With the decidedly less-than-hot start, Canuck fans continue to keep one eye on the future, knowing that the youth movement has begun and that new stars are on the way. With a refreshed roster will come new storylines, and as old rivalries from the past die down, the Canucks will need to find some brand new bones to pick around the league. The Canucks have had no shortage of public enemies throughout the years; from Dustin Byfuglien to Dustin Brown, and some, like Duncan Keith, will never be forgiven. With all that in mind, here’s a look at some upcoming players from around the league that seem likely to be on the receiving end of some Canuck-fan hatred in the seasons to come.
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Tkachuk’s father, Keith, was one of the league’s dirtiest superstars when he played, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Tkachuk picked up a reputation for questionable play in the OHL, and has seemed to ramp it up upon hitting the pros.
Tkachuk made several cheap plays during the Penticton Young Stars tournament, including a really late hit on Tate Olsen and a bizarre attack on Brendan Lemieux, who we’ll talk about later. Tkachuk has already received some attention at the NHL level for a slewfoot on Brandon Davidson. He had been suspended for a similar play in the OHL. Although he escaped suspension for that incident, you can bet that Tkachuk will be getting pretty familiar with the Department of Player Safety over the next few years.
With Tkachuk entrenched in Calgary for now, Canuck fans will be given ample opportunity to build up their dislike of him. In addition to his on-ice play, the Canucks had a chance to draft Tkachuk but chose Olli Juolevi instead, leading to further reason to root against him. Worst of all, Tkachuk was recently told he’d be staying with the team permanently with the same mock-ceremony that Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann received last year, an idea which was obviously stolen from Willie Desjardins by Glen Gulutzan. Get your own ideas, Glen!
Brendan Lemieux, Winnipeg Jets
Lemieux is the son of Claude Lemieux, one of hockey’s greatest villains, and Brendan seems determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Although a talented player, Lemieux has thrown himself fully into the role of agitator, and frequently plays to hurt his opponents. Lemieux was often suspended in the OHL for dangerous hits, including a 10 game sit-down.
Lemieux is renowned not just for cheapshots, but for his mouth, as well. That presumably led to his jumping by Matthew Tkachuk in Penticton, but Tkachuk was far from the only target of Lemieux’s words. If he’s anything like his dad, few topics will be off-limits for Lemieux.
After being sent down to the AHL to start the season, Lemieux has already made a statement. Against the Bakersfield Condors, he threw a questionable hit and then forced an unwilling Danish player into a fight. Like father, like son.
Drake Caggiula, Edmonton Oilers
Drake Caggiula does have a reputation for being as much of a pest as one is allowed to be in college hockey, but that’s actually not the primary reason that Canucks fans will cheer against him. Caggiula was a NCAA free agent who seemed destined to sign with the Canucks and join his North Dakota teammates Brock Boeser and Troy Stecher. Tragically, Caggiula signed with the Oilers after another famous Gretzky phone call and, presumably, several ignored calls from Mark Messier. Since then, Caggiula has openly talked to the media about how hard Boeser campaigned for him to join the Canucks, but he still chose Edmonton.
Caggiula plays an agitating style, and Canucks fans were particularly sour to see him perform well against the team in the preseason. Caggiula has a penchant for scoring goals in every situation, and will no doubt be a net-front presence for years to come. Canucks fans will hope that Caggiula is Justin Schultz 2.0, and not the second coming of Ryan Smyth.
Nick Ritchie, Anaheim Ducks
Nick Ritchie was one of two top-ranked power forwards in the 2014 Draft. Jake Virtanen was the other. For that reason alone, the two will always be in unspoken competition according to Canucks fans. Ritchie’s playing style is perhaps even more physical than Virtanen’s. Both are able to intimidate opponents with crushing hits, but Ritchie is also able to fight with the best of them.
Already, Ritchie seems to have passed Virtanen in the depth charts by frequently lining up with old Canuck enemies Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. An apprenticeship from those two will no doubt ensure that Ritchie receives many lessons in how to make the Vancouver Canucks angry. Crosschecks to the small of the back will be a crucial part of his education.
The Canucks have a recent history of being physically dominated by the California teams, and Ritchie is just one more in a long line of players destined to run over our defenseman and take runs at the Sedins. Hopefully having Erik Gudbranson around will act as a bit of a preventative measure when it comes to Ritchie.
Anthony DeAngelo, Arizona Coyotes
Anthony DeAngelo came into the league as an easily hateable player. After all, it’s not often that a junior player is suspended for using slurs on multiple occasions. That’s not to say that DeAngelo doesn’t give league staff other reasons to suspend him, as he’s thrown a number of dangerous hits.
DeAngelo was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning not long after drafting him, which doesn’t speak to his character. He landed in Arizona, where he’ll eventually play in the Canucks’ division. With several young forwards coming through the system, the chances of one of them having a run-in with DeAngelo are going to be high.
Canucks fans have no special reason to dislike DeAngelo, but an agitating defenseman playing within the division who is known for hate speech makes for an instant public enemy in Vancouver. All it will take is one questionable hit from DeAngelo for the pitchforks to be out in full force.