Did Canucks rush Höglander to NHL too quickly? Jannik Hansen thinks so

Feb 24 2022, 6:23 pm

The sophomore jinx has hit Nils Höglander.

But, it is really a jinx, or are the Vancouver Canucks to blame for hampering his development?

Last season as a rookie, Höglander was gifted a top-six role on a depleted Canucks team. He dazzled with his puck skills, first on a line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, and later in the season alongside Brock Boeser.

This season, however, Höglander hasn’t been nearly as effective.

Recently on Sportsnet 650, former Canucks forward Jannik Hansen commented on the danger of rushing young players, like Höglander, into the NHL.

“He should have been playing in the minors up until now.”

“He would have had veterans yelling at him in the minors saying ‘don’t fricken do that.’ Then you kind of learn it and then you come up here and you wouldn’t dare it.”

“But again, he was given the keys to the Ferrari, if you will, and go have fun with it last year as a rookie and putting up a bunch of points because you’re getting the ice time.”

“[Last year] the league was sitting still so it was a tremendous head start, but the league caught up and again now, it’s bad habits and you haven’t learned to play the game the right way for the player that he is.”

“You always see, you hurt the development by rushing these guys into the league, and again, they rushed a bunch of young guys in here in Vancouver. Some of them panned out, some of them worked well, but sometimes, guys get lost in the trenches.”

Would more AHL time have helped?

Hansen has been applauded in Vancouver for giving honest and refreshing takes about what’s transpiring on the ice with the Canucks.

And there’s no doubt that his take about Höglander’s development was bold.

Was Hansen right though?

It’s hard to argue that a stint in the minors would have hurt Höglander’s development. Hansen also touched on how more special teams time in the AHL would have helped the young Swede round out his game.

“He hasn’t learned to penalty kill. That would do tremendously a lot for him because it would give him consistent ice time.”

“Right now, if it’s not 5-on-5 or the tail end of the power play, which again, I don’t know why he’s out there for that right now either, then he’s not getting the minutes, he’s not getting the development.”

Despite his solid even-strength production, Höglander hasn’t been productive on the power play during his NHL career.

He has just two goals and four points during during 134 career minutes of power play time. That 2.02 points-per-60 rate is well below the average for a regular NHL forward on the power play.

He’s also yet to kill penalties for the Canucks either, even though rookie Vasily Podkolzin has been trusted in that role under Bruce Boudreau.

Höglander’s NHL opportunity was warranted

Höglander’s NHL success last season wasn’t all attributed to circumstance, as Hansen suggested.

He came into training camp and was one of the Canucks’ most impressive forwards.

Höglander certainly was in a good position to make an impact last year because of his head start in Sweden. He also joined a Canucks team with a lack of impact forwards.

Also, the Canucks’ situation with Utica, especially during the pandemic, was less than favourable.

He followed that up by consistently driving play at even-strength for the Canucks throughout the season.

Höglander finished the season with 2.03 points-per-60. That’s considered a first-line rate, and trailed only Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson among all Canucks.

Based on the underlying metrics, his success last season wasn’t attributed to luck. He was the only Canuck to post a Corsi-for percentage above 50%, and he also led the team in even-strength shots.

Although Höglander has struggled under Boudreau, he was still one of the better Canucks at the beginning of the season under Travis Green. His 1.53 points-per-60 were closer to a low-end second-line rate, but it still ranked fourth on the team behind only Conor Garland, J.T. Miller, and Tyler Motte.

While Höglander could have benefitted from some time in the minors, the 21-year-old is still an NHL calibre player — he’s just going through a slump.

It is fair to wonder though if the new management regime, who previously “over-seasoned” prospects in Pittsburgh, might believe that a stint in the minors is what’s best for Höglander’s development.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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