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Two “New Guys” Pair Up, Ekman-Larsson All Smiles

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… Except during the “bag skate”. As expected, Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green whistled gruelling skates for both groups at the end of their respective day-one sessions. Despite the heavy finish, defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was happy to chat with the media afterwards, as was his D-partner for the day Tucker Poolman. Both are new Vancouver Canucks, OEL from Arizona, Poolman an arrival from Winnipeg.

“It was a good day, we did a little bit of everything,” Poolman said. “The drills seemed to come through pretty quick, and we had a good skate at the end as you saw there.”

Don’t read into the pairing. It’s day one, but for what it’s worth, both players enjoyed the experience.

“He’s a real good guy, we had a chance to skate a couple of times before the start of camp here,” Ekman-Larsson said. “He’s a good player, really good in D-zone and moves the puck pretty good too, so I like playing with him.”

The on-ice language of hockey is pretty similar throughout the NHL, although there are subtle differences based on a coach’s system. Today was a learning experience.

“In between the skates we went in and there was a lot of video work talking about the D-zone, and for both of us being new guys we were just talking about the little cues as far as when to go and when to stay,” Poolman pointed out. “Different lingo, when calling for pucks and things to look for, so that was kind of the little things today.”

Barring a Quinn Hughes contract-talks catastrophe, lefty OEL is slated as the key man on the second pair this season. Righthander Poolman is initially thought of as a third-pair guy. It’s definitely his job to lose. He’s used to his position on a depth chart fluctuating.

“I kind of just play wherever coach says and wherever the coach puts me and that’s how it’s always been for me,” Poolman said. “Show up, smile and be ready to go.”

Poolman overcame a concussion and a Covid infection last year, and according to Winnipeg staff he’s more likely to jump into the play offensively than people might expect. He’s somewhat stealthy that way, call it instinctive, and a better player when he’s involved offensively. He progressed last season in his physicality but wouldn’t be considered a “tough guy”. The 28-year-old Dubuque, Iowa native is 6’2″, 200 pounds. Again, his style of play will depend a lot on his pairing.

“Obviously with a new team you’ve got to make connections, earn the respect of the coach and your teammates, get to know your teammates,” Poolman added. “I just try to play a simple, hard game, nothing too flashy, but (will) try to add a little more offense than last year and if the play is there try to make it.”

Meanwhile, OEL is coming off what most, himself included, consider two or three sub-par seasons. He first insisted that he doesn’t blame his play on lingering in Arizona far too long or losing his passion there, but then suggested the time for a change was due.

“Not at all, not at all,” he professed. “I still wake up and love what I do. It’s like any business, there’s gonna be days you struggle a little bit and the last couple of years there’s been more days like that, but I think I’ve learned a lot from that. Even if I was struggling I was working hard to fight through it and that’s the mindset that I have. I’m super excited, happy to get a fresh start here, and I feel like I’m a really good player still and I have a lot left in me.”

So maybe Poolman is under-rated and maybe OEL’s demise is over-rated. If so, it’s good news for these “new guys” and for the Vancouver Canucks. As camp continues, it’ll be more communication, familiarization, and trying to establish team chemistry.

As for the heavy skate to finish day one:

“Every year you do a hard one, but that was definitely up there,” Poolman said.

“It was tough one, but we knew that coming in, right?” OEL added. “I haven’t been doing a lot of these skates before this, but it was a good practice, there was some good plays, and the guys were working really hard. So that’s all we we were looking for … so good start.”

Day two starts at 9 am Friday.

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