Here’s how good Chris Tanev has been in his latest stint with the Canucks: You barely notice him out there.
That’s because the 6-foot-2 22-year-old is usually so poised and usually makes the right decision, he rarely stands out.
“Yeah, and that’s a great thing to say about a young defence-man,” Kevin Bieksa said. “He goes out there and the coaches have confidence in him against pretty much every line out there.
“We’re comfortable with him and it seems like nothing fazes him.”
Bieksa famously said last sea-son Tanev should have a smoke dangling from his lips, so cool is his demeanour on the ice.
He played 29 regular-season games with the Canucks last season, then five more in the playoffs.
This season, with Keith Bal-lard out with a concussion, he’s bumped Andrew Alberts to the healthy scratch list beside Alex Sulzer, pairing with Aaron Rome. Playing with Rome, it must be said, is more of a challenge than it is when Tanev has been paired with Ballard.
So when Tanev was sent to the farm in Chicago this season, it was disappointing.
But not unexpected. C’mon, this is a kid who was barely 5-foot-3 in Grade 11. Never drafted by a junior team, let alone an NHL team.
So last season was a bonus, and a blip.
The trajectory Canucks brass have charted for the gifted defenceman, who must hold a Guinness record of some sort for that 18-month growth spurt that added almost a foot to his height between the ages of 17 and 19, has him playing all sorts of minutes in all sorts of situations in the AHL to hone his craft.
“I definitely wanted to be up with the big club, but it’s part of my development,” Tanev said. “I thought I had a good summer and was prepared to try and make the team.”
Nashville, against whom Tanev played 15: 07 and was an even plus-minus in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss, is a good example of how clubs groom young defence-men, even if your name is Shea Weber or Ryan Suter.
Both superstars spent time being tutored in the minors, Weber for 46 games, Suter for 63 games. Jon Blum is back in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals.
They were all stud draft picks. The plan was always to groom him more, play him with Kevin Connauton on the power play to learn how to quarterback it, put him on the penalty kill, give him tons of minutes.
“That’s very true,” he said. “I play a lot of power play, I do a lot of penalty kill. I definitely have
to do that to help my game out, play in all types of situations.”
Tanev struggled a bit in the third period against the Predators, but not as much as Sami Salo and Alex Edler did.
“You know what?” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Chris has given us everything that we expected.”
The Canucks have plans for Tanev, a free-agent signing two summers ago. He just needs to keep developing.
“His coach in college, who I had as well in college, told me at the beginning of last season during training camp, ‘This kid’s going to play games for you this year,'” Bieksa said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’
“Sure enough, he played a significant role for us. He is only going to get better.”