September 09 2013 12:01PM
Nicklas Jensen has Canucks fans licking their lips with his play in Penticton.
Image via Larry Wong/Postmedia News.
So what happens when a writer for JetsNation watches a game between two teams he neither likes nor has full knowledge of? This was my question. You see, as a dyed-in-the-wool Jets and Flames fan, the Oilers and Canucks represent two of the most hideous, vile rivals I can name. As a fan, in a game like this, I'd typically hope for a litany of (non-serious and totally recoverable) injuries, thus increasing the chances of my teams' success down the line. But I wasn't in Penticton to break out the voodoo dolls.
I was there to work. So, JetsNation editor Kevin McCartney and I tackled the task of scouting a game featuring bitter rivals. To make things easier, he'd watch the Oilers, and I, the Canucks. What follows is my earnest attempt at relaying to you, dear deluded members of Canucks Army, what went down in Penticton.
The Canucks won 5-2, blowing the doors open in the 3rd period in what had been, to that point, an even game.
1. Peter Andersson - D
Or, as I knew him at the begining of the game, "Who the hell is this guy". Who he is, it turns out, is an effective, poised, large and mobile defenseman. Standing at 6'3, 194lbs, this smooth skating defenseman, who played last season with Chicago of the AHL, was Mr. Everything for the Canucks on the back-end. Power Play Quarterback? Check. Physical presence in the Defensive zone? Check again. Calm, smart and effficient puck mover? Check, check and check. I used the word 'poised' more in my notes to describe him than I have in the preceeding decade. At 22, it makes sense that he would stand out amongst mostly younger players, but the degree in which he stood out floored me.
Incredulous that a player that I'd never heard of could be so good - and I live in Vancouver - I had to ask Canucks Young Stars Coach, former NHL'er, current Head Coach of the AHL's Utica Comets, and accomodatingly nice man Travis Green, what he thought. "I liked him. I liked him a lot. He's a good player" was his response. I was hoping for a longer answer, because, dammit, I have an article to write. For whatever reason - likely my complete lack of understanding of journalistic protocol - I began to tell him of how impressed I was with his play, especially considering that I'd never heard of the guy. My candour on the matter made Coach Green smile, chuckle a bit, and offer up that "Oh no, he's good, doesn't surprise me, I expect a lot out of him, he's one of our better players". Take the Coach's words, Canucks Army.
2. Cole Cassels - C
The Canucks 3rd Round pick in the 2013 Draft is a gamer. The Goal and Assist he tallied barely begin to tell the story on this guy. For one, he could've got another assist on his Goal if they did that - he set up the whole play. He was a presence all game long. He won key faceoffs in the Defensive zone, was a relentless checker in both zones, and whenever he had the puck on his stick, the game seemed to slow down. A player in control. If that isn't enough for you, he'd create traffic in front of the net, and considering he's a mere 6' and 178 pounds, he handled the abuse very, very well. He was an effective presence in all 3 zones, and if there's a tool besides monstrous size and elite hands missing from his toolbox, I'm not sure what it could be.
In the words of the not-quite loquacious Coach Green, "Yeah, he's real good". We then bantered back and forth for a very real and slightly awkward 5 seconds mutually saying "yeah, yeah, he's good".
3. Niklas Jensen - W
If we were going on 1st period alone, he'd win a goat horn or two, but as the game went on, his 1st Round pedigree began to show itself. His fancy stick work, ('dandy' was the word I used in my notes), surprisingly high motor on the forecheck and superb passing skills stood out to me. But what really surprised me was how willing he was to get involved physically. He battled HARD on the boards, rarely skating away puck-free. As well, there wasn't a post-whistle scrum that we wouldn't stick his nose into. A fine blend of offensive skill, good defensive awareness, and a surprising amount of grit, it became easy to understand how his name has been bantied about as a possible NHL'er this year.
According the ever chatty Coach Green, "He's good, he's good!".
- I was looking forward to seeing Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Jordan Subban, but all were Healthy Scratches...I ended up seeing Shinkaruk, though, as he sat about 15 feet from us. My initial observation was just how big a head that guy has. I mean, it's really big. Maybe he was passed up in the draft due to helmet scarcities in that size. Whatever it is, I wouldn't want to see that noggin' barreling at me full speed ahead if I was on the Ice. I'm no scientist, but the momentum created would be astronomical. He seemed like a nice guy though, laughing and cheering his Team on from up above.
- Goaltender Mathieu Corbeil was very good as well. He could serve as a useful back-up whichever of Lack or Eriksson gets sent down to Utica.
- Brendan Gaunce may have had 2 assists, but I didn't see that much offensive creativity from him. In fact, he almost seemed to be lacking in that department. Not an all-world effort from the 2012 1st Rounder.
Considering they sat 2 of their Top Prospects, the Canucks represented themselves rather well in this one. I would expect Peter Andersson to be in the mix for a job on the back-end this year in case of injuries, Cole Cassles to be a name to look for down the road, and Niklas Jensen to battle is way to the NHL sooner than later. As for Travis Green, man I hope that guy gets an NHL coaching job, if only to watch the hilariously abrupt, yet supremely friendly press conferences.