Canucks see some versatility in enacting the ‘Santo Clause’
Notebook: Mike Santorelli catching coach John Tortorella’s eye
Centre Mike Santorelli, shown during training camp, has impressed the Vancouver Canucks coaching staff with his versatility, playing either wing and even lining up on defence for one shift during Wednesday’s pre-season game against the Edmonton Oilers. ‘When I was younger, everybody was telling me the more versatile you are, the better off you are,’ says the North Burnaby native.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
VANCOUVER — It wasn’t quite a crisis, but close it to when the Vancouver Canucks had two defencemen out of Wednesday’s pre-season game due to injury and another, Peter Andersson, in the penalty box midway through the second period.
Head coach John Tortorella was watching from the press box so assistants Glen Gulutzan and Mike Sullivan had to make an executive decision. Who could they throw out there? They opted for centre Mike Santorelli, the “Santo Clause.”
Santorelli took one shift on the blue line during the penalty kill and a few others on the point when the Canucks went on the power play. He also finished the game a plus-1, assisted on the lone Canucks goal by Brendan Gaunce and won 5-of-7 faceoffs in the 4-1 loss to Edmonton.
It was a performance worthy of a player trying to catch a roster spot.
“Anyway you can help out the team, you want to show you can,” Santorelli said Friday following a 7:30 a.m. practice to accommodate the Jake Milford charity golf tournament. “It was kind of the first time I played defence. I just got tapped on the bench and Gully (Gulutzan) told me to take a shift on ‘D’. When I was younger, everybody was telling me the more versatile you are, the better off you are.”
Santorelli, a right-shot, can also play both right and left wing. Although he prefers centre, his ability to line up in multiple positions has caught the attention of head coach John Tortorella. In Friday’s practice, the North Burnaby native was skating on right wing alongside centre Jordan Schroeder and Gaunce.
“He’s had a good camp,” Tortorella noted. “I thought he played pretty well (Wednesday) and I thought he did a good job on the point. He showed some patience and didn’t throw the puck away. Based on the numbers, he’s our best conditioned athlete coming in here. I think he’s trying to prove a point.”
The point, of course, is that he’s a fulltime NHL player and not just a depth guy to be buried on the farm waiting for an injury recall. He signed a one-year, two-way contract July 6 and will make the minimum $550,000 at the NHL level. If he is sent down – and, at age 27, he’ll need to clear waivers – he’ll earn $250,000 in the minors.
Based on his performance so far, Canucks management might not want to risk losing him on the waiver wire.
“I don’t want that to go through my head,” Santorelli said. “That’s out of my control. What’s in my control is bringing it each night and improving each night. As you get closer to the season, it gets harder each day. This is a tough league.”
FASHION POLICE: The NHL has a new rule this season that prevents players from tucking their jerseys inside their pants, or in the case of Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechking, tucking it inside his tailbone protector as well as his pants.
At Canucks practice Friday, David Booth was among a handful of players whose jerseys were still tucked in. Good thing it was just practice – and not a game.
“In games, we wear a fighting (tie-down) strap on the back of our jerseys so that kind of keeps the jersey out,” Booth explained. “I think the strap will help keep it in place. I guess Ovie won’t be able to do that anymore but I think you’ll still be able to recognize him out there.”
NET WORTH: In addition to cracking down on the jersey tuckers, the league has also shrunk the height of goalie pads. Roberto Luongo has barely noticed the difference as his pads were reduced by less than half an inch.
“It really doesn’t affect me at all,” he said. “If anything, I feel that maybe I’m a bit more mobile in the crease, which is nice. Other than that, everything is the same. At less than half an inch, you barely notice it. The main concern is that you don’t want to have any holes there when you’re fully set in your butterfly.”
ROSTER REDUCED: As expected, forwards Zach Hamill, Pascal Pelletier and Colin Stuart all cleared waivers Friday and were re-assigned to the Utica Comets. The next to go will likely be Alex Biega, who was waived Friday. Biega is a 25-year-old undersized defenceman (5-10) who had 25 points for the Rochester Americans last season.
The Comets are in Abbotsford Sunday night for an AHL exhibition game against the Heat.
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