Friday was day one of the Vancouver Canucks’ rookie camp. The camp featured a dozen prospects and the goal of the camp was to acclimate the young players to the organization and show the prospects how the Canucks expect their players to operate at and around the rink.
After Ryan Johnson talked about seeing the white in the players’ eyes like a Lannister from Game of Thrones, the young prospects took to the ice to show their skills and we saw a few that stood out.
Yes, you heard that right. Even though Mikey DiPietro was not included in the rookie camp roster that was provided by Canucks PR, DiPietro was on the ice for day one of rookie camp and he looked like he was possessed by Dominik Hasek. Throughout the practice, no matter the drill, DiPietro was locked in.
We have all been wanting to see DiPietro in action after nearly a full season being on the sidelines and practice rink with goaltender guru Ian Clark. DiPietro looked like a different beast on day one of rookie camp and stole the show with his acrobatic saves and general confidence in the crease. He looked bigger in the net when going against shooters off the rush and once players got in close, he showed his best trait and was athletic as a cat chasing down a red dot on the living room floor.
DiPietro had a “pro” feeling to him. He was also working well with his goaltending compadre Arturs Silovs as he was “Arty’s” biggest supporter from the other crease and made his support heard as he was cheering for every one of Silovs’ big saves.
Even in just one on-ice session, you could see that he is more than ready to be the starter in Abbotsford and the rumblings around the media area was that there should be confidence in him to play NHL games if one of Thatcher Demko or Jaroslav Halak were to go down to injury.
There were multiple occasions where DiPietro stopped Vasily Podkolzin after some great shots or dekes and you could tell that DiPietro was beginning to feel it. He has talked about wanting to be a leader to some of the young guys and on day one of rookie camp, he did that with his play on the ice and vocal support for Silovs.
We have been expecting him to show well as we approach the season opener and that was exactly the case on day one of rookie camp. It didn’t take a genius to tell who the best skater on the ice was.
Podkolzin’s shot was noticeably stronger than any of the other prospect on the ice. He has the NHL pop off his blade and his shot will fit right in at the Canucks’ main camp next week.
The part of his game that kind of surprised us was how good his hands looked when making moves around the net and retrieving loose pucks in battles. There are few questions about his defensive game translating to the NHL — we saw him play a very effective defensive game in the KHL and expect a smooth transition in that aspect. The biggest knock from talent evaluators is if he will be able to produce enough offence to be a top-six player. We won’t know that answer from one day of camp but he sure looked good for a 20-year-old.
He was one of the most vocal players on the ice and even showed that his English is pretty strong when it comes to four-letter words that you say after Mikey DiPietro robs you on what looks like an open net.
All signs are positive for Podkolzin. He looks the part so far from the limited ice time that we have seen of him in Vancouver. It’s really too bad that the media is not going to be in attendance for the final three days of camp. I’m sure that’s just from the social media team being mad at me for capturing better clips than them even though I’m in the 300 level with an iPhone.
All jokes aside, it was a good day for Podkolzin off the ice as well. You could see that his English has improved a lot and he told the media through a translator that he and his wife will be working with an English tutor once training camp begins. It looked like he understood the questions and only needed a bit of clarification from the translator. He only gave a few short answers in English back to the media but he did show his personality by making a few jokes that you could see he enjoyed making.
Having a quiet day on the video clips, Chase Wouters caught our eye for a different reason. The former three-year captain of the Saskatoon Blades was showing his leadership qualities on day one of camp. There were multiple occasions where Wouters was attempting to help explain things to Danila Klimovich, who I feel for, as he is not great with English and kind of just had to go through the motions of a drill without proper explanation. Podkolzin was around to help Klimovich understand but we noticed Wouters pointing the stick around a lot while he was beside Klimovich.
When it came to his play on the ice, Wouters was around the upper-middle of the pack. He didn’t have one skill that stood out as positive or negative, he was just average at everything. Wouters looked like one of the thicker players on the ice but still moved around with pretty good pace.
It was nice to see him consistently step up first in drills along with Jett Woo doing much of the same. The feel on this kid from everything we have heard from the Blades organization is that he is a coach’s dream and his compete level will never be in question. It will be interesting to see how his leadership comes into play with the Abbotsford Canucks. He is coming in as a rookie but just in one skate, you could see how he can be a leader. Wouters isn’t a lock for the AHL lineup, and his battle at camp won’t be to make the NHL, it’s just to make the AHL lineup. If it comes down to him and similarly skilled players like Ethan Keppen or Tristen Nielsen, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wouters get the spot from a coach’s decision.
As I quickly mentioned earlier, day one was the only day for media to be in the building. It’s quite the letdown because we were excited to hear that camp was going to be four days long.
Friday’s skate was a tremendous quench to the hockey thirst that we have developed through the offseason. We will have to wait until this coming Thursday when Canucks main camp kicks off to have access to more on-ice action.
Until Thursday, follow along CanucksArmy for any breaking news.