Don’t look now but the injury-riddled Vancouver Canucks find themselves perched atop the Pacific Division after the first month of the NHL season (the first time that’s happened since 2006). A look back at a surprisingly strong October:
By the numbers
Record: 8-6-0 (4-2-0 home, 4-4-0 away) 16 points (1st, Pacific Division; 7th overall); GF: 40 (9th overall); GA: 44 (27th overall); PP: 17.0% (20th overall); PK: 83.3% (9th overall).
Leading scorers: Elias Pettersson (8 GP, 7-3-10), Bo Horvat (14 GP, 7-3-10), Jake Virtanen (14 GP, 5-2-7), Brock Boeser (12 GP, 2-5-7). Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (8 GP, 5-3-0, 2.96 GAA, .911 save percentage), Anders Nilsson (6 GP, 3-3-0, 2.67 GAA, .912 save percentage).
Fun number: Brendan Gaunce is averaging two points per game (scoring two points in his first match on Halloween night against Chicago after being called up from the AHL).
Player of the month
It’s Pettersson in a runaway. The rookie sensation, despite missing six games with a concussion, has taken the league by storm, producing at a 100-point pace and drawing comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk and even Wayne Gretzky. Pettersson was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for October. If he’s not already the face of franchise, it’s not far off. Honourable mention: Horvat.
Elias Pettersson (@Canucks), who led all rookies with seven goals and 10 points in eight games (7-3—10), has been named the NHL’s “Rookie of the Month” for October. https://t.co/Xf2Mr89UMe #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/gF9Wl5Ny2O
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 1, 2018
Biggest surprise: With a stick tap to the late-month, minute-munching efforts of defenceman Ben Hutton, the nod goes to Virtanen, who rounded out the month in style on Halloween with the first two-goal game of his career. His goal-scoring exploits have also spawned the humorous ‘Shotgun Jake’ phenomenon.
Biggest disappointment: While a reported nagging groin injury has contributed to the slow start (two goals) for sniper Boeser, veteran Loui Eriksson, he of the six-year, $36M contract, has yet to score in 14 games this season.
Best win: Horvat netted the OT winner in a 2-1 victory on Oct. 20 over the hated Boston Bruins.
Worst loss: On Oct. 27, the Canucks were pounded 5-0 by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Best fight: A helmet knock to Erik Gudbranson’s tilt with Calgary’s Travis Hamonic on Oct. 3, but the surprise factor of Horvat dropping the mitts with Boston’s Noel Acciari allows that spirited bout to take top spot.
Injury update: The Canucks have been beset by injuries. Currently on injured reserve: promising goalie prospect Thatcher Demko (concussion), veteran centre Jay Beagle (fractured forearm), the team’s top defence pair of Alex Edler (lower-body injury) and Chris Tanev (hip), goalie Nilsson (broken finger), centre Brandon Sutter (upper-body injury) and winger Sven Baertschi (upper-body injury).
On the farm: Vancouver’s AHL club, the Utica Comets, finished October with a 4-6-0 record, good for sixth in the league’s North Division. Darren Archibald, Adam Gaudette, Guillaume Brisebois, Alex Biega, Gaunce, Richard Bachman and Jalen Chatfield have all been summoned at some point by the big club due to the rash of injuries. Reid Boucher (8 GP, 9-3-12) leads the Comets in scoring, while defence prospect Olli Juolevi (10 GP, 1-5-6) is off to a solid start offensively.
Coming this month: The Canucks play 14 times in November, with home games against Colorado (Nov. 2) and Montreal (Nov. 17), sandwiched around a six-game road trip that will see them play in Detroit, Boston, Buffalo, New York (Rangers and Islanders) and Minnesota, all within the space of 10 days. Then it’s back home for a Nov. 19 game with Winnipeg, three California games in four nights against Anaheim, San Jose and L.A., before wrapping up the month at home with games on Nov. 27 against L.A. and Nov. 29 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Extended Canucks coverage here
Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @philipwolf13