Botchford: The five take-aways from the Canucks' 3-2 win at the Young Stars tourney finale

 

 
 
 
 
Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen takes off on a practice drill at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton on Sept. 11, 2014. — Calgary Herald files
 

Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen takes off on a practice drill at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton on Sept. 11, 2014. — Calgary Herald files

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

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PENTICTON, B.C. — The five take-aways from the finale of the Penticton Young Stars tournament. The Canucks won 3-2 thanks to a Jake Virtanen overtime goal.

1. Jake Virtanen had the greatest tournament in the history of tournaments.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that good. And maybe in a week Penticton will all be forgotten.

But in the moment?

How can you top starting the tournament by crushing Connor McDavid and ending it with a breakaway, game-winning goal?

The finisher Monday was as thrilling as that McDavid hit, which people are still talking about days later.

Virtanen heads into main camp oozing with confidence. He’s leaner, faster and just got a running start on the veterans he’ll need to beat out.

He had lapses here. A blind first-period pass to the other end of the ice with the Canucks on the power play comes to mind.

But he did not disappoint. He was the bringer of good times from beginning to end.

The hits opening night were one thing, but people also wanted to see offence from the sixth-overall pick. He brought that by turning on the jets during the three-on-three overtime.

“First impressions are pretty big, I think,” Virtanen said.

And they couldn’t have gone better.

2. Virtanen gets a big payoff from his offseason program.

After shedding about 15 pounds from where he was in the spring, this quote from Virtanen about says it all:

“Playing in Utica, I felt I could ... be good for about 20 to 25 seconds (of a shift) before I was like, ‘Ugh, I’m kinda tired.’

“But now I can play the full 45 to a minute. Whatever I’m out there for.

“I’m a guy who can be pushing guys now, so it’s good.”

Virtanen’s fitness was a topic the Canucks’ brass hit on every time they were asked about him in the spring.

“I noticed out there now he has more stamina,” Vancouver general manager Jim Benning said.

“When you play his style of game, when you play physical you have to be in good shape because it takes its toll on you.

“I think he’s worked hard in the offseason and it’s showed up on the ice.”

3. If you’re looking at dark horses to make the Canucks, look down the middle.

The Virtanen watch starts next weekend. The Canucks have him slotted to play a series of pre-season games. He just needs to take care of business at main camp and beyond.

He’s also not the only prospect here who will have an opportunity to make the team.

Benning was asked who he believes has the chance to beat out a veteran aside from Virtanen and he picked two centres.

“Cole Cassels is a solid two-way player,” Benning said. “We’ll see how he does in camp.

“Jared McCann is a skilled player and he can really shoot the puck. We’ll see how it goes through camp.”

McCann vowed to make an impact in this tournament after missing it last year — and finished it having put up a point a game.

“I feel 100 per cent and I’m ready to take a shot at (main camp),” the intense McCann said.

The Canucks are thin at centre after the top three. Is Linden Vey really going to hold down that fourth-line spot?

We’ll see.

4. Things went from bad to a whole lot better in 72 hours for Hunter Shinkaruk

Turns out, the Canucks did not enjoy watching Hunter Shinkaruk play hockey in the first game of the tournament.

Benning: “When he started playing pro he played a junior game at the pro level ... For whatever reason, (Friday’s) game he was back to where he was last year.”

Travis Green: “Maybe it was a rust, but he had a few turnovers I didn’t like.

“But his game really progressed.”

Shinkaruk was everywhere in the finale. He was a bulldog along the boards. Looked a little like Chris Higgins when Higgins is cooking.

He created five scoring chances and was smart through the neutral zone, which is an area he struggled in the first game.

“When he’s going, he’s got the puck, but he’s not forcing plays. He’s waiting for the opportunity and as a result he gets chances,” Green said.

Shinkaruk has had two great main training camps in a row. This is his third with the Canucks.

He also seems to shine more when he’s lined with better players. Now, that’s some hard-hitting analysis right there.

5. The Canucks are going to take a more experimental approach at main camp.

Last year, Willie Desjardins wanted to infuse his team with chemistry from the start.

He put lines together at training camp and kept them together as long as possible to establish a comfort level.

This year should be different. Don’t be surprised if you see Radim Vrbata tried out with Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter or both.

“The one thing that will be different in the second year (with this coaching staff) is that this is the year where we are more open to things,” vowed Glen Gulutzan, who will be running the on-ice practice.

The team is very confident that Desjardins will be back in time to coach exhibition games.

In the meantime, the assistants will oversee their specific roles. Perry Pearn will helm the power play and things like line changes during those pre-season games Desjardins misses.

Gulutzan will be taking care of the power play and Doug Lidster will be overseeing the defence.

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/@botchford

 
 
 
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Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen takes off on a practice drill at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton on Sept. 11, 2014. — Calgary Herald files
 

Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen takes off on a practice drill at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton on Sept. 11, 2014. — Calgary Herald files

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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