While there was only one former Vancouver Canucks player among the BC connections named to Team Canada for the 2022 non-NHL Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament, there’s a half-dozen more ex-Canucks representing other countries.
Just Call Me Nordic
We begin with Niklas Jensen of Denmark, a former 1st-round pick of the Canucks back in 2011. He didn’t pan out, the 29th-overall selection ended up playing a total of 24 NHL games for the Canucks and then seven more for the New York Rangers who acquired him in early 2016 with a 6th-round pick for another left-shot right winger Emerson Etem.
Once NHL drafts reach the lower portion of the 1st-round GM’s will admit it becomes a crap-shoot, but just for fun, Rickard Rakell went next to the Anaheim Ducks, Boone Jenner eight picks later to the Columbus Blue Jackets, John Gibson at number-39 to the Ducks, and Brandon Saad four picks later to the Chicago Blackhawks. Saad’s next NHL goal will be his 200th by the way.
Jensen still plays, in fact, he’s making bank in his fifth season with Jokerit Helsinki, the Finnish entry in the Russian KHL. He’s on the top scorers list with 34 points in 37 games.
Four picks after Saad and sixteen after Jensen in 2011 came Markus Granlund to Calgary. And speaking of Finland, Granlund previously represented that country for two World Juniors and one senior World Championship. He’s on tap for Beijing.
Granlund came to Vancouver in February of 2016 from Calgary for Canucks failed 2013 1st-rounder Hunter Shinkaruk and became a mainstay up front until the summer of 2019 when he signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Granlund had a career high 19 goals and 32 points for the Canucks during the 2016-’17 season.
Oscar Fantenberg will play for Team Sweden and should be fresh in the memory banks of Canucks fans. The sort of hefty left-shot defenceman played for the Canucks during the bubble season, 36 games, and then 16 more in the surprisingly good bubble playoffs in Edmonton in 2020.
Undrafted, he signed with the Canucks in 2019 and after just one season skedaddled off to St. Petersburg in the KHL.
What’s not to love about Latvia and Latvian hockey fans, always some of the most boisterous and demonstrative at Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately this year they won’t be in attendance to watch their countryman Ronald Kenins, the former Vancouver Canucks winger for a stint over two seasons, 2014-’15 and 2015-’16.
He came from Zurich in the Swiss League and that’s where the now 30-year-old returned. After two seasons with the Lions he’s in his 4th season with the Lausanne Hockey Club and has generally been a half-point-a-game guy at that level. He totalled 4 goals and 12 points in 38 games for the Canucks.
Let’s Be Franc
Considering I did these countries in alphabetical order, they’re doing a nice job of providing me seamless transitions from one to the next. From Lausanne to actual Swiss subjects.
The Swiss are usually a tough out at international tournaments. They play a Carolina Hurricanes style as best they can on the big Olympic sheet. Disciplined, hard working, tight checkers.
If you blinked you may have missed Raphael Diaz’s stop with the Canucks. He popped in for six games and then popped back out in 2013-’14. Mr. Antsy Pants tallied one goal and one assist with Vancouver. For fun: He scored his goal in his first game as a Canucks defenceman on February 4th against the Bruins in Boston and then two nights later picked up his assist against the Montreal Canadiens.
That’s the team that traded him to Vancouver on February 3rd that year for Dale Wiess. Not sure who he pissed off (kidding) but 29 days later he was shipped to the Rangers for a fifth-rounder. Diaz’s CV includes 201 NHL games with a great majority of his career spent with his hometown team in Zug. He’s a veteran of two previous Olympics.
Yannick Weber came one short of reaching 500 NHL games. The 33-year-old right-shot D-man spent 159 of those matches with the Canucks between 2013 and 2016 and included his career best year 2014-’15, when he totalled 11 goals and 21 points. He arrived as a summertime free agent signee and he departed the same way to Nashville.
A mainstay on a very good Predators blueline through 2020, Weber had two games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season before heading home to Zurich to play in the Swiss League.
Enjoy following their exploits; the men’s tournament in Beijing begins February 9th.