The Canucks defence has gone through a lot in a year and a half. Just think back to training camp before last season.
Coming off a surprise playoff appearance, Vancouver entered camp with a defensive corps of Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Dan Hamhuis, Luca Sbisa, Matt Bartkowski, Yannick Weber, and Frank Corrado pencilled in.
Fast forward a season and a half later, and the Canucks appear to have potential oozing out of their blueliners.
Ben Hutton is 23 and was the surprise of training camp in 2015. Troy Stecher is 22, and already running the Canucks power play in his first NHL season.
But the young Canucks defenceman that I want to focus on is the 22-year-old giant, Nikita Tryamkin.
Tryamkin has potential as big as his 6-foot-7, 265-pound body.
Some wondered if he’d ever get a chance to reach that potential in Vancouver as early as October. He didn’t play in the first nine games of the season with the Canucks because he was out of shape. The team wanted him to play in Utica, but he refused, which is an option he has in his contract.
It was beginning to look like the big Russian, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, might bolt back to the KHL if things didn’t go smoothly.
But then we saw him play.
With his size and questionable fitness, you’d expect the big Russian to move like Hal Gill on the ice. But speed and agility doesn’t seem to hamper Tryamkin at all, despite being the heaviest and third-tallest player in the league.
He’s flown a bit under the radar this season, playing just 16:33 per game, but his flashes of brilliance should get you excited.
Tryamkin has no trouble getting up and down the ice and he’s proving to be a pretty capable defender as well. At 49.55%, the former third-round pick has the best Corsi-For percentage among Canucks blueliners with more than 15 games played this season. That’s a wonderful sign for a defence-first rearguard, but it doesn’t stop there.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) January 16, 2017
Not since Todd Bertuzzi have we seen a Canucks player that can swat players away with such ease.
And I’m not sure I’ve seen someone blow up Jamie Benn like Tryamkin did earlier this season:
It makes you wonder how good Tryamkin can be.
Are we sure Tryamkin isn't going to be our Chara?
— Brian Knotts (@brianknotts) January 7, 2017
The big defenceman has shown that he’s not shy about getting physical when the time calls for it, but he also uses his incredible reach to break up plays with his poke check. That’s the kind of combination that should have you dreaming about a menacing shutdown defenceman of the Zdeno Chara variety.
Chara, a player Tryamkin said he patterns himself after, completed his first full season with the New York Islanders at age 22 in 1999-2000. In 65 games that year, he put up 11 points (2-9-11), and had a team-worst -27 in the plus-minus category. By that measure, Tryamkin is ahead of the Chara curve.
Tryamkin has a lot of work to do before he can get near the level of dominance that Chara has displayed in his career, but the fact is, the big Russian has many of the same tools at his disposal.
Tryamkin is still learning the game at the NHL level, and still learning the language to communicate more effectively with his teammates and coaching staff. He’s a player that many will be watching with a keen eye, as every step forward gives optimism that the Canucks could have a defenceman unlike any we’ve seen play in this city before.