It’s September 12, 1999, many young faces to the world of professional hockey are tying up their skates for the first time. They are preparing to step on the ice carrying an NHL crest on their jersey and knowing that they have a chance to become a professional hockey player one day.
Coach Crawford is telling his players to go out there and have fun and that’s all the game is about. The team races out with new faces in Steve Kariya and Jarkko Ruutu. However, Crawford and Burke, who have seen Kariya playing with intensity all week in Kamloops, have been caught saying some good words on the 5-foot-7 speedy gonzalez on ice.
By far Kariya has been the most productive player at camp this season and it is no doubt he will crack the lineup with the Canucks this season.
The Canucks have the Sedin twins wrapped up, now what if they were able to land Paul Kariya with Steve? Of course it probably won’t ever happen, what’s wrong with bringing more family love onto the Canucks? Other notable players at camp all week include Artem Chubarov, Lubomir Vaic and even Matt Cooke is stepping up for a job. Of course Cooke has stated several times to media he never wants to go back to Syracuse. If Josh Holden wants to ever see the dawn of day for more then a few games with the Canucks then he better pull out of the bag what he is projected to do or else players like Matt Cooke may rub 1st round pick all over Josh’s face in the next year.
Although Pre-season continues on for the Canucks, it is now safe to bring out the top 5 selections of rookies from camp:
1) Steve Kariya
Definitely any coaches first choice for top players in camp. Kariya impressed with his speed and showed an ability of overcoming size by taking hits and bounces back and rushes off with the puck. Kariya even looked exceptionally good with Chubarov and Mogilny on a line. Even Mogilny and Kariya being centered by Cassels wouldn’t be a bad combo this season.
2) Artem Chubarov
Definitely a promising center for the clubs future. Chubarov showed amazing skills and speed and why not? It’s either play hockey in Canada or head back to Moscow for Red Army team. Crawford has been quite impressed with Chubarov and possibilities of him sticking are pretty good so far. Alexandre Mogilny even stated that Chubarov will become a star one day, let’s hope Mogilny didn’t mean Chubarov will become another player with the same attitude as himself.
3) Jarkko Ruutu
He’s what the Canucks need. A player that will just about piss anybody off at any time. It seems Ruutu fits the role of what Brian Burke is looking for. Burke has been talking about Ruutu for the past year, praising how he will be on the Canucks roster this year. He hasn’t been on the pre-season highlight reel that much however he has shown much grit and much power of throwing people around. He brings quite a physical presence, and why shouldn’t he while being 6’2 and 194 pounds. He may not carry the scoring punch others do, but he brings much energy.
4) Lubomir Vaic
Vaic (pronounced Vice) has skill. Vaic has been nailing the puck with crisp passes and setting up chances down low in front of the net. Keenan didn’t give him the opportunity last year and now Vaic is using every effort he has to impress Crawford, and so far he has done that quite well.
5) Alfie Michaud
He outworked Kevin Weekes and Garth Snow all during camp but seemed a little puck shy when it came to the real thing in exhibition games. Michaud showed a good presence at camp and should be complimented on his effort, however he will be looking forward to a year in the AHL with Syracuse. However, if Weekes doesn’t cut it this year then Andy Moog and Marc Crawford may be pulling to make Michaud their “goalie of the future” instead of Kevin Weekes.
There were many disappointments at camp with Bryan Allen, Josh Holden and Peter Schaefer. They were all pretty high on the charts for the Canucks however Allen, being injury prone as he is will need to work on his speed a bit more and will be luck to crack the lineup this year. Josh Holden just isn’t showing his potential, he was drafted in 1996 and still hasn’t pulled through and Canucks management is hoping he will break out as Aucoin did this past season, however things are looking down with Chubarov, Harold Druken, H. Sedin and even Matt Cooke look all prepared to take his place. Definitely Henrik Sedin, and the way Chubarov has been playing in camp, Holden better smarten up. As for Peter Schaefer, he should build on his season last year, because if he doesn’t, Steve Kariya, as short as he is, will make Schaefer look like a sack of potatoes and make himself look like a giant.