Vancouver Canucks: Three Best Preseason Surprises

Nucks IceMan@nucksiceman@twitter.comCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Sergei Shirokov #65 of the Vancouver Canucks in action during their preseason game against the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion on September 18, 2009 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

There’s always a dark horse that comes galloping to the forefront and this time his name was Sergei Shirokov.

Right from training camp he stood out from the rest of the prospects, but when I thought he might get lost in the main camp, he instead continued on making himself noticeable. Even during the drills he was scoring or setting up his line mates. The talent was obvious and you could see that he had a legitimate shot at making the club.

Tom Larscheid, colour man for the TEAM 1040 radio broadcasts, compared him to Pavel Bure, but I wouldn’t go that far. Shirokov has good acceleration, but Bure was truly explosive and aptly nick named “The Russian Rocket” by Larschied. What Shirokov has, is the ability to pick up the open man on the ice, crisp on the tape passes, always seems to find the vacant spot, has gifted hands, and this talented Russian can motor.

Although he only played four games, before he injured a knee against the Sharks (game three), he led the Canucks in pre season scoring (2G, 5A) with seven points, not too shabby for a rookie. With the reported injury to Jannik Hansen (broke his hand in the Gilbert Brule fight), it looks like Shirokov will be in the starting lineup come Thursday. Just who he will line up with is still conjecture but my thought would be, Kesler and Samuelsson.


Tanner Glass, who is your prototype grit player, was a pickup from the Florida Panthers. He played 46 games for the Panthers, but was mainly with the AHL Rochester Americans. Tanner was not really on my radar screen after breaking the prospect’s nor main camp.

Besides the couple of scraps he got into, what caught my eye was the second Sharks game where he scored. That night he played on a line with Steve Bernier, which really seemed to bring out the best in both, and that was one of the better lines for the Canucks. Glass played in six games, so obviously the coaching staff was taking a long hard look at a player that would have to win a spot on the fourth line.

The player I think he could replace would be Rick Rypien, but with Rypien being a coach favourite, I don’t think that will happen. Best bet would be for him to be sent down to Manitoba and be the first call up if Rypien got injured, which from past seasons, may not be a long wait.

The Canucks record in preseason did catch me by surprise due to the fact that preseason is all about evaluating your prospects and experimenting with line combinations. Not only did few regular lines ever play together, fewer also were tandems, except for the Twins.

The last four games against the opposition saw the Sharks, Ducks, Flames, and Oilers ice pretty close to their starting lineups, while the Canucks at best went with only two set regular lines.

The result was: two shoot-out wins, one over time win, and one over time loss. This really speaks volumes about some of the depth the Canucks have had in putting together such an impressive record. Surely is a good way to start the regular season this Thursday.

What I see in all this, from training camp to where we are now, is a team that seems really focused, confident in whoever is playing together, Roberto Luongo zeroed in, and already seems ahead of his normally slow starts, a faster more explosive team, and with Shirokov, three lines that can score

I would expect the starting line up to look like this: Twins with Alex Burrows; second line I already mentioned earlier; Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond, Steve Bernier and the fourth line of Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk and Rick Rypien.

Now the long journey begins for the toughest trophy to win, in all of sports.