The Vancouver Canucks finally got their first win of the preseason on Sept. 30, and there may be some more good news on the way. In their rematch with the Edmonton Oilers, Quinn Hughes again played the majority of his minutes alongside right-shot defenseman Cole McWard. So far, it’s safe to say that’s been working out.
After practice on Oct. 2, McWard told Canucks reporter Kate Pettersen that he’s been building chemistry with Hughes while learning some things from his teammate on the fly. McWard, 22, has been participating in his first camp with Vancouver, and he’s certainly made an impression so far.
"I know that the guys and the coaching staff have been really impressed with him, and he’s obviously having a great camp. Like I said, whether he’s with us the whole year or not he’ll be here a long time. . . . He takes his practices very seriously, I mean he comes to the rink and he wants to have a really good day. For someone that age to just be so dialed-in and ready to play, it’s good. – Quinn Hughes"
So far, the Ohio State product is shaping up to be Hughes’ defense partner to start the 2023-24 season, and the Canucks captain offered a glowing review of McWard that reflects that. Naturally, it makes sense that Vancouver would be willing to give the 22-year-old the first crack at the top pairing at the expense of players who won’t return next season, like Tyler Myers.
If that’s the case, the Canucks can then turn to newcomers Carson Soucy and Filip Hronek to anchor the second pair, and suddenly, the team is able to ice a decent defensive top-four. Plus, it helps prevent Hughes from getting overworked and having to constantly drive play.
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Ultimately, the Canucks can rotate in whoever they want alongside their newly-minted captain, but without stability, consistency, and performance, it’s all meaningless. McWard gives them their best shot at achieving those three things, and the youngster seems poised to rise to the challenge.