What Nils Hoglander’s potential top six role means for the Canucks

According to multiple reports, Nils Hoglander seems like a lock to make the Vancouver Canucks, which will have major ramifications for the team.

Ever since being picked in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft, Nils Hoglander has captivated both Vancouver Canucks fans and the hockey world alike. His creativity and fearlessness on the ice have led to crazy goals, and no one doubted that his skill will one day translate to the NHL.

However, I don’t think many people expected him to make that jump so quickly.

According to multiple sources, the 20-year-old now seems like a virtual lock to make the Canucks’ roster.

If this is truly the case, then the lines on opening night could look something like this.

Since Travis Hamonic is still under quarantine, Jordie Benn is playing alongside Quinn Hughes. However, once Hamonic is deemed fit to play, he would likely take that spot and bump Benn out of the lineup and into the role of the seventh defenceman.

Unsurprisingly, the current buzz around the team has been about Hoglander’s standout play, but his addition to Vancouver’s roster will have major ramifications for how the coaching staff deploys each line. For instance, it seems unlikely that Travis Green will trust the rookie to play matchup minutes, which is what Bo Horvat has done for the past few seasons.

This could mean that both Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen have improved their two-way play and are ready to take on more defensive responsibility, which has been reinforced by the penalty kill combinations at camp.

If Gaudette and Virtanen don’t need to play heavily sheltered minutes anymore, Horvat’s line can be freed up to focus more on offence, and we all saw how the captain dominated during the playoffs when he wasn’t competing against elite competition every night.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that Hoglander’s inclusion means that the Lotto Line could play matchup minutes, which would also relieve Horvat’s defensive burden.  Perhaps the Canucks only plan on having Gaudette and Virtanen kill penalties but still shelter them at even strength and have the top line assume shutdown duties instead.

Furthermore, if Hoglander carves out a permanent role in the top six, this could mean that Loui Eriksson will no longer have a spot in the lineup. The second line won’t need his defensive presence anymore and the bottom six is already too crowded, so Eriksson might spend more time in the press box rather than on the ice.

Ultimately, Hoglander’s role alongside Horvat seems to indicate that the Canucks might finally be able to free up their captain from playing shutdown minutes and allow him to focus on scoring. More importantly, the young Swede could be the elusive winger Vancouver has been searching forever to pair alongside Horvat, and hopefully they’ll be able to form a dynamic duo for years to come.