Down The Middle
Another year, another question mark for the Vancouver Canucks at third line centre.
It wouldn’t be a problem if a fourth line centre spot was all that was up for grabs, but the Canucks knew last year that Schroeder wasn’t the solution on the third line. Barring a breakout year from the kid, they’ll have to look for outside help if they want to come out of the West.
Schroeder had a respectable rookie season that included the usual greenhorn up and downs. He showed some offensive upside while being decent defensively.
The Canucks will need Schroeder to take that next step and show that he can belong over a full 82 game season.
He’ll battle in camp with Richardson, who was signed from the LA Kings. Richardson mentioned he signed in Vancouver primarily because he would have a chance to play centre. The 28-year-old won’t explode into a 40-point player for the Canucks, but he offers a gritty game honed by a cup ring in 2011.
He effectively replaces Lapierre, trading agitation for grit.
It will be a big camp for Kellan Lain, the college centre signed by the Canucks back in March. The 6’6″ giant doesn’t have a tremendous offensive game, even at the NCAA level, but he does have the size and skill to perhaps become an effective checking centre.
He’ll get a better chance to make the NHL in Vancouver than most other teams previously pursuing him.
Finally, maybe Bo Horvat is NHL ready. BoHo was the playoff MVP during the London Knights’ OHL championship run, and he’ll have a good shot at making the Canadian junior team this September.
He himself says he’s ready to take the next step, and it should be interesting to see his impact at training camp, or if Brendan Gaunce or Hunter Shinkaruk surprise and attempt to claim the fourth line centre position.
Perhaps a solution will emerge from these names, but it seems more likely (albeit in July) that the Canucks will once again be searching for an upgrade in bottom six centres come the 2014 trade deadline.
What’s reassuring is that it shouldn’t be long before the youth movement takes care of that problem long-term.