Canucks’ best add of the week could be Soucy, and it won’t cost them a thing

Dallas Stars' Ty Dellandrea (10) grabs Vancouver Canucks' Carson Soucy (7) as he skates with the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (Ethan Cairns/CP)

LOS ANGELES – With the National Hockey League trade deadline ticking louder by the hour, the Vancouver Canucks are expected Tuesday to add a big, mobile defenceman to their lineup.

His name is Carson Soucy. Remember him?

The 29-year-old was the Canucks’ top free-agent acquisition last summer but has been restricted by three separate injuries, the last two of them bone fractures caused by blocking shots, to just 21 games during his first season in Vancouver.

Out since stopping a shot with his hand against Toronto on Jan. 20, Soucy practised fully Monday on a pairing with Ian Cole and is expected to play Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings. 

While Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin is believed to be hunting for a top-six winger ahead of Friday’s dealing deadline, Soucy could be the best player Vancouver adds this week. And he isn’t costing them a thing.

“He’s a really positive guy,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said after the practice in suburban El Segundo. “And I’ll tell you what, these last two injuries have really affected him a little bit. I think seeing the smile back on his face, knowing he’s going to play, is something that we’ve been sorely missing.”

The Canucks have been missing a few things the last 2 ½ weeks while going 2-5-1 in their poorest stretch of the season. They’ve looked tired at times, mentally and physically.

But the callup of 22-year-old winger Vasily Podkolzin, popular with both teammates and fans, was part of the energy boost that helped the Canucks grind through a 2-1 win Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The return of Soucy, especially against a robust Kings team that smothered the Canucks in a 5-1 win at Rogers Arena last Thursday, could provide another small spark.

“Ideally, hopefully, I can provide something like that,” Soucy told Sportsnet on Monday afternoon. “They haven’t needed it much throughout the year. But we’re kind of in the dog days right now, so hopefully I can provide just a little spark of positivity, just a new look. They’ve been grinding the ups and downs, where I’ve kind of just been working to get back. So I haven’t experienced all the emotion that these guys have this year. Hopefully, I can bring a fresh look and a little spark of positivity.”

Certainly, Soucy has been a positive influence when he has played. The Canucks are 16-3-2 in his 21 appearances and Soucy, part of a bottom-four group on defence that has a tonne of size and parity, has been one of the team’s best penalty killers. The Canucks have been outscored just 2-1 in 37 shorthanded minutes with Soucy on the ice.

He is also one of Vancouver’s top shot-blockers, although two of those blocks have cost him 40 games with injuries. The six-foot-five blue-liner was in just his eighth game back after missing 23 with a lower-leg fracture when he broke a bone in his hand trying to glove down a Mitch Marner shot during the Canucks’ 6-4 win seven weeks ago.

“This last one was hard, probably more mentally than physically,” Soucy said. “The first (break) was tough; it was a lower-body injury and I couldn’t skate much. This one, I was skating right away but I couldn’t skate with any pucks. So that was hard, just coming to the rink every day knowing you’re kind of just skating by yourself, no pucks. But the good thing is it gets easier as you get going. 

“You see the light, you start touching pucks, and then it ramps up really quick. It was a little tougher mentally but once you get past that first little stretch where you really can’t do anything, then at least you know you can put the work in to come back and get ready.”

Soucy said it was no easier emotionally sitting out when the Canucks were winning than having to watch their mid-winter lull the last eight games.

“When you’re winning, you don’t quite feel like you’re part of it,” he said. “I’m obviously pumped that the team is winning and we’re doing great, but you don’t feel that same emotion not being part of the group, especially when they’re on the road. And then, yeah, it’s equally hard when they’re losing because you want to get in there and try and make a difference. I’m very fortunate that these guys have done amazing without me, so hopefully I can just kind of contribute a little bit here.”

Tocchet hopes Soucy’s return is a trend. Defenceman Tyler Myers, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Kings, should return next week. Sometime after Myers, winger Dakota Joshua will return from his upper-body injury. Even depth defenceman Guillaume Brisebois, who has not played since suffering a concussion in the pre-season and whose career seemed in jeopardy until a month ago, fully practised with the Canucks on Monday.

“When you bring a young guy up (like Podkolzin) or you bring back a guy that’s been out for a while like Soucy – and then you get Dakota back — it’s almost like you’re making trades,” Tocchet said. “Especially Soucy and Dakota, they add so much to our team that it’s like an injection of life in your room when you need it.”

Mark Friedman practised with Brisebois on an extra pairing as Tocchet and assistant coach Adam Foote went with Quinn Hughes-Filip Hronek, Soucy-Cole, and Nikita Zadorov-Noah Juulsen. 

The Canucks will closely monitor Brisebois as his activity ramps up. Sending him to the American League to play games on a conditioning stint is an option to prepare him for an NHL return.

The 26-year-old, who was finally going to make the Canucks’ opening-night NHL roster after spending most of the last six years in the minors, couldn’t stop smiling after Monday’s practice.

“It feels really good mentally to be able to do what the guys are doing and just be around the team,” Brisebois said. “I missed it a lot. It’s been pretty tough, but at the same time I’ve grown from this and I think I’ll be a better player.”

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