In the NHL, every fall brings opportunity. It is the start of a new season when over 60 players from every organization are invited to challenge to make an impression.
Whether it be the old (Theo Fleury) or the new (Nazem Kadri), there have been a slew of players from all backgrounds trying to make it onto their big club this fall. In both cases, the stories are great.
But there is one category that is most intriguing: the virtually unknown player that comes into camp and dominates...Sergei Shirokov.
Shirokov was drafted in the sixth round by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. He entered Canucks training camp fresh off of a successful season in the KHL, where he helped CSKA Moscow to a 35-11-3-7 record, which was good for fifth in the league.
Shirokov scored 41 points (17 goals), to lead a team that included former NHL’er Oleg Saprykin. At only 23, he has proven that he can score in a predominantly defensive league.
The KHL was evidently a good experience for him, but his dream is the NHL. He has stated that he is willing to do anything to make it, even if he is cut and has to play in the AHL.
Settling with the KHL is no longer an option for Shirokov (Must read article: Vancouver Sun). Based on his pre-season play, he should not have to worry about playing anywhere else but the NHL.
He has so far. In two preseason games for the Canucks, Shirokov has two goals and two assists.
He suffered a lower body injury in his second game which forced him to miss games since, but his play in the pre-season has forced his way into the conversation of players who will likely make the team. However, it is still undecided where he will be most effective.
With Pavol Demitra missing at least the first month of the season due to shoulder surgery, Shirokov immediately finds himself starting the season in the top 6 forward group.
Now, does he play with the Sedins or one the second line?
The latest player to find himself with twins is Alex Burrows, who had a very successful 2008-2009 season sandwiched with the two. He cleared room for the two to create and banged in pucks when necessary.
Coming into this season, it was believed that the job on the top line was Mikael Samuelsson’s to lose. And he has. Many believed that Samuelsson was brought in from Chicago to be the “other” Swede with the Swedish twins.
However, although Samuelsson is a great defensive player, he is not as offensively gifted, and has showed it this preseason.
This opens up an option for Alain Vigneault to potentially put Shirokov with the Sedin twins. He has already experimented with the possibility in the preseason.
Against the San Jose Sharks, the trio combined for eight points in a 6-2 victory. Shirokov had two assists in the contest and did not look out of place with Vancouver’s most dynamic offensive weapons.
If not with the Sedins, Shirokov will likely play on the right wing with Ryan Kesler and Samuelsson/Burrows. Either way, Shirokov will has the tools to be an offensive threat in the NHL and his skill set should be on display with his Top Six opportunity in Vancouver.
With a full season with the Canucks, spending half his time with the twins, coupled with the ups and downs that every NHL rookie must endure, I fearlessly forecast a moderate 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points. If he spends most of his time with the twins, bump his point total by 10 points. These types of numbers make him fantastically relevant, especially in deep leagues. Take a waiver claim on him and hope he spends most of his time with the twinsbecause he has loads of scoring potential.