Four years ago, that was the case for Jannik Hansen. Four years later, he’s opened up the post season playing a valuable role for the Canucks.
It wasn’t long ago that the right winger from Denmark got the call-up from the Manitoba Moose to join Vancouver in the 2007 playoffs against the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks. Talk about baptism by fire.
“It does seem like a long time,” says the 25 year-old when asked to reflect on his first taste of NHL hockey. “I didn’t get a chance to ease into things. Every game was ‘win or lose’. There wasn’t a lot of room for error, but it was a nice way to get into it.”
Imagine how he must have felt taking his first step on NHL ice when just three years earlier, he was selected by the Canucks in the ninth round of the Entry Draft (287th overall). Since then, Hansen has turned into a valuable two-way forward for the club, providing a strong physical presence, efficient fore-checking, and of course high-end skating abilities.
“He’s definitely developed into a quality third-line NHL forward,” says Canucks Assistant General Manager Lorne Henning. “His progression over the past few years has been great. He’s worked hard on his penalty killing and his checking, which has made him an important asset for us.”
This season was Hansen’s most productive so far. He established career-highs in assists (20), points (29), and hits (134), and was a well-deserving recipient of the Fred J. Hume Award as the club’s Unsung Hero. He was also one of only four players to appear in all 82 regular season games for Vancouver, keeping pretty good company with Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler.
Prior to the start of this year’s playoffs, Hansen had one goal and three assists in 24 post-season games. He couldn’t have asked for a better start to this series with Chicago, scoring the insurance goal in a 2-0 win in Game One on Wednesday. He finished the night with four shots on goal, five hits, and two takeaways. Not a bad night at the rink for a player who’s starting the series on a line with Mason Raymond and Cody Hodgson.
“Of course we’d like to see if we can create some offense, but we know that’s not our main concern,” says Hansen. “If we do manage to chip one in, it’s a big advantage for our team.”
If there’s one player inside the Canucks locker room who can relate to what Hodgson might be going through right now, it’s Hansen. Sure, Cody had eight games with the big club this season, but stepping into playoff hockey as a rookie is a whole lot different.
“I told him just play his game,” says Hansen of the 21 year-old centre. “There’s a reason he’s here and it’s because he’s a good player. He just has to play the way he knows how to, and to play honest.”
And honest play is what the Canucks will need out Hansen and the rest of their bottom-six forwards if they want to continue their chances of winning a Stanley Cup in June.
“You’re not going to win and go deep in the playoffs with just one or two lines going,” adds Henning. “You need depth. Jannik and whatever line he’s played on this year has provided that for us and hopefully that can continue over the next few months.”