Shirokov Impresses, Hodgson Survives...For Now

With the preseason wrapping up last night with an overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks hopeful's fate lay in the hands and minds of the coaching staff. This morning, eight players were released including two highly touted prospects in Cory Schneider and Michael Grabner. This brings the Canucks roster down to 29, six more than the 23 player limit. However, due to injuries to Pavol Demitra, Mathieu Schneider, Jannik Hansen and Laurence Nycholat, the Canucks have the option to keep up to 27 players.

Players released

Nolan Baumgartner
Alexandre Bolduc
Mario Bliznak
Guillaume Desbiens
Michael Grabner
Nathan McIver
Matt Pope
Cory Schneider

Neither Grabner nor Schneider had a good preseason showing and it comes to no surprise to see them heading back to the Manitoba Moose. Grabner managed just 1 assist over the course of the preseason despite playing in a team leading 7 games. Schneider looked good in his first couple of appearances where he played just 30 minutes. But in his most recent action against the Oilers, he failed to impress allowing five goals. Although all was not lost for the young guns as two other Canucks prospects have survived the latest round of cuts, Sergei Shirokov and Cody Hodgson, although for very different reasons.

Shirokov has been nothing but impressive since leaving Red Army of the Kontinental Hockey League this summer after losing his arbitration case. Little was known about this 5'10" Russian player who led his KHL team in scoring with 41 points. He kept that scoring up leading all Canucks players with 7 points in 4 games this preseason despite missing a week of action with a minor knee sprain. The other surprising aspect of Shirokov's game is his defensive awareness which has been very solid.

Despite his strong performance, most believe that if Demitra were healthy that Shirokov would be headed to the Moose instead of getting a shot with the big club. That could still very well end up being the case when Demitra comes off long term injured reserve. But for now, Shirokov will get his chance to prove he belongs. It is expected that he will be on a line with Kesler and Samuelsson on Thursday night as the Canucks kick off the regular season in Calgary. This same line also played in Calgary this past Saturday that saw the Canucks prevail 2-1 in a shootout.

Cody Hodgson looks like he will be getting a chance to prove himself still, although there are at least 2 cuts remaining meaning he's not out of the woods just yet. Cody has looked slow this preseason and he's been caught out of position on several occasions. However, an injurty to Jannik Hansen's hand last night may have just given Cody a ray of hope. Consensus is that Hodgson will be allowed at least a few of his allowed nine games before Alain Vigneault and company make their final decision.

It appears that they are giving Hodgson the benefit of the doubt because of his back injury that has still been hindering his performance. Also, it's NHL or OHL for Cody as he is too young to play in the AHL. The coaching staff want to be sure they make the right decision for Cody as once he's returned to his junior club he can't be called up until Brampton's season ends.

It's been a long summer and fans eagerly await to see the team begin their quest for another Northwest division title and hopefully improve on last season's second round exit.

Projected Opening Night Line-up

Sedin - Sedin - Burrows
Shirokov - Kesler - Samuelsson
Raymond - Wellwood - Bernier
Rypien - Johnson - Hordichuk

Salo - Mitchell
Edler - Ehrhoff
Bieksa - O'Brien

Luongo
Raycroft