As the end of the regular season approaches, it’s time for an annual tradition: voting for the Vancouver Canucks’ team awards.
There are seven awards, four of which are decided by fan vote. Voting is now open for fans to vote for four of the seven team awards, naming the Canucks’ most valuable player, best defenceman, most exciting player, and unsung hero.
Fans can vote for whoever they want. Or, alternatively, they can vote for the suggestions below.
It’s not that I’m trying to unduly influence your vote. I am trying to duly influence your vote. It is entirely appropriate that you listen to my arguments and vote the way I’m suggesting.
Cyclone Taylor Trophy for the Most Valuable Player
This is a tough one that ultimately comes down to two very deserving candidates: J.T. Miller and Thatcher Demko.
Miller is the team’s leading scorer, with 30 goals and 93 points so far this season, while playing in all situations. He’s been a linchpin on the ice and a vocal leader off the ice. He would be the obvious choice as team MVP were it not for a certain starting goaltender.
Demko is the biggest reason the Canucks have been able to charge up the standings from the depths they sunk to start the season. His .917 save percentage doesn’t tell the whole tale: he leads the entire NHL in goals saved above average (GSAA) at 5-on-5 according to Natural Stat Trick, with only Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets facing more high-danger chances than Demko.
As a result of Demko's brilliance, the Canucks actually lead the entire NHL for the fewest goals against at 5-on-5. Given the defence corps in front of him, that's astounding. Actually, scratch that: that's valuable.
Pavel Bure Most Exciting Player Award
There’s an argument for Demko to take this award too, given some of the electric saves he’s made this season, but I’ve already given him the MVP and can’t let Miller go unrewarded.
Honestly, Miller was thrilling this season, with the potential to create something out of nothing every time he touched the puck. He was also exciting for the wrong reasons sometimes with his turnovers in the defensive zone but it’s all part and parcel of Miller’s eagerness to be a difference-maker on the ice, constantly looking to turn the puck up ice to create offence.
Miller’s incredible coast-to-coast goal against the Arizona Coyotes in February shows exactly why he deserves the Pavel Bure award.
Walter “Babe” Pratt Trophy for the Best Canucks Defenceman
Is there any doubt? For the third-straight year and likely for years to come, the best Canucks defenceman was Quinn Hughes.
It’s not just that Hughes is pursuing a franchise record for most points by a defenceman, sitting just two points behind Doug Lidster with five games remaining. It’s that he’s produced those points while taking major strides in the defensive end and while playing with partners that are decidedly not top-pairing caliber defencemen.
Hughes has even added penalty killing to his repertoire under Bruce Boudreau and has proven to be decidedly good at it too, with his quick feet, sure hands, and intelligent reads making him a strong fit for penalty-killing duty. He has evolved into a true number one defenceman and is currently 12th in the NHL in average ice time, averaging 25:10 per game.
The most exciting part about Hughes is that there’s still room to grow. Hughes has the potential to add more goalscoring to his game, with Boudreau wanting to see him activate more often. If Hughes breaks Lidster’s record this season, he’ll likely break his own record next season.
Fred J. Hume Award for Unsung Hero
This is an odd award to put to a fan vote because if a player has a significant chunk of the fanbase singing his praises, then he’s not exactly unsung. Consider that J.T. Miller won this award in the 2019-20 season when he led the Canucks in scoring and was pretty universally praised for his play in his first season as a Canuck.
It’s tempting to give this award to a player who has been unfairly criticized this season, like Brock Boeser, but he’s still not all that unsung.
Conor Garland would be a decent choice. He was highly praised early in the season but his still solid play started to go under the radar when some of his scoring dried up.
Even with some of his scoring droughts, Garland is second on the Canucks in 5-on-5 scoring behind Miller with 15 goals and 40 points. If he had played on the first power play unit all season, he likely would have cracked 20 goals and 50 points. He even leads the Canucks in Evolving Hockey’s Wins Above Replacement statistic thanks to a solid two-way game and his ability to draw penalties without taking many himself.
But for my actual vote, I’m going with Tanner Pearson, who was a steady presence alongside J.T. Miller on the top line for most of the season and has largely gone unheralded. He’s fourth on the Canucks in 5-on-5 scoring and has been one of the team’s better penalty killers too. That all sounds like unsung hero stuff to me.
An injury against the Coyotes earlier this month has kept him out of the lineup lately but he deserves credit for his full season of contributing up and down the lineup and chipping in some key secondary scoring with 14 goals and 34 points in 68 games.
The non-voting awards
There are three Canucks team awards that are not put to a fan vote.
There’s the Cyrus H. McLean Trophy for most points, which will obviously go to J.T. Miller, barring a 30-point explosion over the next five games from Elias Pettersson.
There’s also the Three Stars Award, which goes to the player with the most three stars selections over the course of the season. Goaltenders typically have the edge in this award, but my gut feeling is that Miller has more three stars nods given all his multi-point games.
Finally, there’s the newest award, the Daniel & Henrik Sedin Award for community leadership. This award is voted on by a Canucks Sports & Entertainment panel. It’s hard to say who might get the nod for this award, particularly with many of the in-person community appearances curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions.
I’m leaning toward Elias Pettersson, who made a $50,000 donation to the Canucks for Kids Fund back in November — the largest individual cash donation by any Canucks player in franchise history.
"When I signed my new contract, I knew I wanted to put some of that money towards charities and giving back to the community,” said Pettersson at the time. “I'm glad I am able to do so in the city I've come to know and love, and to the beneficiaries that mean so much to our team."
Pettersson also has a ticket program called the EP40 Crew where he hosts families from Canucks for Kids Fund beneficiaries at home games, giving kids and their families the opportunity to attend a Canucks game when they might not otherwise be able to go.
Other possibilities for this award could be Bo Horvat, who hosts kids and families from Ronald McDonald House with his Horvat’s Heroes program, or Brock Boeser, who hosts kids from BC Children’s Hospital at games with his Boeser’s Beauties program and donates $1,000 to Parkinson’s BC and Parkinson’s Minnesota for every goal he scores.