Canucks’ Jannik Hansen a great Dane at both ends of the ice
Coach Alain Vigneault praises winger ‘coming into his own as far as his overall game’
VANCOUVER — When Jannik Hansen sprinted down right wing against the St. Louis Blues, looking like a Danish Guy Lafleur, and then slapped an absolute bullet past Jake Allen top shelf far side, some people may have been surprised.
Hansen was not among them.
“Honestly, I think I’ve always had a decent shot,” he stated Wednesday at YVR as the Canucks departed for Phoenix and Thursday’s date with the Coyotes (7 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040). “Obviously it’s coming out a little bit more this year. In the past, a lot of the goals I scored weren’t pretty. They were in the paint or just around the net. Was it my best shot ever? I don’t know, maybe. If you come watch more practices, maybe you’ll see some better ones.”
It was one of many stellar moments for the Dane in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Blues. He finished the night with one goal, five shots, seven attempts at the net, two hits, a takeaway and a blocked shot.
That was on the scoresheet. Not on the scoresheet was the superb hockey sense he demonstrated in ragging the puck late in the third period with a delayed penalty to Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka. The Canucks managed to run about a minute off the clock before play was whistled down. By the time Sobotka’s penalty concluded, the Blues had just 66 seconds remaining to shoot for the equalizer. They didn’t get it.
“That was totally Jannik,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. “He had a real solid awareness of how much time was left in the game. I think there was a little bit more than four minutes and that brought the clock down to almost three. So it was a real smart play on his part.
“I’ve had Jannik for the seven years I’ve been here and every year he’s gotten a little bit better and a little bit more efficient on the ice. He’s always been a very hard worker, very committed, smart, and that’s why he can kill penalties and play a solid 5-on-5 game. Now, because he’s a good net presence, we can use him on the power play a little bit. He’s obviously coming into his own as far as his overall game.”
Drafted 287th overall by the Canucks in 2004 – they don’t even go that low anymore – Hansen spent a year with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and then a couple of seasons on the farm with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. He arrived as a scorer and left as a checker.
“I had a couple of strong suggestions when I came here my first couple of years that I had to change my game from junior and also the minors if I wanted to be in the NHL more than a handful of games and what-not,” Hansen said, smiling. “Back then, I think I was playing from our blue line and forward whereas my first couple of years here, it was completely the opposite.”
With Ryan Kesler sidelined by injury, the coaching staff has had to deploy Hansen in more situations, most recently on the first-unit power play with the Sedin twins. He’s still an integral member of the penalty kill and used in a shutdown role. His ice time is up more than two minutes a game from last season when he averaged 14:53.
He’s been one of the most consistent Canucks in a most inconsistent season.
“It’s nice to get the opportunity to be in those situations,” said Hansen, who turned 27 last Friday. “I’ve had an opportunity in the past to play in key defensive situations late in games but, offensively, it’s a little different for me this year. It’s not as much grinding and checking.
“It’s nice to play a different role and expand your hockey maybe a little bit from what you’ve been used to,” he continued. “Sometimes I would get the last 5-10 seconds on the power play with the third group. Now, getting a chance to play with the twins, you know you’re getting a lot of quality time and a chance to see if it’s something you can take on and run with.”
Heading into the Phoenix game, Hansen sits third in team scoring with 17 points and is tied for second in goals with eight. He’s also managed to accomplish all this while shuttling back and forth to the hospital where his twin sons Daniel and Lucas, born prematurely March 3, are still under medical supervision.
“The twins are doing well,” Hansen said. “I try to spend as much time there as I can away from the rink. Obviously it’s tough at night when you have to leave but that’s how it is right now. They’re getting good care.”
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