Canucks Young Guns Hoping To Make Their Mark
As the preseason winds down, many of NHL hopefuls will be getting their final opportunity to impress the coaching press. The Vancouver Canucks roster still stands at 47 with four exhibition games remaining on the schedule. For the first time in many seasons, coach Alain Vigneault will have a difficult time choosing who gets the coveted few remaining spots on the roster. Alain Vigneault stated that he will be reducing the roster down to approximately 30 after Thursday's game against the Anaheim Ducks. The competition is tight for forwards, defence and goaltenders looking to earn a spot on the Canucks and time is running out.
Starting with forwards, over the summer Canucks first round draft pick from 2008, Cody Hodgson, was considered by many to be a slam dunk to make the opening night roster. However, a back injury set things back and after two games Cody has yet to live up to expectations. Despite not playing to his full potential he has managed to add in 1 goal along with 1 shootout goal last night against the Calgary Flames. The decision with regards to Cody will be a difficult for the coaching brass as Hodgson has only two potential destinations, the Canucks or back to junior and the Brampton Battalion.
Another very interesting Canucks prospect is Sergei Shirokov, who signed with the Canucks this summer after an extended battle with his KHL team, CSKA. After the lengthy process, Shirokov eventually signed a two way deal with the Canucks. Sergei, like Hodgson, has also played in two preseason games. However, unlike Hodgson, Sergei has been dynamite in his games where he has put up 2 goals and 2 assists. Unfortunately, a minor knee sprain has kept Shirokov off the ice since last Friday but is expected to resume skating this Friday.
Michael Grabner is another first round Vancouver Canucks draft pick, from 2006, who has been gunning for a spot in the lineup. However, his play this preseason can only be described as tentative. Grabner has great skill as shown 30 goals and 18 assists in the American Hockey League last season with the Manitoba Moose. He also added 10 goals and 7 assists in 20 playoff games that saw the Moose fall short in the Calder Cup Finals to the Hershey Bears. Grabner has seemed to shy away from the tough areas and staying around the perimeter. If Grabner is serious about making the NHL he will need to turn his game around and fast.
Lastly, yet another Canucks first round pick from 2004, goaltender Cory Schneider, is looking to earn a spot with the big club. Last season Schneider played 8 games for the Canucks while Roberto Luongo was out with a groin injury. Over those 8 games Schneider was mediocre posting 3.38 GAA and 0.877 sv%. This year his battle is with Andrew Raycroft, who signed with the Canucks in the offseason. While Schneider may be the better skilled of the two, he also makes double that of Raycroft. On a team that's tight to the cap, that's a knock for Schneider. Cory also did not do himself any favours last night letting in four goals against the Calgary Flames.
Hodgson, Shirokov, Grabner and Schneider are just two of the young players hoping to crack the line up. There are numerous veterans who are also looking to earn a position on the Canucks roster.