The Canucks signed Nils Hoglander to a three-year entry level contract on Wednesday.
Fans are rightly excited about the 19-year-old Swede, who was a second-round pick but has shown first-round potential since he was selected 40th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Canucks fans also used to be excited about Nikita Tryamkin. Maybe some still are.
Tryamkin’s KHL contract expires after today, paving the way for the Canucks to sign him for the first time since he left town three years ago.
And while the Canucks haven’t given up on the 6-foot-7 Russian defenceman, don’t expect him to ink a new deal anytime soon.
GM Jim Benning described the current situation as a “holding pattern,” with the team reluctant to sign Tryamkin, or any other free agents really, until the salary cap picture looks clearer. Tryamkin will become a restricted free agent, with the Canucks controlling his rights, so there’s no need to rush anything.
“We’ve had conversations with Nikita’s agent,” said Benning. “We’ve told him we’d like to try to figure something out to get him back in the fold for next year. But we’re in a holding pattern right now. As we get more information or we know more about what’s going to happen for next year we’ll continue those talks. When the time comes we want to try to figure out a way to get him back here and get him playing as part of our group.”
Tryamkin had an impressive first season back in Russia in 2017-18, scoring 25 points in 51 games. He was named to the KHL First All-Star Team that year and suited up for Russia at the World Championships.
But by all accounts, his play hasn’t improved since then, and his point totals (22 combined points in 99 games in the past two seasons) have been pedestrian. Perhaps he is more suited to the smaller ice surface though.
Benning said he views Tryamkin as a “shutdown” defenceman, but wasn’t willing to make any predictions for ceiling.
“He’s a big player for his size; he’s a good skater and has good mobility,” said Benning. “We have always looked at him as kind of a shutdown guy that’s going to be strong in the corners and in front of the net, yet he’s got the skating and the ability to beat the first forechecker and turn and get the puck up ice. Over the course of that year that he played with us there were times when he looked like he was really going to take the next step with his physical play.”
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Benning made mention of Tryamkin’s final game with the Canucks, the season finale in Edmonton on April 9, 2017.
He scored that night, and Benning recalled a good hit on Taylor Hall too.
The everlasting image for me was when Tryamkin fought Jamie Benn after slamming the Dallas Stars captain to the ice with ease.
“He has the ability to do a lot of things for a player of his size,” said Benning. “Where his ceiling is, I don’t know. He’s going to have to come back and get acclimated to playing on the smaller ice sheet again. If he can keep developing like he was when he was here that first year, we think he can be a real good player for us.”
Here are a few more highlights to refresh your memory:
Tryamkin almost pulled a Crosby! pic.twitter.com/R9OEXhXRer
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) March 24, 2017
No matter what, Tryamkin's got your back. 💪 pic.twitter.com/EXKKZOK2vS
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) March 24, 2017
Tryamkin smash…almost.💥 pic.twitter.com/Z2AnCMdHkf
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 19, 2017
Tryamkin. Smash. pic.twitter.com/CLW9gaIXdq
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 26, 2017
Tryamkin smash, version 5.0. pic.twitter.com/bZSSy4hb1S
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 18, 2017
When you think of Nils Hoglander, you probably think about speed and skill.
Or a lacrosse goal.
That’s for good reason, though Benning highlighted the 19-year-old’s strength and tenacity — things that the 5-foot-9 winger will need to make the NHL.
“He’s not a very tall player in stature, but he’s strong,” said Benning. “He protects the puck really well. He buys time to make plays and to get his looks at the net. He’s a hardworking kid. We really like his character.”
Benning, who said the Canucks had him rated at the bottom of the first-round of the draft last year, left the door open for Hoglander to potentially play in the Canucks’ top-nine forward group next year.
Judd doesn’t sound long for Vancouver
The future of Canucks director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett has been in doubt for some time now.
Will he return to the team next season?
“We’re going to continue to talk to Judd and just see where it all ends up. Right now, he’s part of our group,” said Benning, who added that Brackett will be part of the scouting process for the upcoming draft.
“That’s really all we have for right now.”
Ferland doing well
Micheal Ferland is “doing well,” according to Benning, and could play this summer of the league starts up again. Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev are also both cleared to play, if need be.
The only player still battling an injury is Josh Leivo, who Benning said is still doing rehab.
The Toronto Blue Jays are beginning to give fans refunds for unplayed games, up until May 31. It’s probably time for NHL teams to follow suit.
There may be a conclusion to the 2019-20 season, but it most certainly won’t include fans. Holding on to their money any longer is disingenuous.
Don’t stop believin’
Finally, here’s a neat video put together by Canucks in-arena host Tyson Geick, featuring all the musical acts from the 2019-20 season. Marie Hui, Mark Donnelly, Al Murdoch, Fin — even Nearly Neil — they’re all there.
There’s even a cameo from Gus Horvat at the end.