Chris Tanev Making Good First Impression With Canucks
As he embarked on his first pro season, the 21-year-old Vancouver Canucks rookie was not expected to be called up from the minors, but he was. Now, two injuries to veteran defensemen have extended his stay.
"It's been really good," said Tanev. "I've really learned a lot. All these guys are really good guys and they're teaching me new stuff every day on how to be a pro and stuff like that."
He recorded his first NHL point Monday as he set up a goal by Dan Hamhuis in Vancouver's 7-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars.
"It was exciting," said Tanev of his assist. "I can't really describe it. It was really exciting just to get the win. I've played four games. It was the first one we got. I'm really happy about that."
Initially, Aaron Rome's loss was Tanev's gain. He was summoned from Manitoba of the AHL after Rome went down with a knee injury Jan. 14 in Washington.
"I found out two Saturdays ago after we played Milwaukee," said Tanev. "We lost in overtime. The coach (Claude Noel) called me in his office. I thought I was going to get shown video or something. Mr. (Lorne) Henning (Vancouver's assistant general manager) was in there and he said, 'You're going up.' "
Tanev joined the Canucks in time to be a healthy scratch for a Jan. 16 game in Minnesota. But in the same game, defenseman Andrew Alberts was felled with a shoulder injury – and Tanev has been playing since.
So far, so good.
Had the injuries to Rome and Alberts happened two weeks earlier, chances are that Tanev never would have been called up.
The Canucks had Ryan Parent, a promising 23-year-old defenseman acquired from Nashville at the start of the season on the roster. However, management felt that Parent, who has 106 NHL games under his belt, would be better off playing in Manitoba rather than continuing to watch the Canucks from the press box.
Parent was sent down Dec. 31, but must clear re-entry waivers before he can return, and the Canucks do not want to risk losing him to another team for no compensation. As a result, Tanev, who as a first-year player does not have to clear waivers before he is promoted or demoted, was called up instead.
"I wouldn't say surprised," said Vigneault when asked of his reaction to Tanev's play. "I would say very pleased. I've been fortunate to catch a couple of (Manitoba's) games in Abbotsford (located near Vancouver), and I definitely liked what I saw there. I've been getting weekly reports from Claude (Noel, Manitoba's coach) and Craig Heisinger (Manitoba's general manager) and Lorne Henning when they've gone down there.
"Obviously, there's been a real progression since training camp. But I'm like everybody else. You see that there's a lot of upside there with his poise with the puck, with his reads of the play on the ice with and without it. He's in position when he needs to be on D-side. Obviously, we feel that we've got a young man there that with the right attitude and the right work ethic has a chance to play in the future."
Vigneault displayed his confidence in Tanev by opting to go with him Monday instead of veteran Lee Sweatt, who was called up this week from Manitoba. Sweatt was brought in on the chance that Kevin Bieksa could not play because of a swollen eye suffered in a fight with Calgary's Tom Kostopoulos on Saturday.
As it turned out, Bieksa was able to play. Although Vigneault still could have inserted Sweatt, who is in his fourth pro season, the coach decided to stick with Tanev.
"If you were standing behind the bench where I was (Monday) and listening to his teammates talk about the kid's poise when he had the puck and how he was making the right plays and the right decision, I think his teammates were really impressed – just like I was (watching) how this young man has been able to step in and play some good minutes for us," said Vigneault.
Tanev is averaging 12:54 per game and sports a minus-one mark. Those are impressive numbers considering that the Toronto native was never drafted.
The Canucks signed Tanev as a free agent after he played just one season of U.S. college hockey at little known Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He had 10 goals and 28 points in 41 games, playing a huge role in RIT's surprising run to the NCAA Frozen Four.
"I visited a bunch of schools, but (RIT) offered me (a financial-aid package) first," said Tanev. "It felt like they wanted me the most."
Time -- and timing -- will tell how badly the Canucks still want Tanev. With the NHL All-Star break coming up and Rome and Alberts due back shortly afterward, it makes sense to send him back down for at least a little while.
But the Canucks must also make a decision on defenseman Sami Salo, who appears close to returning from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered in the offseason. To get him back on the roster, the Canucks must clear salary cap space.
With Salo, Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff all due to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, Tanev is in position to accelerate his quest for a permanent position with Vancouver even further.
"I'm just taking everything as it goes," he said of his quick rise to the NHL. "It's real exciting. RIT's a smaller school ... We did really well, proved ourselves against the bigger schools, and then I went down to Manitoba. The team's doing really well.
"I've been able to continue to progress."
Thanks, in no small part, to good timing.