The Father David Bauer arena at UBC was standing room only, as the more than 900 Canuck fans and media attended day one of the Canuck prospects training camp workout. For the majority of them, the one Canuck that they came to see was Cody Hodgson, who was among the 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies.
Forwards Mario Bliznak, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Dusty Collins, Dan Gendur and Eric Walsky played with the Manitoba Moose last year, for most or part of the season. The rest are from Major Jr. Hockey leagues, AHL or in the case of Sergei Shirokov, the Russian CSKA.
The defense was a mixture of Major Jr., College and one player, Taylor Ellington, had one game at the end of his WHL Everett season with the Moose.
The three goaltenders, Morgan Clark, Bobby Nadeau and James Ried, were all from Major Jr. Leagues.
Missing were Cory Schneider and Michael Grabner, who will be attending the main camp and first round pick Jordan Schroeder, who will return to the University of Minnesota. Schroder wouldn’t have been able to participate due to NCAA rules. Anton Rodin will also miss the camp due to his Swedish Elite League Club commitments.
Canuck coaches Rick Bowness and Ian Clark, and assistant Moose coach, Keith McCambridge, ran the variety of drills, as the players worked to showcase their talent. The drills were your normal 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, puck possession, out passes from the defense, and some showdowns with the goaltenders.
With the ice being split in half to run the drills with the 23 players, I decided to concentrate on a handful, which was Labrie, Bliznak, Shirokov, Hodgson, Ellington, Oberg and Sauve. Day one of the camp was a controlled no-hitting type of affair with all eyes of the Canuck faithful on Cody Hodgson, to see how he would perform.
I could tell by his skating that he was not going all out, which comes as no surprise due to that lingering back injury and he was kept out of any drills that contact or semi contact were involved. He did participate in the one player back-check, a few 3-on-2s, before they sent the players to the dressing room to flood the ice.
As Hodgson exited he stopped to sign autographs for the young fans and stayed until all were done. Talk about approachable; he handled that well.
The players returned after a 15 minute break with some more drills. On the 3-on-2s, Bliznak and Labrie scored, as did Prab Rai, a local kid from Surrey, with some nice passing from Sergei Shirokov and Steven Anthony.
When Hodgson’s line of Joe Pleckaitis (Saginaw Spirit, OHL) and Justin Taylor (London Knights, OHL) scored, a huge cheer erupted as the kid they came to see did not disappoint. Hodgson has that knack of finding the open ice, and displayed his puck handling abilities and passing on that goal.
Even with his bad back and limited drill time, Hodgson was the best forward out there. I thought Prab Rai was also very noticeble, has really good speed and scoring touch and Evan Oberg, with his anticipation, good one time passes out of the zone and positional play, was the top D.
As the players were leaving the ice, I asked GM Mike Gillis if Hodgson would be playing in either of the games in Edmonton (Wed. against the University of Alberta or Thurs against the Oilers Prospects) and he said “no, due to his back injury”.
I will be reporting tomorrow after day two here in Vancouver.