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Best of the Best: 2021 Season

by Brady Trettenero @BradyTrett / Freelance Writer

The Canucks won 23 games in the North Division during the shortened 2021 NHL season. Nils Höglander burst onto the scene with a sensational rookie campaign, while Thatcher Demko proved why he's the goaltender of the future with some mind-blowing performances. 

It was also another exciting year for the young core, as Quinn Hughes dazzled on the blueline and Brock Boeser returned to form as an elite goal scorer. Not to mention, Elias Pettersson showed off his elite skill-set before having his year cut short due to injury. 

Here's a look back and breakdown of the top plays and moments from the Vancouver Canucks' 2021 season. 

Best Goal

Miller scores filthy OT winner vs. Habs (03/19/21)

You could say J.T. Miller scored some clutch goals in his second year with the Canucks. The 28-year-old potted 15 tallies in 53 games, including a sensational OT winner against the Montreal Canadiens back in March. With Vancouver and Montreal tied 2-2 in the extra frame at Bell Centre, Miller put the team on his back with an unreal individual effort to end the game. The former Ranger took a pass from Quinn Hughes at his own blueline before darting up the ice and beating Tomas Tatar wide. Miller then cut to the middle of the ice, undressed Nick Suzuki with a filthy toe drag move and beat Jake Allen with a backhand shot. It was one of four game-winning goals on the year for Miller, who has shown the ability to step up and deliver in the biggest moments. 

Video: VAN@MTL: Miller buries game-winner in OT


Best Assist

Höglander assists Pearson with diving pass vs. Sens (01/25/21)

Swedish rookie Nils Höglander put on a show in his first career NHL season. The 20-year-old finished fifth on the team in scoring with 27 points in 56 games. One of his most memorable plays came in an early-season game against Ottawa. The youngster showcased his tremendous speed and relentless work ethic with a remarkable individual effort to set up Tanner Pearson. The play started in the defensive zone when Bo Horvat won a faceoff and Höglander took off up-ice. The speedy Swede got past Sens' blueliner Mike Reilly by chipping the puck off the boards to himself. Höglander then beat out two Senators in the race for the loose puck, diving and sending a one-handed cross-ice pass to Tanner Pearson in the slot. Höglander's hustle is one of many reasons he became such a fan favourite in year one with the big club.

Video: OTT@VAN: Pearson nets Hoglander's set-up off the rush


Best Save

Demko comes across to rob Oilers' Chiasson with pad save (05/15/21)

Arguably the best save of the Canucks' 2021 season came in one of the final games of the season. Thatcher Demko concluded the year on a role, winning three of his last four starts. The 25-year-old submitted a late contender for "Save of the Year" with a fantastic pad stop on Oilers' forward Alex Chiasson during a game in May. The save occurred during the second period with the Canucks and Oilers tied at one apiece. Connor McDavid recovered a puck down low and sent a cross-ice pass over to Chiasson for what seemed like a sure goal. Demko read the play perfectly as it unfolded, demonstrating insane flexibility to stretch across and deny Chiasson with the right pad. With desperation saves like that one, it's no wonder Demko was rewarded with a five-year contract extension during the 2021 season. 

Video: VAN@EDM: Demko denies Chiasson with unreal pad save


Best Deke

Pettersson dangles Lucic and sets up Boeser vs. Flames (02/11/21)

They don't call him "Dekey Pete" for nothing. Elias Pettersson racked up 10 goals and 21 points in 26 games this season before having his year cut short due to injury. The 22-year-old lived up to his nickname in an early-season matchup against the Flames. The Swedish phenom set up teammate Brock Boeser for a goal in the second period after a sweet nutmeg move on Milan Lucic. Pettersson showed his elusiveness and creativity as he evaded the check of Lucic by putting the puck through the Flames' forward's legs. Petey didn't admire his move, however, as he quickly sent a perfect bank pass to Boeser for an eventual goal. We didn't get the full dose of Pettersson in 2021, but his flashy early-season moves led to one of Boeser's 23 tallies on the year.

Video: CGY@VAN: Boeser buries own rebound to knot score


Best Fake

Hughes fakes and snipes goal vs. Flames (02/13/21)

Quinn Hughes continued to impress in his second full season with the Canucks. The 21-year-old blueliner recorded three goals and 41 points in 56 games, while leading the team with 22:48 average ice time. One of Hughes' highlights was a brilliant goal he scored against the Flames during the month of February. The dazzling blueliner showed off his hockey smarts as he faked a pass and scored on a sweet wrist shot. The play started in the Flames' zone when Hughes intercepted a pass from Johnny Gaudreau before moving in on a 2-on-1 with Pettersson. Hughes got both defenseman Juuso Välimäki and goalie Jacob Markstrom to bite with a beautiful fake pass before sniping and scoring in one fluid motion. The sky is the limit for Vancouver's cornerstone blueliner, who finished tied for 11th among all NHL defensemen in scoring. 

Video: CGY@VAN: Hughes steals the puck and cashes in


Best Milestone

Rathbone snipes first career NHL goal vs. Oilers (05/06/21)

The Canucks got the chance to get some of their rookies into game action during the final stretch of the season. 22-year-old Jack Rathbone made his NHL debut in May 2021 and didn't waste any time making an offensive impact. The Harvard product scored his first career NHL goal in only his second career game. Rathbone accomplished the milestone in a May contest against the Oilers. Rathbone located a loose puck in the slot and wired a shot past netminder Mikko Koskinen. The hype is real around the young blueliner, who recorded nine points (two goals) in eight contests with the Utica Comets before impressing with three points during his NHL call-up. Rathbone is projected to play an important role on Vancouver's blueline in the coming years, and his eight-game NHL stint in 2021 should have fans excited for what's to come.

Watch: Youtube Video


Most Watched Moment

Canucks ice crew member puts on show vs Habs (03/08/21)

Talk about going viral. While there were plenty of highlights from the players this season, the most watched replay came from a member of the Canucks' ice crew. Devon Whitter went viral on social media with his incredible ice clean-up routine that captivated the entire hockey world. Whitter showcased his elite edgework and flawless snow shovelling ability as he scrapes the ice to perfection. The NHL posted video of Whitter's routine to their official YouTube channel, and the clip has garnered almost 700,000 views. If you're one of those fans who doesn't pay much attention to what's happening on the ice during stoppages, you'll want to change that next time fans are allowed inside Rogers Arena. Whitter's routine is simply must-watch TV. 

Watch: Youtube Video


Best Behind The Scenes

Nate Schmidt mic'd up at Canucks Training Camp (01/05/21)

One of Vancouver's biggest offseason acquisitions didn't waste any time making a major impact on his new team. Defenceman Nate Schmidt was acquired by the Canucks from the Vegas Golden Knights this past summer in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. While the 29-year-old blueliner chipped in with five goals and 15 points for Vancouver, it was his awesome personality that really won over fans. We got to see what this guy is all about when he was mic'd up at training camp for the Canucks' popular YouTube segment. From complimenting his teammates to funny one-liners, Schmidt's mic'd up segment was pure gold. Schmidt's leadership and experience is going to be invaluable for the team's young core moving forward, but his exuberant personality is what makes him the complete package. 

Watch: Youtube Video

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