As frustration grows with the play of Vancouver Canucks forward Nils Höglander, including his propensity for taking needless offensive zone penalties like he did again Friday night, coupled with his apparent inability to grasp the 200-foot NHL game, don’t be surprised if you see him removed from the line-up on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It may be time for the Vancouver Canucks debut of Sheldon Rempal. With the Abbotsford Canucks this season, the 26-year-old right wing tallied 48 points, including 23 goals, in 41 AHL games. The big club called him up on March 7th and he’s been practicing with them since.
Body language, line combos at practice, and Canucks staff sentiment would suggest it’s time for a swap.
The lack of offence for ‘Hoagie’ is one thing, he finally snapped a 21-game goalless streak on Thursday, March 3rd against the New York Islanders. But it’s more the mistakes and the cute plays turned into not-so-cute turnovers that have bugged the coaches.
At one point following the 7-2 loss in New Jersey to the Devils back on February 28th, in reference to the offensively dynamic ‘Baltic Line’ of Elias Pettersson, Vasily Podkolzin, and Höglander, Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “I actually did (like them), but ‘Petey’ sometimes is playing really good, and one of the guys on that line isn’t.”
He was referring to Höglander, and although the player scored in that next game against the Isles, his efforts have generally brought more of the same mistakes.
The want is there, the skill is there to an extent, but the hockey brain and the finish are not.
Meanwhile, Rempal brings three-and-a-half seasons of professional hockey experience to the table, including ten games at the NHL level. He skated in seven games for the LA Kings during the 2018-’19 season and three more for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. He’s pointless in the NHL.
An undrafted Calgary native, Rempal played three seasons of junior hockey with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL from 2013 to ’16.
Sunday would be an NHL re-baptism by fire against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning. For Rempal the perfect motivation, and combined with a simplified energetic approach, he might find himself in an opportunistic situation playing with the likes of Pettersson and Conor Garland.