Time flies…just ask Nils Aman.
This time last year, the 21-year-old Swede was only a few games into his second-full SHL season with Leksands IF.
Just 12 months later, Aman is the surprise player from Canucks training camp, cracking the opening night roster.
Aman appears set to play his first NHL game for the Canucks tonight when they take on the Edmonton Oilers.
Even before the Canucks traded Jason Dickinson, Aman’s quick improvement throughout training camp and preseason had him stealthily climbing the depth chart.
After Dickinson was traded, it became clear that the Canucks were planning on using Aman as their fourth-line centre to begin the NHL season.
Why Aman made the Canucks
On the surface, Aman’s counting stats from his play in the SHL don’t scream “NHLer.”
However, the strengths in his game aren’t based on offensive production.
“Nils is a smart hockey player who plays with speed and has a strong work ethic,” Canucks GM Patrik Allvin said after signing Aman. “He possesses a good two-way game, and we look forward to seeing his continued development on both sides of the ice with the Canucks organization.”
I really like the Nils Åman signing for the Canucks.
6'2, rangy centre with legit speed and smarts. Bit of a late bloomer, but has faired well in a 3rd line SHL role the last couple of years.
Sneaky release pic.twitter.com/ZkTkhTjW4g
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) June 7, 2022
Aman registered six goals and 14 points in 51 SHL games last season, but where he really excelled was with his play away from the puck.
He’s a lanky forward at 6-foot-2 and 179 pounds who has good speed and an active stick in the defensive zone. There isn’t a lot of offensive skill to his game, but his work ethic and dedication to the backcheck help make up for his deficiencies.
Although his performance wasn’t strong enough to warrant a contract from the Colorado Avalanche, who drafted him in the sixth round back in 2020, he’s been impressive since joining the Canucks.
Aman stood out at Young Stars as an older player, which was his first litmus test leading up to the start of the season.
However, he slowly looked more comfortable with each passing preseason game.
Both Aman and Nils Höglander led the Canucks in preseason games played, with each of them appearing in five of Vancouver’s seven preseason contests. By the end of the preseason, Aman was second on the Canucks with a 64.6% Corsi-For percentage, trailing only Dakota Joshua.
His ability to play low-event hockey evidently left an impression on the Canucks coaching staff.
He also spent six minutes on the penalty kill, with the opposition only registering two shots while he was on the ice shorthanded.
Against all odds, Aman has passed the preseason test and is set to centre a new-look Canucks fourth line to start the seaso, alongside Curtis Lazar and Joshua.
Aman continues tradition of roster surprises
Ever since Jim Benning took over the Canucks, it’s been somewhat of an annual tradition for long-shot players to crack the opening night roster.
- 2015: Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Ben Hutton
- 2016: Troy Stecher
- 2020: Nils Höglander
- 2021: Kyle Burroughs
Well, Aman would become the seventh surprise player in eight seasons to stick with the Canucks to start the season.
It’s also the third year in a row that Vancouver has rostered a surprise player on opening night, after Höglander made the team in 2020-21, while Kyle Burroughs smashed his way onto the roster in 2021-22.
Both of those players have remained with the Canucks since surprisingly making the team. Aman surely hopes he can do the same.