The Vancouver Canucks were split into three groups during the first day of 2010 Training Camp on Saturday in Penticton with Group A hitting the ice bright and early at 9 a.m.
Each group went through an intense two-hour practice before hitting the gym for a lengthy workout and facing the media where upwards of 30 reporters cornered three-quarters of the 56 players at camp.
Group A consisted of Canucks regulars Henrik Sedin, Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Christian Ehrhoff, Roberto Luongo, newcomer Dan Hamhuis, prospects Jordan Schroeder, Kevin Connauton, Chris Tanev, Aaron Volpatti and Eddie Lack.
“It’s nice, it’s always a good feeling to get out there with the guys and go full speed,” said Henrik Sedin.
“You practiced before the camp starts, but it’s not the same. It’s more getting your legs back and feeling good out there. It’s attention to details, I think that’s something we’re going to work a lot on this year and being good in practice is going to show in games, so that’s something we’re going to focus on.”
Former Vancouver draft pick Peter Schaefer also skated in Group A. After a season spent working out without any pro hockey played, Schaefer is hoping to catch the eye of the Canucks and return to hockey in the first NHL city he called home.
“There was a few options and after being off for a year and just training and working on some things, I knew that probably the only opportunity I would get would be a training camp, so we jumped at the opportunity to come to the Canucks camp,” said Schaefer, a third round pick of the Canucks from the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.
Schaefer said a few teams contacted him this summer, but in the end he felt the best opportunity for him was in Vancouver, despite the depth at forward and competition at camp.
“You’re always trying to look at the roster and look at the player’s they’re signing and the opportunity, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about what I’m going to bring. It’s unfortunate if there’s not room for me, but I’m going to try my best and show what I’ve got and hopefully the Canucks will see that and all the other teams out there.”
Group B featured Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa, Shane O’Brien, new Canucks backup Cory Schneider and prospects Bill Sweatt, Jeff Tambellini and Evan Oberg.
Former Vancouver forward Brendan Morrison, like Schaefer, is also hoping to bring his A-game and land a spot with the club he enjoyed the most success with.
“I wouldn’t have taken this try out if I didn’t think I had a real good chance of making this team,” said Morrison. “That’s why I’m here, I want to be a part of this group and I think they do have a real good team. I think they’re a contender for the Stanley Cup and I would like to be a part of that."
In 829 career NHL regular season games, Morrison has 547 (187-360-547) points, including 393 (136-257-393) with the Canucks from 1999-2008. Last season he played 74 games with the Washington Capitals, recording 42 points (12-30-42) and that was enough to boost his confidence and prove that he’s still got some tread left on the tires.
“I had a good year last year, a fun year, it ended disappointingly because we were expected to do much more, but I was feeling better on the ice and having my legs skating wise, it was the closest to normal that I have been for a few years so that was nice.”
Group C skated at the same time as Group B, just on a different sheet of ice. A prospects filled bunch included Cody Hodgson, while Alex Burrows added a veteran presence. Both are coming off injuries and were happy to be on the ice, despite being away from the main practices.
“It was fun to be out there again with the boys and obviously shooting the puck I had no problems, so I was real happy about that,” said Alex Burrows, who did not take part in contact drills. “I still have to work on my accuracy a little bit and my skating legs, but it was a good first overall day.
Hodgson also said he’s pain-free from the back injury that prevented him from taking part in camp last season and post-practice he confirmed that it’s still one day at a time, but things are improving.
“I felt good out there,” said Hodgson. “It was nice to be on the ice with the guys and get moving a little bit and get some timing back and I felt good.”
For the first time in a long time, Hodgson took part in contact drills in a Canucks uniform. As of now, he’s a-okay and it’s all systems go for Sunday, although he’ll likely still skate in Group C.
‘I’m progressing more into that stuff now and that was a good first step today. I did some little stuff, some battling drills down low and I felt good with those.
“It was light contact but we still had some contact and we’d like to keep it progressing. I felt good today and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Coach Alain Vigneault is too.
While it’s still too early to pick anyone from the pile, good or bad, coach Vigneault was quite pleased with how things played out on the first day of camp.
“I really liked our work ethic and our attention to detail and the guys came to work and it was really a good first day for us as far as what needs to be done on a daily basis,” said Vigneault, adding that the veterans led the way and everyone else followed in terms of work ethic.
“One of the things we did stress with our players last night in the meeting is that strong work ethic is what this team is known for and we want to make sure that continues.”