During the 1996 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks were pleasantly surprised to find Regina Pat centre Josh Holden still available when they drafted in the 12th spot. Ranked fourth by the Central Scouting Bureau, Holden saw his stock plummet because of his size. The Canucks, however, were willing to take a chance on Holden because of his offensive potential.
During his first training camp two years ago, Holden showed some of the immaturity for which he was known in junior circles. He arrived at camp in less than peak physical condition and did not perform to the best of his abilities. His play for Regina during the first part of the season was not great. After he was relieved of some of his leadership responsibilities by Regina management, Holden’s play picked up.
Holden spent the summer of 1997 working out in Los Angeles with a personal trainer. The hard work paid off. Holden had a solid training camp and impressive pre-season. Alas, with the free agent signing of Mark Messier, there was no room for him, so he was returned to Regina again. This training camp is different. A centre position is his to lose.
Holden, who now checks in at 6 feet and 195 pounds, has a more rounded game. Predominantly an offensive threat early in his junior career, he is now familiar with the defensive aspects of the game. His forte still remains his ability to skate and shoot; his statistics with Regina would bear that out. In 56 games with the Pats, he scored 41 goals and added 58 assists to go along with 134 penalty minutes. He again spent this summer working out in LA. So impressed with the results was last year’s number one choice, Brad Ference, that he joined Holden for the workouts.
That Holden is even challenging for a spot on the Canucks roster is a testament to his hard work and his doctors’ skill. During a playoff game last spring, Holden suffered a potentially career-ending injury when an opponent’s skate cut Holden on the back of his left wrist. The resulting gash severed tendons and ligaments to such an extent that Holden was only able to move his baby finger afterwards. When the Canucks had a number of prospects in town in July, Holden reported that his wrist was about 80%. He now believes it is close to 100%, although there is still room for improvement.
Barring a collapse on his part or a sooner than expected resolution to the Bure affair, Josh Holden appears to be poised to be removed from the prospect category.
VANCOUVER CAMP NEWS
During the initial try-outs for this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship, Vancouver’s #1 pick, defenseman Bryan Allen, suffered a knee injury during an open ice collision. The extent of the damage is greater than initially believed, forcing Allen to be a spectator at Whistler’s Meadow Park Arena.
He will return to Vancouver this week to be examined by the Canucks medical staff. At this stage, it isn’t known whether Allen’s knee will require surgery or if an intensive rehab program will strengthen it.
Allen is disappointed about not being able to participate at his first NHL camp, but doesn’t wish to do further damage to the knee.