Demko of course was voted the team’s MVP of this past season by the fans and that wasn’t a surprise. He was consistently making the big saves keeping the Canucks in games they had no business being in. Demko is also signed for four more years and making five million dollars per season. Right now, that is looking like an absolute bargain.
But as you can tell by the title, we are going to focus on the other franchise cornerstones.
Pettersson and Hughes both took strides this season. However, it didn’t look that way for Pettersson in the first half of the season.
He had trouble scoring or even hitting the net. The passes were off and he wasn’t creating anything on the ice. It looked like it was going to be a very underwhelming season for Pettersson. But that all changed shortly after Bruce Boudreau arrived.
Before January 1st, Pettersson had six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 34 games. From January 1st to the end of the season, he had 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points in 47 games. Before the new year, Pettersson had a 50.06 CF%, (ninth on the Canucks) an expected goals percentage of 16.66%, (also ninth on the Canucks) and a high danger Corsi for percentage of 45.00% (17th) at five on five according to NaturalStatTrick. After the calendar flipped, Petterssons’ CF didn’t increase by much to 50.24%. (Tenth on the Canucks) but his xGF percentage jumped to
30.53% (Sixth on the Canucks) and his HDCF bumped up to 49.61. (Fifth on the team)
It was a much better showing in the second half for Pettersson.
His shot looked lethal again and his playmaking and defensive abilities looked like the Pettersson of his first two seasons. It was fair to say Pettersson was back.
“What everybody saw in the second half is what he is,” said Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford on Pettersson on the DailyFaceoff Rundown Podcast last week.
Pettersson managed to get career highs in goals (32) and points. (68) Not bad for a guy who had trouble scoring during the first half of the season.
As for Hughes, he continued to prove he is one of the best up-and-coming defencemen in the NHL.
His skating was just as smooth as ever and he was making plays on the blue line with ease. Hughes also broke Doug Lidster’s record for most points by Canucks defenceman in a single season with 68 in 76 games. His 60 assists were a career-high and that broke Dennis Kearns’ record for most assists by Canucks defenceman in a single season.
The one thing that Hughes impressed people with this past season was his defending. It was very bad in 2020-21 and in 2021-22, it improved so much.
Hughes wasn’t trying to do too much and stopped overthinking defensively. This past season, he made the simple defensive plays and they worked. Hughes did a much better job of not letting opposing forwards beat him so easily.
Next season, expect Pettersson and Hughes to build off last season’s individual success.
Pettersson will turn 24 in November and Hughes will turn 23 in October. They are both entering the prime of their careers. The best part is we have not seen the best of them yet.
It was great to see Pettersson overcome his first-half slump and Hughes bounce back defensively last season. Both of them have faced a lot of adversity early in their careers and now know what it takes to overcome them.
I just have a feeling both players will be even better next season. Pettersson and Hughes will come into training camp confident and they will take their abilities to new heights. Of course, they are going to need help. Hughes for instance, needs a long-term partner that is reliable while there is a strong possibility that Pettersson could have new linemates next season.
They are two great players to build around and the Canucks are lucky to have them. After taking big steps forward in 2021-22, Pettersson and Hughes will take even bigger steps in 2022-23.