Harrison is up in Penticton for the duration of the prospects camp, hobknobbing with the elite and bein’ famous. Also, he’s checking in with the blog every morning, because he knows who butters his bread.
The road to Penticton is absolutely breathtaking. The scenery was undoubtedly the highlight of the drive.
The runner-up? About an hour out of Penticton, I came up behind this guy driving a white Volkswagen Beetle. I was behind him for about five minutes when, out of nowhere, he produced one of those old-school grooming kits from a bag at his feet. Then, he pointed his rearview mirror at himself, tucked a white hand towel into the collar of his shirt, and proceeded to lather and shave his entire face while he drove.
Despite holding a straight razor to his face, he didn’t drive conservatively, either. While shaving, he passed two cars in single lane traffic. It was difficult to keep up with him, but I did, motivated by the fact that I might never see a man shave and drive again.
If the sight of it wasn’t absurd enough, when he was finished, the guy fished a black top hat out of the same bag, placed it on his head, flicked it, and drove off.
CANUCKS PROSPECTS VS. OILERS PROSPECTS
By now, you probably know that the Canucks’ first game of the YoungStars tournament was a bit of a disaster. Both teams played fairly even in the first, and they entered the intermission tied at one. In the second period, however, the Canucks’ kids got caught waving to their parents in the stands and the Oilers scored six times. Needless to say, this put the game out of reach, and the third period was little more than a fight-filled formality.
Frankly, the game bore an eerie similarity to game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. An even first, a blowout second full of bad gap control and goaltending, and a third period full of saving face by way of scraps. But, thankfully, unlike that game, there wasn’t much on the line tonight. Nevermind that the team played atrociously; we’re all far more concerned about the play of the individual players:
Kevin Connauton and Frankie Corrado were the Canucks’ first pairing tonight, both at even-strength and on the powerplay. Clearly, the team is high on Corrado, if they’re wiling to give him such a plum assignment. He didn’t disappoint. While none of the Canuck defensemen can be lauded for their play tonight, Corrado was the best. He finished plus-1, which is quite an accomplishment, considering the Oilers scored five even-strength goals.
Just so we’re clear: the Oilers’ young stars should beat the Canucks’ young stars. Edmonton’s been terrible for awhile. If their prospect pool can’t be Vancouver’s, something it wrong. The real concern here is that the Sedins were invisible.
The line of Nicklas Jensen, Darren Archibald, and Alex Friesen was the best Vancouver trio tonight. Archibald was the standout, with a goal and an assist, but Jensen looked good every time he was on the ice. Friesen was strong too, finishing with a team-high four shots.
Beautiful pass by Jensen on the Canucks’ first goal. He led the rush into the zone, tried to go inside on the Oilers’ defense, and was drilled. Then he chased the puck down in the corner and made an unexpected and spiffy cross-ice pass to Archibald. It was completely unexpected. Jensen had Polasek sneaking in from the point. When the feed came across the goalmouth instead, it caught everyone by surprise.
I thought Nathan Longpre was noticeable. As a guy on a tryout contract, that’s a major plus. He had a great chance to score early in the third period, but put the puck just wide.
Sawyer Hannay is not fast. He can fight, though. The tilt between him and Abney was one of the highlights of the third period:
David Honzik’s defense absolutely hung him out to dry, but he also had a terrible game, and he knew it. After letting Martin Gernat’s weak shot trickle through his pads, he simply threw his hands up in the air. Tough night. His largest problem on the evening — apart from being unable to get in front of anything — was his rebound control. The Oilers put a handful of weak shots on him, but rather than deflect them into the corner, Honzik wound up kicking them forward. @JeffCoolHo suggested he be nicknamed “The Fonzik”, but he’s definitely not smooth enough for that handle yet.
To make matters worse, Karel St. Laurent came in and Cory Schneidered it up, playing well in relief of a blowout behind a defense that had tightened up and an opponent that had quit trying. Expect fans to be calling for Honzik to be traded to the Winnipeg Jets Young Stars to open up space for St. Laurent.
Prab Rai was so unnoticeable I noticed. I thought he was the least effective player on the ice. He looked gassed at the end of a few short shifts, whiffed on a couple breakouts, and ran around his own zone without taking a man. He finished minus-3. Granted, he was playing on a line with two amateur tryouts in Curtis Michael and Jonathan Lessard, both of whom were just as invisible, but he needs to be the best player on that line without a doubt, and he wasn’t.
Curtis Michael tried to redeem himself by fighting Oilers’ prospect Tyler Schmidt. He just wound up getting punched a lot. This is evidence of my theory that the worst time to fight a guy is on a day when nothing is going your way.
Jordan Schroeder looks much, much better than he did at last year’s Young Stars tournament. After one game, he already has more goals than he scored in the entirety of this tournament last year. (Just goes to show what working one’s bag off can yield.) Still, he can be a lot better. He had long stretches of invisibility, which are awesome if you’re Kevin Bacon, but not if you’re one the Canucks top prospects.
Sebastian Erixon and Anton Rodin both looked like guys that played last year in a league without much physicality. It will be interesting to see how quickly they adjust to this. Rodin was especially disappointing. The big Oiler defenders had no problem muscling him off the puck.
CHATTING WITH DARREN ARCHIBALD
After the game, I had a chance to talk with Darren Archibald, whose two-point performance was perhaps the only highlight of an ugly opening game for the Canucks’ prospects.
HM: You were in on both Canuck goals tonight. Are you proud of your effort tonight or do you feel like you’ve got more to give?
DA: I think there’s always room for improvement. Obviously, it’s my first game out there, I got my feet wet, but there’s always room to get better. It’s a good first step but hopefully I can improve throughout the week.
HM: You looked like you were after a really big hit and you never quite got it, so I guess there’s that to look forward to.
DA: It’s not so much the big hit. It’s more about taking somebody out of the play. If you can knock the guy over, it’s a bonus, but as long as you get the guy’s weight off the puck…
HM: Think a game like tonight’s increases chances at the main camp?
DA: I hope so. I’d like to compete for a spot this year, and I’ve just got to show them what I can do out on the ice. Hopefully, I get an invite.
HM: I remember, last year, when Vic Oreskovich came to the team, he said that he was gonna get 10 goals and 10 fights. If you make the team, can you match that?
DA: I think that would probably be possible, yeah.
HM: You’re one of the few guys on the Canucks that’s on Twitter. Think you can overtake Ryan Kesler as the best Canuck tweeter?
DA: I never even knew he was the best tweeter. I’ll have to follow him I guess.
HM: It’s by default.
DA: I guess the job’s still available, then. Maybe I can step in.
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