The Abbotsford Canucks are in the midst of a five-day training camp with the conclusion coming on Sunday afternoon.
With a move across the continent and a ton of new bodies, it’s been a tough transition for the entire AHL organization. That was shown with the team having 13 players through the first three days of camp.
“Yeah, if you talk to any coach that’s not ideally what you want but it is what it is,” said Abby Canucks coach Trent Cull. “It’s a good opportunity for those guys up with Vancouver, we know that guys are coming but for now, they’re getting to show their worth and are in Vancouver.”
One of the core pieces of the Abby Canucks will be Mikey DiPietro. He was sent down to the AHL on Friday and Cull is excited to get him back in the crease for him after only getting a handful of games last season due to the taxi squad situation. “I think that we almost have as many goalies now in camp as we did defencemen,” said Cull as he laughed about the current AHL training camp situation.
“That’s not ideal but it’s about to be adjusted. Honestly, it’s just so great to have Mikey again. We have a really good relationship. He has a great relationship with Curtis Sanford and he did an excellent job during his rookie season in 2019-20. It’s nice to have the full team relying on him instead of that shared affiliation.”
For those who didn’t know, the Canucks and St. Louis Blues shared an AHL team last season due to COVID-19. The Blues’ goaltenders had the bulk of the starts but Ryan Johnson and Jim Benning have both been very vocal about DiPietro playing 50+ games this season as he looks to take the final step and make his way to the NHL next year.
Cull told CanucksArmy that he is starting to realize how young his team is going to be once they begin play next Saturday in Bakersfield.
With their first game just one week away and a full roster still not put together, the young players are going to have to play in some bigger roles than expected. One of those players is 21-year-old Karel Plasek.
Plasek played last season in the Czech second division and is going through a massive step-up in competition as he makes his way to the AHL. Through Vancouver Canucks training camp, Plasek drew some positive reviews as he moved around the ice with pace and had a good-looking release. Cull is excited to see the young forward begin to transition into the AHL and already has some nice things to say about the Czech forward who played in two previous World Junior Championships.
“He’s got really good feet, he skates well. I’ve been trying to take some extra time to talk to him to make sure he’s understanding everything that’s going on. He seems to be responding well and one good thing about having a low amount of players in camp is you can really dial in with some players,” said Cull as he laughed. “Plas has been good, he understands what we’re talking about when we are teaching systems, he’s got a smart hockey mind.”
Another young player in camp is 18-year-old Danila Klimovich. The second-round pick of the most recent NHL draft is still up with the AHL team though the more I hear, the more I believe he is going to end up in the QMJHL. Right now, they simply do not have enough numbers to ice a full team and it may take a few more cuts from the NHL team to have Klimovich pack his bags and head to Quebec.
We believe that there is a lot to gain for Klimovich in the AHL this season compared to the QMJHL. The counterpoint to him staying in the AHL seems to be about how he can develop his confidence with a strong scoring showing in the CHL.
This is a kid who wants to play pro hockey in North America and is going to need help adjusting to the foreign land over the next two years. Sending him off to Quebec where the team cannot be as hands-on with him worries us.
If he stays in the AHL, the Canucks can have him working with the best coaches they have and will be able to help make the transition to Canada an easy one. I’m not saying that the QMJHL is going to be horrible for him as he learns a new language, but honestly, you’d be throwing another language at him if he’s in the QMJHL. Learning French will look good on a resume but sure doesn’t help him get any better with adjusting to North America.
We will have an answer on Klimovich’s final landing point in the coming weeks, but for now, he is with the AHL team and has looked impressive in many of the practices. His shot pops compared to everyone at the AHL training camp but there are things in his defensive game that definitely need to be worked on.
Cull has enjoyed Klimovich’s skill and company so far and is even using his goaltending coach as his secret weapon for communicating with the Belarussian-born winger.
“I’ve got Google translate up and running because I want to make sure Klim understands that we’re here for him and want to try to help him. I also have a little bit of an ace in the hole with Curtis Sanford as he played some time in Russia. We’ve had a couple of good talks so far. But honestly, he’s a really high-end skilled guy on the ice. Klim is great with the puck and we’re just going to try to get to know him as we move along. He had a short camp in Vancouver, too. We’ll have to see as time goes on, we want to know how we can dial in and help him grow as a player.”
The Abby Canucks fly out to Bakersfield on Thursday and will begin their season on Saturday night. We will bring you coverage on the AHL team all season long. I will personally be out at as many games and practices as possible. The team is about to gain a handful more players and should end up being one of the strongest teams in the AHL on the backs of their top scorers, strong defence core, and the much-improved Mikey DiPietro.