Prospects Camp Insider - Day Four
| The Canucks trimmed their group by eight players Monday.
Alain Vigneault said Sunday he would keep 12, but upped the number to 15 after a spirited scrimmage on the final day of prospects camp.
There were no surprise cuts, though a handful of young players were grateful for the late change of heart.
Among the group earning a reprieve were Vancouver Giant Mario Bliznak, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Taylor Ellington, and Chad Brownlee.
“A couple of guys made their case, and obviously some of these guys might not be with us [at main camp] in the near future, but we just wanted to get a couple of extra days and see where they are compared to the veterans.”
Both Dan Gendur and Charles-Antoine Messier were returned to their junior clubs while 2006 seventh-round pick Evan Fuller was released outright.
ON THE HUNT
The remaining cuts – all attending camp on a tryout basis – included Vancouver Giant Garet Hunt, local boy Ash Goldie, and Blues draft pick Alex Bolduc.
“There are never any easy decisions here and there are certain numbers we have to respect,” said Vigneault. “Sometimes it’s not a matter of the guy not doing well, it’s more matter of some guys being better than those people.”
Nobody feels that more than Hunt. The fire-hydrant with the search-and-destroy mentality who’s been terrorizing the WHL for the past two seasons as a member of the Vancouver Giants.
Hunt scored two goals Monday in a 4-0 Team White victory, and finally took the brakes off his in-your-face game by running a variety of Team Blue defencemen into the wall, including a body check on Daniel Rahimi deep in Blue territory that sent the glass wobbling all the way back to the benches.
It still wasn’t enough from the 5’8” winger to earn him another four days with the Canucks.
“It’s hard to bring energy into practice [situations] like that. I tried [to mix it up] today, but couldn’t get an opportunity to do that. I’ll just go back to the Giants and play my hardest and try to get another camp next year.”
While Hunt was the most effective forward for the white side, he wasn’t the only standout.
After an admittedly quiet three days in Victoria, first-round pick Michael Grabner scored a goal and elevated his play with a tenacious forecheck that had Luc Bourdon and Daniel Rahimi scrambling.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone watching Monday’s practice was entertaining thoughts of carving first-round pick Michael Grabner out of the main camp roster – that’s about as probable as a finding a vegetarian cat – but a strong finish certainly helped boost his confidence.
“I was just worried too much the last couple of days. Today was better, but I still would have wished that a couple more things would have gone right. I’ll just keep trying harder and harder and see what happens next week.”
Alain Vigneault, who likely watched his last scrimmage from the stands as he prepares for the veterans’ arrival, said he’d like to see more out of Grabner.
“[He] was okay. I think he’s putting some pressure on himself to do better, but he expects more, and we expect more also.”
In fiercest scrimmage of the week, Vigneault lauded the local boy on the blueline whose spirited play may have earned himself another week at Bear Mountain.
“I thought Taylor Ellington had a really good day,” said Vigneault “The last couple of days I thought he’s looked like he's felt more comfortable out there on the ice.”
Ellington engaged Luc Bourdon in a heated exchange behind the play, and looked for a few tense moments like he’d be involved in the only altercation of camp. Cooler heads prevailed, but the coaching staff clearly appreciated Ellington’s aggression.
“I thought I did well today and I think I improved every day. It’s hard to get adjusted to the speed at this level. It’s a step up, and it’s going to be another step up [at main camp].”
Ellington is one of seven defencemen who will graduate to main camp compared to just six forwards and two goalies. The Coaching staff elected to take all the blueliners save for Calgary Hitmen rearguard Dylan Yeo.
“Not knowing half the group before we started, we really kept an open mind,” said Vigneault. “We originally thought we were going to bring about 12, but these numbers are going to work fine for training camp starting on Thursday.”
There were few surprises up front with Juraj Simek, Jannik Hansen, and Mason Raymond joining Labrie, Bliznak and Grabner.
“For me, seeing Mason for the first time, I thought he did very well. I like the way Jannik Hansen played all week, and without getting into everybody, there are certain guys you can tell have a lot of upside there.”
A sixth-round choice in 2006, Simek dazzled at last season’s prospects camp before succumbing to a leg injury. Though he showed flashes of the puck wizardry that helped him post 57 points in 57 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, he failed to put on a repeat performance.
“He’s been alright,” said Vigneault. “He’s got a lot of moves and skills, and he’s got good size, and can shoot the puck, so we’ll have to see if he can bring this to the main camp.”
The Canucks staff has stressed that every player has a shot at earning playing time in October. That may be true - and nobody’s pulling harder for that outcome than the team management who’s attempting to wrestle a veteran-heavy lineup below an unforgiving salary cap – but it’s hard to say that of Cory Schneider.
In order for the Boston College grad to get a start between the pipes, he’ll have to best a bonafide NHL starter in Curtis Sanford, and a Vezina Trophy runner-up in Roberto Luongo.
“I’m not going to main camp to just be a dummy and sit there and take shots,” said Schneider. “I’m there to work and compete, and [the starting job] is probably pre-determined already, but until I hear the coaches tell me to go somewhere else, I’m going to keep working hard and assume that I’m playing for a spot.”
Monday was “offense” day at camp with morning drills geared at honing goal-scoring skills. Judging by the end-of-day scrimmage, the early session might as well have been “intimidation 101.” Shaun Heshka and Pierre-Cedric Labrie clashed repeatedly in the early shifts while Hunt played like there was a bounty on the line… Once again, the Raymond-Hansen duo provided the most offensive flash culminating in Raymond snapping a 60-foot, seeing eye pass up the middle of the ice that sent Hansen in alone on Ellis… Dan Gendur limped to the bench after taking a Daniel Rahimi shoot-in off the knee late in the day, but managed to finish the game… The most frightening moment came late in the game when Simek tried to lift Raymond’s stick along the side boards and missed. He caught the Alberta boy flush on his nose. Raymond was fine, but couldn’t beat Ellis on the ensuing penalty shot.
Training Camp 2007
3 - Undrafted players who will move on to main camp
6 - European who made the cut Monday
34 - Veterans who will report for testing Wednesday, September 12th
7 - Days till the first exhibition game of the season
"It’s a combination of speed and skill, and its not 3 or 4 guys that can do it, it’s the entire camp.” - Cory Schneider on the difference between college and professional hockey
“We’re looking at a whole bunch of things, not only with the future this team here, but maybe who could go to Manitoba and help out there.” – Alain Vigneault on Monday's cuts