Well, four days flyby when you’re having fun, but it’s time to get on with the preseason and find out who might make this pretty talented bunch of Nucks.
The 20 players who resembled the starting team from last year hit the ice this morning at 8:00AM. I bet a lot of the players have not had to get up this early, since their minor hockey league days. This had a lot to do with a golf tournament they had to rush off to after practice and this group only included one prospect, Eric Walsky. He was filling in for Rick Rypien, whose eye was closed from the fight last night against Islanders Jeremy Reich.
The goalies were Luongo and Raycroft and even in practice Louie competes hard making sure nothing goes in on any of the drills.
In Christian Ehrhoff, I think the Canucks have found that mobile defenseman they were looking for and the faithful will be very pleased at what they see. He has great wheels, turns exceptionally well, gets back into the corners quickly, and has that quick first pass out of the zone, right on the tape of the forward's stick. He cut off Hansen in full flight, so that says something about his foot speed.
There was an actual scrimmage with high tempo skating, guys getting taken out along the boards and lots of compete for the puck. Obviously no one is going to be laying hits on their teammates, but it was a spirited whites verses blues. This was played in game like situations, with line changes been made during the play and even included the pulling of the blues goaltender, which was Louie.
When Kyle Wellwood scored in the empty net, Bobby Lou slammed his stick on top the board by the bench, this guy does not like to lose even in practice. As it was, the game ended in a tie when Yannik Hansen scored.
Steve Bernier, with the shedding of those fifteen pounds looks faster and Mason Raymond, well—he was flying and going to the net. In years past, he would try and beat you wide; maybe maturity has arrived and this is the year he breaks out. Aaron Rome, who was one of the eight defensemen dressed, is surprisingly fast also; too bad there's no room.
The forward lines looked like this: the Sedin twins with Burrows; Kesler between Samuelsson and Hansen; Johnson centering Hordichuk and Walsky (expect Rypien there); and Welllwood flanked by Bernier and Raymond. Absent of course is Pavol Demitra (still rehabbing), who would go on the IR when the season starts with some cap space provided until he returns.
Defensively, Erhoff/O’Brien, Mitchell/Bieksa, Edler/Salo and Lukowich/Rome. Matthew Schneider has not been at training camp and is still recovering from the shoulder surgery, nor was Lawrence Nycholat. I would expect Schneider to be in O’Brien’s spot, who would then be the seventh D. Since more cap space is needed, look for Lukowich and Rome to be placed on waivers. If these guys clear, then Manitoba will have some added help at that position.
There were a number of cuts (Toigo, Anthony, Collins, Gendur, Rai, Tochkin and Clark) to the prospects group, with the remaining 21 hitting the ice next, as Cory Schneider and Daren MacHesney tended goal. Cody Hodgson was participating in the scrimmages, but unless he dazzles management in the preseason games, I like Shirokov to take a run at Demitra’s spot.
I have now seen Sergei on four different occasions and although training camp and scrimmages do not tell the whole story, his talent is quite obvious. If he can continue to improve in the preseason (two goals already), management is going to have a pleasant decision to make.
I have read and heard conflicting information about Demitra’s contract, to wit, it is a no trade and also, that it is not. If it were to be the latter, this would sure open up some of the $4M in cap space and from what I have witnessed with Shirokov, the Nucks would not miss a beat with him in that spot. My only concern would be his weight, which is listed at 165 lbs. The other scenario would be Shirokov beating out Hansen for a spot, as Shirokov looks to have more upside then Hansen.
With Hodgson, it’s too bad that nineteen-year-olds cannot be sent down to the minors, in this case Manitoba, because I think this is where he should start. With that said, the Nucks would still be allowed to play him in nine regular season games before making a decision, if, and that’s a big IF, he makes the team.
Petrovicky, Parrish and Scatchard, unfortunately are caught in the numbers game , if management is still intent on Hodgson making the team.
In conclusion, the Nucks have a good young core of defensemen in their system: Evan Oberg, Taylor Ellington, Nathan McIver, Travis Ramsey, Yann Sauve, Kevin Connauton and Michael Funk. This bodes well for the depth and continued strength in that position.