Depth winger Jayce Hawryluk signed in the off-season but after a training camp injury, only made his season debut this week.

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The way the season started for Jayce Hawryluk hardly went to plan.

Signed in the off-season to provide a depth energy option for Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green to consider, he was hurt in the final scrimmage of training camp in a mid-ice hit by Tyler Motte.

Whatever the injury was — concussion, shoulder, perhaps something else — it was never disclosed. All we knew is he left the ice with assistance and was not looking comfortable.

Six weeks later, he finally suited up for his new club, though barely played, just six shifts amounting to 3:28 of ice time.

“It felt good to be back, it had been a while,” Hawryluk said Saturday afternoon following a spirited skate at Rogers Arena.

“Didn’t feel too rusty, had a lot of good practices and skates.”


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Green was understandably muted in his commentary about Hawryluk’s play when he was asked about it. Circumstance — there were nine power plays between the Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday — cut down on the amount of five-on-five ice time available to hand out to Hawryluk and fellow fourth liners, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel.

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“He didn’t get a lot of ice time. I expected that he’d be a little bit rusty, he hasn’t played a game for a while,” Green said Saturday. “He had a couple of shifts where he gave us some good energy. We’ll see where it goes.”

Hawryluk scored lots in junior but has been looked at as a gritty winger who plays with endless energy at the bottom of the lineup. He didn’t mesh with the coaching staff in Florida, who drafted him originally in 2014, a few picks before the Canucks were set to draft.

He finished 2019-20 with the Ottawa Senators and had more success there, picking up seven points in 11 games.

Vancouver Canucks’ Jayce Hawryluk, right, pats Nils Hoglander, of Sweden, on the head as he leaves the ice during the NHL hockey team’s training camp in Vancouver, on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
Vancouver Canucks’ Jayce Hawryluk, right, pats Nils Hoglander, of Sweden, on the head as he leaves the ice during the NHL hockey team’s training camp in Vancouver, on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canucks GM Jim Benning had his eye on Hawryluk at the 2014 draft. With Hawryluk off the table, Thatcher Demko became the pick, an interesting twist of fate.

Benning scooped him as a free agent last fall. It’s not the first time the Canucks’ GM has grabbed a player years after first casting his eye on them. That hasn’t always worked out, though.

No matter his own history or the GM’s, Hawryluk is out to prove that his energy can be a difference maker.

“That’s a huge part of my game I pride myself on, giving 110 per cent,” Hawryluk said.


Vancouver Canucks right wing Jake Virtanen sits in the penalty box as seats normally filled with fans remain empty during first period NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers in Vancouver, Thursday, February 25, 2021.
Vancouver Canucks right wing Jake Virtanen sits in the penalty box as seats normally filled with fans remain empty during first period NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers in Vancouver, Thursday, February 25, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayw /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Trade rumblings

While the Canucks had an optional practice Saturday, noise bubbled back up again that Benning was chasing a trade. Jake Virtanen’s name has been shared around the league more than once in the past year.

The latest connection is with the Anaheim Ducks, where GM Bob Murray is in a mess. His staff has done a good job of drafting and developing young talent, but the long-ago Canucks scout and former right-hand man to Brian Burke has made a number of poor decisions in building the rest of his team.

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The latest example was waiving Adam Henrique just over a year after signing him to a long-term extension.

Now it seems his eye has landed on Virtanen, the mercurial Canucks winger who has been mostly a spare part this season, even when he’s dressed.

Winger Danton Heinen was a trade deadline pickup from the Bruins a year ago and a player that has had interest from Benning in the past. Whether there’s a trade fit this time around remains to be seen, especially with the second year of Virtanen’s current two-year deal likely a sticking point.

You would imagine that the Ducks would be keen to see the Canucks pick up a portion of his salary for 2021-22, where he’s due US$3.4 million.


Vets vs. kids

The season isn’t even half over but the Canucks’ playoff hopes are almost as dim as can be.

HockeyViz.com has their chance of making the playoffs at six per cent, just ahead of the Ottawa Senators at four per cent. It’s rather amazing that there’s still a one in 10 chance that either the Canucks or the Senators could yet make the playoffs, but that’s what you get when the division’s as tight as it is.

But Green wasn’t interested in entertaining a question about whether there’s a tension between he and his staff needing to coach to win, even with playoff hopes slim, and the long-term benefit the team would probably accrue if he were to dress a younger lineup, which he could do by dressing Olli Juolevi over Travis Hamonic as well as finding space in the lineup for taxi squad players like Marc Michaelis and Brogan Rafferty.

Given Green and his coaching staff are all in the final year of their contracts, you could understand their desire to dress lineups more focused on winning in the short term.

Either way, Green wasn’t having it.

“There’s no tension,” he insisted.

“We’re not talking about that. We’re focused on getting into Winnipeg. We’re not halfway through the season yet,” he added, when pressed further.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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