If the NHL were the Lion King, this would be that opening scene where all the animals are flocking to Pride Rock. In anticipation of something big. You know... Ahhhh-sabenyaaaa...
Anyways, the implication is clear. NHL play is nigh. So with the expectant return of Canucks players competing overseas, their performances abroad can now be guaged with some sense of finality. Because we can still only speculate the lockout's end, this may, in fact, be jumping the gun, but hakuna matata right?
Not including Mason Raymond, who hasn't yet played for his new Swedish team, the Canucks have had six players compete in Europe. In order of their signing, they are Nicklas Jensen, Dale Weise, Jannik Hansen and Cory Schneider. Just in case you haven't been among the more compulsive of us, checking up on our displaced heroes game-by-game, here's what they've been up to all this time:
It was asserted early on that the Canucks' youngest Dane is remaining in Sweden regardless of the lockout. For developmental purposes, it's not the worst idea, but you have to imagine that team brass have to at least be reconsidering the notion several months later. Jensen quickly took Sweden by storm, scoring eight goals in his first 15 games with AIK. While his pace has slowed considerably, his 12 goals still accounts for nearly one-sixth of his team's total (AIK sits third-last in Sweden). The fact that he is also tied for sixth in league goal-scoring as a 19-year-old tells you that he might just be the Canucks' surest thing since Hodgson (yes, I said the H-word). Case in point, 2:25 of this video.
If he's made available for international play, look for him to dominate for Denmark at their Olympic qualifying tournament against such competition as Slovenia and Ukraine in February.
Dale Weise; Tilburg Trappers (Eredivisie)
18 GP, 22 G, 24 A, 46 Pts, 77 PIM
The first Canucks roster player to sign abroad, Weise sent blogs and discussion boards in a tizzy after scoring eight points in his first two games. The whole tough-guy-turned-Dutch-superstar schtick really was too good to pass up for the few legitimate outlets actually covering his stint with Tilburg. In reference to having chosen number 88 (his birth year) with Tilburg, Pass it to Bulis declared him "the Eric Lindros of Holland".
For as much comedic relief as Weise's wild success provided, however, some bona fide credit is due to the fourth-liner. When he first signed, it appeared anyone could have really cared less. Ultimately, he made people back home actually notice a marginal player competing abroad by leading the league in scoring. Someone tell Gillis to sign linemate Josh Prudden, pronto!
But what I really wanna know is what on earth happened when he got 30 penalty minutes for "abuse of officials" last week?
Jannik Hansen; Tappara Tampere (SM-liiga)
18 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 16 Pts, 39 PIM
Not long after the Dutch Lindros signed in Europe, Hansen followed suit. After collecting a season-high three points in his debut with Tappara on November 1, the Danish winger has been steadily producing at nearly a point-a-game pace. To put that into context, fellow NHLers Valtteri Filppula, Jussi Jokinen and Mikko Koivu – all of whom enjoy a far higher profile than Hansen – are scoring at similar rates in the competitive SM-liiga.
Currently on a five-game point streak, Hansen was even moved to centre recently after 17-year-old Aleksander Barkov left for the World Juniors. Looks like the Canucks can end that search for a third-line centre... 'm I right?
Cory Schneider; HC Ambri-Piotta (National League A)
8 GP; 4 W, 4 L, 3.22 GAA, .913 Sv%
While rivals Boston and Chicago had Bergeron, Seguin and Patrick Kane competing in Switzerland early in the season, the Canucks lacked a legitimate star to follow abroad. Enter Cory Schneider and the dual citizenship unbeknownst to nearly anyone.
In Weise's case, nobody
Nonetheless, when he wasn't getting danced by Kane in shootouts, Schneider was lifting his team into respectability. In eight games, Schneider is .500; by comparison, Ambri-Piotta was 7-19 previously. Having Matt Duchene defect from Sweden shortly after Schneider's debut certainly didn't hurt either.
Outside of league play, Schneider was also lent out to HC Fribourg-Gotteron for the always bizarrely-formatted Spengler Cup. Splitting starts with Benjamin Conz (of 2010 World Junior fame), he went 0-2. After allowing two goals on 17 shots to HC Vitkovice Steel in group play, he was lit up by Duchene and the Team Canada juggernaut in the semifinals.
Hopefully it won't be too long before Schneider has a team to match his calibre playing in front of him. So here's to Schneids exacting revenge on Kane in NHL play. And to Weise continuing his 2.5 points-per-game pace with the Canucks.
Vancouver needs its Dutch Lindros.