September 10 2009 09:30AM
The Canucks have been given a small blessing in disguise. As Pavol Demitra recuperates from shoulder surgery to start the season, his spot in the line-up is freed up. This gives Alain Vignault a little more flexibility to slot in one of the youngsters.
The question now is: Should Coach V slot in Sergei Shirokov or Cody Hodgson?
Cody Hodgson, if you believe many of the overly excited members of the Vancouver sports media, is already the greatest player to ever wear a Canucks sweater. Admittedly, I've got a bit of Cody Fever myself. However, he's only 19. And his only real professional experience so far has been a handful of playoff games with the Manitoba Moose this past spring.
Sergei Shirokov has come from playing in the KHL, where he was the leading scorer for his club, CSKA Moscow. He played with men. He played at a higher level for an entire season. By those standards, he is more NHL ready, and he has one skill that the Canucks still need. Shirokov is a goal scorer, which the Canucks need to round out their forward lines.
There's a good chance that both Hodgson and Shirokov will start with the Canucks at the beginning of the season. Long before Demitra revealed that his recovery would delay the start of his season, many here already had a spot for Hodgson in the lineup. With Demitra gone for another six weeks, both young players could stick around.
However, after the nine-game cutoff, I think Shirokov may prove himself more prepared to play at an NHL level. There is one thing working in Hodgson's favour - he can't be sent to Manitoba because he isn't old enough, and sending him back to Junior would be seen as a regression.
It will be fun to watch these two young talents duke it out for a permanent spot in the big show. it should do nothing but benefit the Vancouver as Hodgson and Shirokov strive to get their NHL careers started with a bang.