New Canuck Jeremy Welsh ‘starting to relax,’ but keen for first NHL goal … as are his folks


Notebook: Fourth liner thinks defence first; return to AHL may loom as veterans return from injury

Jeremy Welsh of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench.

Jeremy Welsh of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

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VANCOUVER — Jeremy Welsh can’t wait to score his first NHL goal and neither can his coach.

“It has been going good and I am starting to relax with the puck and make some plays,” Welsh, the rookie Vancouver Canucks centre, said before Thursday night’s game against the visiting San Jose Sharks. “I’d just really like to bang one in here any day now.”

Welsh was poised to play Game No. 12 as a Canuck on Thursday night. He has been blanked — no goals and no assists — in the first 11. He also went without a goal in six previous NHL games with the Carolina Hurricanes.

His coach, John Tortorella, thinks Welsh is struggling like many young players do when they get their first real shot at the NHL level.

“I think those guys need to feel that they can put up points, that they belong here,” Tortorella said. “It can’t come from me, it can’t come from you, they need to believe it themselves and that is where I think Jeremy is at. He’s a big body, he can skate, I can put him in different positions and I do think he’s improving, but I think he has to say to himself ‘I belong here’ and I think other things will fall into place for him. He is an interesting one to me, he really is, because of his size and his skating ability. We’ll see where it goes.”

It’s not like Welsh has been getting monster ice time during his stint with the Canucks. As the fourth-line centre he’s averaged just 7:45 of ice time a night and offence is not uppermost on his mind when he and regular linemates Tom Sestito and Zac Dalpe are on the ice.

“As a fourth line you have to get the puck out, you have to be strong on the blue line, finish your hits, so scoring goals is maybe fourth or fifth on your list when you are in that role,” Welsh said.

“This is the first time I have had a stretch of more than two or three games at a time so it’s been good to get more comfortable each game. I feel like I can score. I have created a few chances for myself and there have been some plays where if I did them again I think I’d have two or three goals, but just settling in and taking that extra second I think is a key for me.”

Welsh and Dalpe were acquired just before the start of the regular season from Carolina in exchange for Kellan Tochkin and a fourth-round draft pick.

Welsh, 25, was called up after spending just two games with the AHL’s Utica Comets when the Canucks lost several forwards to injury. But with Jannik Hansen expected back on Sunday and Dale Weise likely not far behind, Welsh may be running out of chances to get that elusive first NHL goal.

He keeps telling his parents back in Bayfield, Ont., that it’s coming soon.

“My mom and dad have the NHL Network so they are watching. My dad gets out the door at 5:40 each morning for work so there are some late nights and I keep telling them every day, ‘I think tonight’s the night, I’m going to score my first goal so you’d better be watching.’ I think they wouldn’t mind me getting the first one over with, too.”

NOT INTERESTED: Tortorella wouldn’t bite Thursday when asked about the tight Western Conference standings, insisting that he he really doesn’t pay it much attention.

“There are too many things that go on in a long season, too many ebbs and flows that happen week to week that you need to keep track of,” Tortorella said. “The best way to keep track of it and stay within it is taking each day at a time. That’s the way we go about our business and at the end of the year we’ll see where we’re at.”

However, San Jose coach Todd McLellan was more than happy to talk about the logjam at the top of the Western Conference.

“It’s an every-day league, it’s not a part-time league when you are playing out West,” McLellan said. “Eight of the nine top teams in the league are from the West right now so if you fall asleep at the wheel for any extended period you drop dramatically. It’s taxing because every game is important at this time. There’s not much separation between the teams, but I don’t think that is going to change and it leads to us as a staff managing the team properly as we go forward as far as fatigue and rest.”

WORTH REPEATING: “I don’t worry about it. I just think they are such pros and they are the heartbeat of our team here. They’ll get it figured out.” — Tortorella on Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who both carried three-game pointless streaks into Thursday night’s game.

Jeremy Welsh of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench.

Jeremy Welsh of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

Jeremy Welsh of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench.
Jeremy Welsh (right) of the Vancouver Canucks vies for the puck with Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis during the third period of their Nov. 9, 2013 NHL game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
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