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Jannik Hansen: True Grit

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Jannik Hansen: True Grit

By John Jang

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

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Jannik Hansen: True Grit

As of Tuesday evening, the Vancouver Canucks currently sit atop the NHL standings with an impressive 55 points through 38 games. More impressively are the quality of teams that the Canucks now find themselves in the company of. The eternal Detroit Red Wings sit 2 points behind, while Atlantic Division heavyweights Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both threaten to dismantle the Canucks' position as top dog in the NHL.

While 38 games is far from a permanent fixture, the Canucks are still enjoying a well-earned luxury of finally gaining league-wide recognition as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. When you take a look across the Vancouver Canucks depth chart, there's plenty of praise to go around with almost every player seemingly doing their part. While the work of the Sedin Twins are nothing short of amazing and Ryan Kesler's rise as one of the league's best two-way centers deserves great credit, one name that perhaps goes under the radar is the Great Dane: Jannik Hansen.

But maybe that's not a mistake after all.

Every successful NHL team has a sort of 'secret' weapon that routinely go unnoticed. You saw it in Chicago's Dave Bolland last spring when the 24-year old Ontario-native returned from an injury that limited him to just 39 games in the regular season. Yet, he was one of the 'Hawks most important players in their playoff run that ultimately ended with a Stanley Cup championship.

Indeed, the 'secret' weapon is the multifaceted and dependable forward that can provide a wide array of skills for different situations. And while I have no ill will towards Mr. Kesler and the many nights he has single-handedly carried the Canucks in his tenure, #17 is hardly a secret anymore.

Hansen, on the other hand, is still a relatively unknown name across the league. And yet with almost 150 NHL games under his belt (in addition to 24 playoff games), Hansen's role as a deployable and dependable checker is something the Canucks and their fans have been enjoying for the past four seasons. Despite this, can you honestly tell me you've seen ANY #36 jerseys around the city?

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#36 - Jannik Hansen

Okay, so he hasn't played more than 55 NHL games in a single season. Injuries have plagued the young Dane throughout most of his NHL career, but at long last we are seeing what a healthy and happy Hansen is capable of: making us forget Mikael Samuelsson is even here.

With 5 goals and 13 points through 38 games, Hansen is on pace for a career year in goals (10), assists (17), points (27) and more importantly: games played (82). Not bad for a scarcely-mentioned player who is earning less than a million for the season ($825,000).

In comparison, Hansen has only four less points in the same amount of games as Raffi Torres (11-6-17) but the Dane boasts an impressive +8 to Raffi's -3.

Before Mason Raymond, Jeff Tambellini, Manny Malhotra or Torres, it was Hansen who made his NHL debut with the Canucks during the 06-07 NHL playoffs. Through 10 hard-fought battles, Hansen managed a single assist and is remembered for being on the receiving end of a devastating Rob Niedermayer hit-- the same hit that allowed brother Scott to eliminate the Canucks that year.

And don't think Hansen has forgotten that incident.

With a chip on his shoulder, the 24-year old winger has improved since, to the point where Hansen now enjoys playing more than 15 minutes of ice time per game. More than Torres (13:22) or Tambellini (13:39) with whom Hansen is comparable to in depth chart placement.

In truth, perhaps there's no need for Hansen to be as popular as the Sedins, Ryan Kesler or Alex Burrows. For a young man who entered the league with little fanfare (drafted 287th overall in 2004), maybe it's fitting that one of the hardest working Vancouver Canucks is also one of the most humble people you'll ever meet. With roots tracing back to the non-traditional hockey market of Denmark, you can bet that Hansen also enjoys a relative anonymity even in his hometown of Herlev-- something that many professional athletes yearn for, but rarely achieve.

At the end of the day (or rather, the season), credit will go where it is due. And for the impending Restricted Free Agent, you can bet that Jannik Hansen will be quite content when his turn in the spotlight comes.

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