Vancouver Giants 2012-13: David Musil will have firm hand on the wheel (with video)
Second-round NHL draft pick will attempt to lead the G-men back to the junior hockey’s glory land
Defenceman David Musil, a second round pick of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, will be counted on to provide skill and leadership as the Vancouver Giants try to return to the top of the Western Hockey League standings.
Photograph by: Stuart Davis, PNG files
METRO VANCOUVER — If the Vancouver Giants are to go anywhere in the new Western Hockey League season, David Musil will be among those at the steering wheel, gripping it tightly and never letting it slip from his grasp.
The hulking defenceman is in his fourth WHL campaign and he’ll be deployed in every situation by head coach Don Hay. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Musil has always had the size. Now he has the experience as well.
“Being counted on is nothing new for David,” Hay said. “I think he’s been counted on around here since he’s been 16. He played beyond his years back then and now that he’s 19, he’s going to continue to be counted on to log a lot of minutes at critical times. That’s going to be important to our success.”
A second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2011, Musil would normally be in the Oilers’ camp trying to make their big club. But these are not normal times. The NHL is locked out and all the best junior-age players are still playing junior. That’s the good news for Hay and the Giants, who open their 2012-13 regular season Friday at Pacific Coliseum against the Victoria Royals. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“The lockout is pretty disappointing, I didn’t really expect it,” said Musil. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to happen. Now I know I am starting the season here with the Giants and I have to play my best so I can make an impression on the Oilers.”
Musil may yet receive an opportunity to make the Oilers. If and when the lockout ends, NHL teams will be permitted to call up their top junior prospects for an abbreviated camp. The camps are expected to be small in numbers so Musil has plenty of incentive to perform at a high level for the Giants.
“If there are going to be NHL camps, they are going to be short and they’ll probably chose the top players they see,” he said. “For me, it’s important to play well here so I can get an invite. In the meantime, I want to try and lead the Giants to a successful year. This is a great organization and I want to bring the tradition back.”
The Giants have fallen on difficult times by their standards. They captured the WHL championship in 2006, the Memorial Cup in 2007 and had a string of five straight B.C. Division titles snapped in the 2010-2011 season. The last two springs, they have been eliminated in the playoffs’ first round.
To make matter worse, they lost their two top goal-scorers from last season, Brendan Gallagher and Jordan Martinook, as well as fifth-year defenceman Neil Manning and goalie Adam Morrison. There are a lot of holes to fill and Hay is anxious to see who might step into them.
“I think everybody is excited about the start of the year,” Hay said. “There is always lots of energy and enthusiasm and everybody is looking forward to seeing where they fit in. For myself, I want to see how we play with points on the line.
“We lost some really good players who can make a difference and I think we’re still searching for those types of players,” the coach continued. “When you lose Brendan Gallagher and Jordan Martinook, who had 80 goals between them, that’s hard to replace. But from my experience in junior hockey, somebody seems to step up and surprise you, like Cain Franson and Martinook did last year.”
Franson, 19, is among the returnees and relishing the opportunity to lead the offence along with Slovakian import Marek Tvrdon, a Detroit Red Wings’ fourth-round selection in 2011. Franson collected 27 goals and 58 points last season after managing just three goals and three helpers the year before. He had four goals in five 2012 pre-season games.
“Having the year I had last year obviously helped to get the confidence up and everything like that,” Franson said. “I know I’m going to be looked upon to be one of the go-to guys and that’s something every player wants. I’ve been trying to show Don I’m ready for that responsibility and I feel like I am.”
On the blueline, Brett Kulak will be given the responsibility of replacing Manning as the team’s new power-play quarterback. The 18-year-old, a fourth-round pick last June of the Calgary Flames, is an excellent passer with high expectations for himself.
“I have a lot of confidence coming into this year and I’m looking to take over Neil’s role on the power play,” Kulak said. “I’m expecting a bigger role and a lot more ice time. So I’m happy about that. I’ve been waiting for the home opener for a long time. It’s a really exciting time.”
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