When the Vancouver Canucks like a player, they often don’t let up until they get them. On Monday afternoon, Jim Benning reeled in Jayce Hawryluk on a team-friendly one-year deal with an NHL salary of $800,000.
Hawryluk was drafted 32nd overall in 2014 by the Florida Panthers, just four picks before the Canucks selected goaltender Thatcher Demko. Jim Benning was hoping that Hawryluk would slide to that pick as they spent a fair bit of time talking with the then prospect. That connection stuck with him. 6 years later, he is a Canuck.
“I didn’t know if I was gonna be picked by [the Canucks] and obviously I wasn’t,” Hawryluk told reporters yesterday afternoon. “But they’ve continued to express interest in me throughout the years, that was definitely a point that made me choose them.”
Benning landed Hawryluk on a low risk, potentially high reward, two-way deal. With grit and ferocity being major parts of his game, Hawryluk isn’t the type of player to fill up the scoreboard, but he is the type of guy that will be giving an earful to the opposition to get under their skin.
“We’re not out there to be friends, even if you know the guy off the ice, you’re out there to do one thing and that’s win the hockey game. And if that’s a chirp here and there to throw a guy off his game or just let him know, ‘If you want it, I’m here to give it to you,’ I feel like that’s just part of my game.”
“[Hawryluk's] not coming to Vancouver to score goals. He’s coming to Vancouver to provide grit, edge. He’s going to be hard to play against.”
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) October 19, 2020
After a disappointing disappearing act by the Canucks’ bottom six forwards in the playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Canucks knew that they needed to find cost-effective improvements to reinvigorate the bottom half of their line up. Guys that can step up and play tough minutes that make the opposing team’s night a long one.
Hawryluk brings a smart defensive game to the table much akin to fan favourite, Tyler Motte. With the pair now, the Canucks have a stronger depth group to support the young nucleus of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat.
The Canucks are at a pivotal turning point for the franchise. It is a difficult shift to navigate under regular conditions, let alone the one we find ourselves in now in 2020. They need to continue to overturn the older group of handsomely compensated players that are no longer contributing to match their contracts while injecting young, effective players to not only replace them but excel in those roles. Hawryluk is a fantastic bet to do just that.
There is a lot more work to be done to get this team to even a level point to where they were last season but there are promising moves like this signing that show that the Canucks management group has an eye on being competitive today without mortgaging the promising future to do it. Transactions like this that have an eye on both are vital for the Canucks to take the next step forward.
Much like Motte, Hawryluk has bounced around a little bit during his NHL career before landing in Vancouver. He was placed on waivers by the Panthers after not being able to nab a regular role in the lineup and was later claimed by the Ottawa Senators where he finished out the season. At 5″11, he isn’t the big statured forechecker nor does he have great skating on the rush but he plays with a lot of heart and, as former GM Brian Burke would say, truculence.
“I think Travis Green is going to like Jayce’s style. In his draft year he was over a point per game. In his 19 year old season, he was three goals shy of 50. There’s always been that skill. And even in junior at 16 he wreaked havoc on defensemen. He’s hard on pucks. His motor is always running, that’s likely what appealed to the scouts in his draft year.”
“The tempo he plays at, it don’t matter what the score is. He plays bigger than what he measures out at, he’s got a heart of a lion. I think Vancouver Canuck fans are really going to enjoy watching Jayce play.”
-Jayce Hawryluk’s agent, Jason Davidson
He’s a smart player with strong underlying skill and a ton of heart. Sounds very familiar to Canucks fans and something that they should rightfully be excited for.