Vancouver Canucks potentials recently took to the ice against the Edmonton Oilers hopefuls as part of the Young Stars Classic in Penticton BC. Over the course of the four-day event, the Canucks, along with the Oilers, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets, will take to the ice for three games apiece, highlighting the future talent for each respective club.
Let’s face it: The Canucks, despite their heavy veteran-laced roster are in need of a new identity. The Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, Kevin Beiksa and newly acquired Ryan Miller are all valued pieces for the Vancouver club, but at some point, the kids have to take to the ice and show their worth.
With training camp right around the corner, there are a couple of spots open on the roster. The question is: Can one of the following players etch their name into the lineup come opening night?
Acquired in the questionable trade involving Cory Schneider, Horvat and the Canucks have kept fans waiting for a year to see the youngster set up in the middle of one of the top three lines. Only 19 years old, Horvat is still a tad too young to centre the top line, but a place on the second or third line is certainly within reach.
The problem plaguing Horvat and the Canucks is that at 220 pounds, he is a man among boys if he were to return to the London Knights, but the dates on his birth certificate will not allow him to take the leap to Utica and the AHL. Dropping 74 points in 54 games last year, Horvat has shown he can put up points, so why wait?
For a team that’s in desperate need of some offensive firepower, they shouldn’t have to look much further than the young winger who was drafted 24th overall in 2013. Imagine, if you will, a mix between Patrick Kane and Jeff Skinner, a player with speed, stick work and scoring touch…all of which the Canucks current lineup seems to be lacking.
Yes, he is only 19 years old, but if the kid can play, why not give him a legit opportunity to prove his worth? Imagine a line with Alex Burrows or Chris Higgins on the left side, with either Horvat or Nick Bonino in the middle and Shinkaruk on the right. A trio like that could give Fin reasons to be excited!
The Canucks know all too well about bringing a player back early from shoulder surgery, so chances of the young left winger hearing his name called on opening night are very slim.
However, it appears that New Westminster BC native is ahead of recovery schedule and IF Jim Benning and the Canucks staff want to turn the keys over to the kids, young Jake could crack the team on merit alone.
Martin St. Louis and Paul Kariya both proved that, despite being vertically challenged, they could hang with the rest of the NHL and for a lengthy period of time at that. Yes, Valk is on the south side of 6′ (5’9″), but he has similar speed and stick handling to the aforementioned talent, and with back-to-back 90-plus-point seasons for the Medicine Hat Tigers, he has proven to have a scoring touch as well.
While the depth at the centre position for the Canucks would probably leave only a third line spot open, adding some extra speed to the lineup in the post Tortorella era might not be a bad thing.
The four players listed above all have the potential to find time among the top two lines, be it for the Canucks or elsewhere in the NHL. For Fox, the reality of being a third or fourth line centre is more realistic.
Yes, Fox had an incredible year in the OHL last season, tallying 64 goals and 43 assists in 67 games, but much of that credit has to go to playing along side Connor McDavid.
Does that mean that Fox can’t find the net? Certainly not, but if placed on the roster as a grinding, checking middle man who can provide the team with some grit and elbow grease, there’s a good chance that the suits might take a chance on Fox come the start of the season.