Laurence Gilman is an optimist.
During an exclusive sit down with Vancouver’s assistant general manager, he kicked things off by finding the silver lining in the current black cloud hanging overhead.
“The silver lining of our present situation is that we have the time to go watch and participate in Chicago Wolves training camp,” said Gilman, seated in his office at Rogers Arena. “And depending upon how long we aren’t playing at the NHL level, the ability to go scout games and spend some meaningful time with them.”
Gilman, GM Mike Gillis, assistant GM Lorne Henning and senior GM advisor Stan Smyl - aka The Wolfpack - will all travel to Chicago in the next few days to take in as much of Wolves training camp as possible; Chicago’s nine-day camp begins Friday, September 28th, at the Triphahn Community Center and Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates.
The Wolves will play four pre-season games during camp, beginning October 1st, and the team’s home opener is set for October 13th versus the Rockford IceHogs.
With the AHL season kicking off in just over two weeks and 49 players in Wolves camp vying for roster spots, there is plenty of work to be done.
The most recognizable names on Chicago’s training camp roster are Chris Tanev, Zack Kassian and Andrew Ebbett, whom Canucks fans have gotten to know in the past. They’re in an odd yet advantageous situation of beginning the year with Vancouver’s farm team, according to Gilman.
“Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev in particular are very, very young players still and this is going to benefit them because they are still developing and it’ll put them in as good a position as possible going forward,” he said.
“It’s obvious that if we play again at the NHL level, that all our players are operating at peak efficiency as soon as possible. The fact that these players are in a unique situation where they’re able to play and hone their games at a very high level, obviously it works to the benefit of our team.”
Gilman believes that on any farm team there are two types of players: depth players, often veteran guys able to fill a certain role in the NHL at a moment’s notice in the event of injury or illness, and development players, guys learning the trade and crafting their skills so they can one day make the jump to the big league.
Gilman also believes Jordan Schroeder, Kevin Connauton and Eddie Lack have blurred the lines as to which group they belong to. Once development projects, all three could be on the cusp of earning roster spots in Vancouver.
“We’ve gotten to a point where we feel that our young players are becoming our depth players as well,” said Gilman. “Schroeder, Connauton and Lack, these guys are all players that we think are in the position to come play meaningful games for the Vancouver Canucks.”
Of the 49 players in camp, 30 are forwards, 15 defencemen and four wear masks and stop pucks, and Gilman is especially excited about three in particular.
He’s 6-foot-1, 194-pounds and hails from Amqui, Quebec, please welcome to the story…Alexandre Mallet!
“We drafted him with a purpose, he’s a late bloomer who is big and strong and has really good puck skills and we think could develop into a third line centre, an NHL third down centre, like a shutdown centre, and that’s a pretty important piece to have in today’s NHL.”
He’s the proud owner of a Chihuahua named Chino and once starred in a commercial with Markus Naslund, give it up for Steeeeeeve Pinizzotto!
“I’m really excited for Steve Pinizzotto, even though I’ve seen him play. But we’re dealing with a player who missed a whole year the year before and was on the cusp of earning a roster spot, so he’s going to get the chance to really hit the ground running and get himself ready for our camp.”
And last but certainly not least, he drinks herbal tea, has a pet squirrel and knows all the words to Gangnam Style (non of that was true), heeeeeere’s Joe Cannata!
“There’s a lot of flux in our goaltending situation right now, we don’t know how some things are going to shake out, so Joe Cannata could find himself playing 60 games in Kalamazoo, or he could find himself playing half the season in Chicago. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys play.”