If asked who the Canucks most versatile player is, a lot would quickly jump to suggest it’s Alex Burrows, an undrafted player who found his niche in the East Coast Hockey League before making the jumps to the American Hockey League Manitoba Moose and finally to the Vancouver Canucks. With the Canucks, Burrows started on the fourth line, and shortly thereafter, adapted to his different roles, moved up the depth chart and found his place on the first line of the best team in the NHL.
But while Burrows is a good answer, the guy that jumps to my mind right now is Jannik Hansen. After being on the bubble for most of the last two years, Hansen was finally awarded a one-way NHL contract and he’s given the club a reason to keep him on the big team. With the Canucks shuffling forwards due to its logjam and talent and a some injuries, he’s moved up and down and around the lineup. Burrows’ injury at the start of the season gave Hansen the opportunity to skate alongside two of the best Swedish players in the league and his speed allowed him to skate with the NHL’s best. Since Burrows’ return, Hansen has found himself moving between the second line – the “Need for Speed” line alongside Ryan Kesler and Jeff Tambellini – and the bottom-six.
To stay with the team, Hansen has had to become versatile, and despite being given limited ice-time on some nights, he’s found ways to contribute. In Raymond’s absence he notched three points playing with the second line. When called upon, he can grind it out. He’s also one of the Canucks’ top penalty killers. (He’s usually on the first or second PK group with Manny Malhotra.) Despite his modest success on the first two lines Hansen won’t be confused a top six forward, but he’s found a way to make an impact from night to night despite an ever-changing role.
One thing that stands out to me is Hansen’s hit count. Now while the standards for tracking hits is completely bogus, you can’t take away from what Hansen’s done – he briefly took the team lead in hits though Andrew Alberts, who lead Philadelphia and Carolina in hits during his stints there, has since passed him again. Hansen and Alberts play two different roles but Hansen is doing a bang up job of keeping up with Alberts at the thing he does best.
While Burrows has worked hard to make himself a staple in the lineup, and at his bargain basement contract he’s not going anywhere. He may have been the Canucks’ most versatile player at one point, but credit Hansen for managing to forge a name for himself with his own versatility. Hansen, who from season to season was unsure of still having a job in Vancouver let alone get the opportunity to move up the pay grade and depth chart, has found a way to take his skill set and apply it to the Canucks system in a way that benefits the team night in and night out.
Once next season rolls around, the Canucks should really look at keeping him because he’s a combination of Torres’ grit, Raymond’s speed, and the heart you see from Kesler and Burrows on the penalty kill. Now we just have to get him Jeff Tambellini’s hands.