The Vancouver Canucks wouldn’t be where they are right now to start the season if it weren’t for some unsung heroes, and so far, one of them has been a player that wasn’t necessarily counted on before the season started.
After playing in 56 or more games in each of his first two NHL seasons, Nils Hoglander found himself on the outside looking in after playing only 25 games last season. The 22-year-old scored three goals and six assists in those games, but this season, he’s already up to two goals and two assists in only seven appearances whilst playing alongside Sam Lafferty, Anthony Beauvillier, and a few others that have rotated.
Although Hoglander has only averaged 10:06 of ice time to this point, the young Swede certainly seems to have started to earn the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff, including Rick Tocchet.
In the video above (9:10-9:20), Hoglander is on the ice taking a shift in the defensive zone to help the Canucks nurse a 4-3 lead against the Edmonton Oilers before eating a clapper from Evan Bouchard near the circle. The block prompted his teammates to audibly sing his praises from the bench as the puck is transported away, and him just being out there says a lot about what Tocchet and the Canucks think of his growth as a player.
In addition to his dutiful defensive work, the former second-round pick has brought the offense in limited ice time too. The Canucks have seen a number of their third line players struggle in that regard this season, and maybe Vancouver would be willing to show some more faith in the youngster at the expense of those that aren’t getting the job done.
Hoglander’s highest TOI of the season came back in Game 1 against the Oilers when he played 12:54, and since then, he’s only cracked the 10 minute mark twice. Dakota Joshua is averaging 13:01 and Beauvillier has averaged 13:03, but together the two combine for half of Hoglander’s offensive output.
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Maybe the Canucks don’t trust Hoglander enough for a promotion just yet, but it wouldn’t be fair to say he hasn’t earned one. If the blossoming winger continues to work hard and get it done, it’s hard to imagine the Canucks continuing to stand in his way.