PENTICTON, B.C. – Brendan Morrison is out to prove that you can go home again.
Morrison is among the 63 players left after the Young Stars Tournament as the Vancouver Canucks opened their training camp at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday morning. More than 2,000 jersey-clad, autograph-seeking fans watched the two Saturday skates,
A lot of them are undoubtedly rooting for Morrison, a local favorite and former No. 1 center with the Canucks, to make the team. He's attending camp on a tryout contract after spending last season with Washington, and is looking to replicate the success he enjoyed in his eight seasons with the Canucks – and the success he achieved as a junior player in Penticton.
Morrison played in Penticton in 1992-93 and put up 94 points in just 54 games with the Junior 'A' Panthers of the British Columbia Hockey League -- then was selected in the second round of the 1993 Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils, who later traded him to the Canucks.
Born in Pitt Meadows, Morrison is one of a half-dozen B.C. products looking to crack the lineup with the Canucks. Free-agent signee Dan Hamhuis, a Smithers native, will man one of the top-four defense slots. Prab Rai (Surrey), Stepfan Schneider (Vernon), and Taylor Ellington (Victoria) appear destined for the minors; while Aaron Volpatti (Vernon) will need a big camp to stay close to home.
The only two unsigned or undrafted players at Main Camp are Matt Fraser and Pierre-Olivier Morin. Fraser can still be returned to Kootenay of the Western Hockey League, while Morin completed his junior career in Lewiston of the Quebec League last season and is fighting for a pro deal.
The Sedin twins were broken up on Saturday, with Henrik skating with the morning group and Daniel with the second half of the squad. Henrik is one of a few players who could inherit the vacant captaincy after Luongo relinquished the title on Monday. Other possibilities are center Ryan Kesler and long shots Hamhuis and Keith Ballard, who came from Florida in a June trade.
Notable in the morning skate was the older half of the Canucks lesser-known brother act. At 5-foot-9, Lee Sweatt is a small defender, but his skills around the net created some gorgeous goals on Luongo during morning drills. Lee's younger but bigger brother, Bill Sweatt, arrives from Colorado College looking to crack the lineup of one of the NHL's deepest rosters.
Notable in their absence were a trio of high-profile injured Canucks. Defenseman Sami Salo is nowhere near returning after rupturing his Achilles in a game of floorball during the offseason. Forward Alex Burrows isn't likely to be back until November after off-season shoulder surgery – he skated separately from the main group with fellow sick-bay resident and former No. 1 pick Cody Hodgson, whose battle with a back injury is now into its second season.
A few interesting battles beginning to develop in camp include earning a spot on the Canucks' very deep blue line, and the makeup of the bottom six forwards.
Of the 20 defenders in on the roster, 11 suited up for NHL action last season. Ballard and Hamhuis join returning regulars Andrew Alberts, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Shane O'Brien, and Salo. Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner and Evan Oberg saw limited action with the Canucks last season.
Upfront the Canucks have an interesting blend of skill, size and muscle at their disposal with a huge cast of hopeful players for the third and fourth lines. Among those jockeying for position are Sergei Shirokov, Peter Schaefer, Jeff Tambellini, Rick Rypien, Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, Brendan Morrison, Raffi Torres, Alex Bolduc, Aaron Volpatti and Bill Sweatt. Hodgson will also be a contender when he gets healthy.
The Canucks will continue to skate in two groups Sunday and Monday morning before the team sends one split-squad team to Calgary for a Tuesday night exhibition game and the other half of the group returns to Vancouver.