Botchford: New Canuck Vey needed Vancouver as much as Vancouver needs him
Youngster embarrassed the Canucks in his second NHL game, now he has a chance to help them
It’s silly to think now but Linden Vey’s second career NHL game in early November was then the Canucks’ lowest point of the season.
As Los Angeles was putting baby in the corner yet again on Nov. 9, dominating the Canucks in a 5-1 win, Vey, playing for the Kings then, orchestrated one of the more humiliating goals endured by the Canucks and their fans this past season.
As Dan Hamhuis crumpled over a puck like lit kindling, Vey accelerated by him and the Canucks defence as though they were rocking themselves to sleep in a nursing home. He feathered a pass — to himself — between Brad Richardson’s skates, and set up Jordan Nolan for a tap-in.
It was this flash of speed, youth, creativity and skill, none of which was seen often in a Canucks uniform last season.
“It was my second (NHL) game and a lot of my family was down (in L.A.) to watch,” Vey said. “My brother, my girlfriend were there. You always remember your first point and that was mine.
“It was a pretty special moment for me.”
Vey turns 23 Thursday, three weeks after the Canucks traded for him — and he needed Vancouver as much as Vancouver needs him.
It took Vey four long years to play for the Kings in a game after they drafted him in 2009. It says more about L.A.’s ridiculous depth down the middle then it does about Vey.
He did his part. He lit the CHL ablaze, finishing first in points with 116 in 2010-11. He then centred the best line in the AHL, playing between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. He put up 158 points in 191 AHL games. Heck, he was second on Manchester (New Hampshire) in points last year and he only played 56 per cent of its games.
What he hasn’t done yet is anything in the NHL, other than orchestrating a pair of pretty great goals in two games against the Canucks.
The Canucks are betting, rather heavily, that is about to change.
Forget the two-way, $735,000 qualifying offer Vey signed, because you can’t put a dollar sign on the opportunity the Canucks are about to hand him.
And that’s something Vey thinks about daily back on his family grain farm in Wakaw, Sask., his hometown of about 1,000 people.
“There are times when you wake up and you’re tired and sore,” Vey said. “It makes it a lot easier knowing you’re going to get a good opportunity. It’s up to me to make the most of it.”
You can’t measure the pressure coming his way.
Aside from Zack Kassian, the youngest player to score at least 10 goals for the Canucks last year was Jannik Hansen and he’s 27 years old. When you search for Canucks in their early 20s it’s like a lost generation. Vancouver needs Vey to change that.
Well, Canucks GM Jim Benning scouted him, and believes he’s ready to be a third-line centre. And the new general manager should probably still be getting the benefit of the doubt in that talent-evaluation area.
But it’s coach Willie Desjardins who knows Vey best.
He coached him for three years in Medicine Hat and Vey became critical to his uptempo attack. That just may happen again here for the Canucks, because if they don’t have a third line that can score, this is going to be another a long, long season.
The coach left for the NHL the off-season before Vey blew up for his 116 points. But even though Desjardins was moving on to be an associate coach for the Dallas Stars, he didn’t forget Vey.
“The funny thing is, even though he wasn’t my coach any more he was still very impactful that year,” Vey said.
“I spent a lot of time with him that summer. He sat me down and told me that was the year I had to really focus on training.
“It was probably the first year that I actually dedicated to working out.”
Watching Vey in Manchester, Benning believed he was the one driving the play when he was on a line with Toffoli and Pearson.
This is probably the most compelling evidence that Vey is ready to succeed in the NHL. Both Pearson and Toffoli had massive post-seasons and were integral to the Kings’ Stanley Cup run.
“It was exciting to watch them and see them get that opportunity,” Vey said. “I played with them for two years and it shows me that I could probably contribute the same way.”
The Canucks sure hope so.
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