Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder hopes he's ready to play and contribute (with video)
Vancouver Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder was among the new faces on the ice during an informal practice at UBC on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
VANCOUVER — Like the season it precedes, the Vancouver Canucks training camp will be a short one and that really doesn't stack the odds in favour of Jordan Schroeder.
Yes, with Ryan Kesler still not fully recovered from shoulder and wrist surgeries, the Canucks have an opening at centre. But with no pre-season games how is Schroeder going to be able to prove he is ready for prime time?
Well, he'd better string together the best week of practices he's ever had.
Canuck general manager Mike Gillis has already acknowledged that with a 48-game schedule "you don't have any room for experimentation. . . unless the player is ready to play and ready to contribute."
So Schroeder, who Gillis selected 22nd overall in the 2009 draft, has his work cut out for him.
"I just have to skate, use my speed, do what I do best and I think I'll be all right," Schroeder said Wednesday after joining an ever-increasing number of Canucks and Canuck wannabes skating at UBC. "I have been playing all season and I think it is a little bit of an advantage having 30 games under my belt. I'm in game shape.
"I am just excited for the opportunity, that's really what it comes down to. I just have to go out there and play."
Schroeder does have one thing going for him. By all accounts, he has been playing his best hockey of the season lately. In 30 games with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, Schroeder has nine goals and 19 points.
"I have watched him maybe 12 times this year and the last couple of times I have seen him he's really been hard on the puck, used his speed, is taking it to the net and pounding pucks," Canucks assistant general manager Lorne Henning said Wednesday. "He's really been one of the better players. He's starting to score, he's got his confidence around the net and is making plays that we haven't seen in a while. He was getting chances before and missing the net. Now he's putting them in. I think that's a big part of it and he's seeing the result."
Schroeder likes to think his game is trending in the right direction as he comes to camp. He said his season has been a reflection of his team's.
"It's been up and down, but I'm on the upside coming up here," he said. "The AHL is a tough league, it's not easy to score points. You have to work for everything down there and I feel that the past few weeks I have really started to improve and my overall game has definitely gotten better."
A lot can happen between now and Jan. 19, when the Canucks are expected to open the season at home. The Canucks could conceivably fill that hole at centre with a player acquired in an anticipated trade of goalie Roberto Luongo.
Or it could go to an experienced veteran like Andrew Ebbett, who has been Schroeder's teammate in Chicago this season.
In fact, if it does come down to a battle of Schroeder versus Ebbett for the hole at centre, the smart money would be on Ebbett. The 30-year-old is a versatile player, who has shown he can fill in as a top-six forward or play a more defensive role on one of the bottom two lines.
And just like Schroeder, Ebbett has been enjoying a solid season in Chicago, where he has collected 10 goals and 23 points in 28 games.
"The last month he has probably been the best player down in Chicago," Henning said. "He has really picked his game up. He's killing penalties, he's on the power play, he's a really big force for them down there. He's a heady player, has got great hockey sense, he's very reliable and he can play all three forward positions."
Ebbett only played 18 games (one goal and five assists) for the Canucks last season, when he battled injuries. He likes to think the time he has spent with the Wolves this season will give him an edge at training camp.
"I certainly hope so," Ebbett said Wednesday at UBC. "I think I've got 28 games in so that's huge for me, especially after not playing very many games last year. I've got a lot of ice time in different situations and I am looking forward to the next week and half here."
Ebbett is not a complete stranger to second-line duty at the NHL level. He served a stint centering the Anaheim Ducks' second line, with Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan on his wings, in 2008-09.
"I played in Anaheim in the second-line centre spot, so if that is where AV (coach Alain Vigneault) wants me to play I am happy to fill that role. I think I have been playing well enough down there, have been playing centre and I am ready to do that."
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