestimated this pair when previously ranking the top-10 tandems throughout the league. That said, Holtby still has a long way to go to prove that he has fully bounced back from last season.

The Canucks’ Blueline

It is exciting to think that we are only witnessing the early stages of Quinn Hughes’ career. The 2020 Calder nominee had a great third period by adding two primary assists on Vancouver’s last two tallies – both scored by 23-year-old Brock Boeser. Hughes is one of the smarter young players I have seen and showed amazing persistence on the Canucks game winning goal – a play that landed him in the No. 3 spot on the Score’s Top 5 play from opening night.

GM Jim Benning also made a great late addition by signing right-handed defender Travis Hamonic. The addition of Nate Schmidt was also notable and he was noticeable within the Canucks top four, even after taking a puck to the face early in the game.

Another Breakout Star?

Over the past two seasons the Canucks have had a rookie capture the attention of the league. In 2018-19, Elias Pettersson became a household NHL name as he dazzled fans with his magnificent play and eventual appointment as the Calder trophy winner. Of course, last season it was the brilliance of previously mentioned defender Quinn Hughes who narrowly lost out to eventual Calder winner, Cale Makar.

Rising Canuck Star – Nils Höglander

It is too early to tell, but could 20-year-old Nils Höglander make a similar splash? The Canucks 2nd round pick from 2019 seemed to impress the brass and players throughout training camp (see link below), and he followed that up with his first NHL goal during the season opener. Either way, the Canucks seem to be adding quality pieces each season.

Vancouver has an opportunity to jump out to an early divisional lead during the second game of the back-to-back at Rogers Place tonight in Edmonton.

NEXT: Canucks Amazed at Rookie Nils Hoglander’s Skill and Readiness

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