VANCOUVER — In the Vancouver Canucks' off-season search for third and fourth-line centres, NCAA free agent signee Kellan Lain was not always prominent in the discussion.
Brad Richardson, Jordan Schroeder, Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce were names most often mentioned in the run-up to training camp and rightfully so. Richardson is an experienced NHL player while the other three have first-round draft status. Lain? What he has going for him is size. At 6-6 and 218 pounds, he brings the biggest package to the party.
“It's very exciting and a lot of nerves, too,” Lain said Thursday after his first on-ice session at training camp. “It's fun being around all the big guys and seeing what they're all about and what the organization is about.”
Lain signed with the Canucks last March after three seasons with the Lake Superior State Lakers and was immediately dispatched to the AHL's Chicago Wolves. He appeared in 13 games for the Wolves and didn't record a point. In his final season with the Lakers, he collected 16 points and 111 penalty minutes in 32 appearances.
Clearly, he has figured out his place in the game.
“I think I have to use my size on the ice and throw my body around and create space,” said Lain, a 24-year-old from Oakville, Ont. “You have to play physical and let them know you're not going to be easy to play against. Third and fourth-line guys are expected to play a role and if the time comes where you have to drop the gloves and stick up for your teammates, you have to do it.”
The Canucks considered Lain a prize catch when they won the bidding for him. Chris Tanev was the team's first success story through NCAA free agency and they hope Lain will be another. His play during the scrimmages and pre-season will determine how far along he has come — or needs to go.
“It's a big adjustment going from college to the pro game and to get some games in with Chicago at the end of the year kind of prepared me for this year, I think,” said Lain. “The team has shown that there is going to be a spot open so it's just motivation to work hard and try to earn that spot.
"I mean, there are a ton of good players here," he added. "There are no bad players. You have to show everything you've got every time you're on the ice and in the gym.”
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