Vancouver Sun


Youngsters offer hope for the future


It has come to this in a season of survival.

It wasn't about Bo Horvat's 11game goalless funk, the power play continuing to plummet, or the Vancouver Canucks being on the verge of mathematic­al eliminatio­n from NHL post-season contention when the club ventured into Winnipeg on Monday night.

It was about the hype and the hope.

In a pleasing 3-1 victory, it was the rapid maturation of Jack Rathbone and the fast wheels and hands of Nils Hoglander that provided more hope for the future.

And even though the Montreal Canadiens claimed the final North Division playoff spot by earning a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers, there was something special for the Canucks to savour.

Canucks head coach Travis Green has liked what he's seen and heard from coachable rearguard Rathbone through three games and the bench boss rewarded the rookie with a bigger role against the slumping Jets. He was paired with Travis Hamonic and joined Quinn Hughes on the first power play point in a deployment that got pulses racing.

And for the league's 24th-ranked power play unit that had scored just once in its previous 20 attempts, the sight of Rathbone working seamlessly — and having two scoring chances — was a glimpse of what Green believes could be a solid future for the 21-year-old blueliner.

He had three shots and a shot block in the opening period in which he logged 5:28 of ice time.

The Canucks got a brief scare in the second period when Rathbone blocked his third shot, a point blast by Dylan DeMelo that struck him in the right hand and sent him to the bench in discomfort.

Hoglander scored twice and Horvat counted the other Canucks goal, while Kyle Connor responded for the Jets.

“We did a lot of good things and found a way to win,” said Green. “We knew the (playoff ) odds were stacked against us and the team was mentally prepared for that, but once it's official, it stings a bit.”

Here's what else we learned as the Canucks opened a four-game road trip on the right foot as Thatcher Demko made 39 saves:


The plan was to give Rathbone some different looks on Monday. See how he handles more minutes and how it affects his defensive game. There were expected to be some struggles in puck battles and positionin­g against bigger players, but there was no need for that.

By throwing Rathbone into the deep end of the developmen­t pool in a tight game, the Canucks were going to get a valuable read on where the fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft is at.

Rathbone had four blocked shots Monday, three hits and just one giveaway and that spoke to how quickly he has grasped the position at this level.

“I liked him and it's not hard to,” said Green. “He plays with authority and he doesn't look for too cute a play and he can snap it (shot) quick. “He wants to jump up in the play and looked very comfortabl­e — that's probably the best our power play has looked in a while. He's got better every game and that comes with a little bit of confidence.”


On a good team, you could argue that Hoglander is probably a thirdline winger.

That would allow him to learn and maintain a strong defensive posture and be smart in transition to help ignite the offence. And in transition­ing from the Swedish Hockey League, it's imperative at this level to be good without the puck. To Hoglander's credit, that part of his game is getting better.

Hoglander opened the scoring on Monday by hounding the puck and getting to goalie Laurent Brossoit. He got his stick on a botched pass between Ville Heinola and Josh Morrissey at the Canucks' blue line and sped away on a breakaway.

His forehand attempt was stopped, but Hoglander pounced on the rebound to direct a backhand home for his 11th goal and fifth point (2-3) in the last five games.

Hoglander then showed great wheels and hand-eye co-ordination to put the Canucks up 3-1 in the third period. He sped away on a 2-on-1 with Brock Boeser and his pass went off Morrissey and deflected into the net.

Hoglander finished with six shots and three take-aways in his first multi-goal game.


Demko had to be at his best to keep the Jets from getting back on even terms.

An indication that he was sharp came early with a right pad save off Mark Scheifele in the first period. He stopped Paul Stastny from the slot and Kyle Connor on a power play in the second period and also got some help from the post.

Scheifele was denied again early in the third period and would have nothing to show for six shots while Connor was denied short side on his tying effort before Demko robbed Connor twice on one late foray.

“A lot of the guys on the team feel the same way — we want to win,” said Demko. “Regardless of the circumstan­ces, it's about pride for the organizati­on and pride for teammates, coaches and staff. You're playing for a lot more than what people may think. We're going to try to win every time.”

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 ?? FRED GREENSLADE/THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Nils Hoglander shovels the puck past Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit to open the scoring Monday in Winnipeg. Hoglander scored twice in a 3-1 win.
FRED GREENSLADE/THE CANADIAN PRESS Nils Hoglander shovels the puck past Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit to open the scoring Monday in Winnipeg. Hoglander scored twice in a 3-1 win.

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