The mystery continues.
Canucks prospect Sergei Shirokov, the highly touted Russian prospect who turned heads during prospects camp and is now taking part in main camp, speaks English about as well as Fin.
To ease the pressure on Shirokov during media Q &A on day two of Canucks training camp at UBC Thunderbird Arena on Sunday, Vancouver’s Russian scout Sergei Chibisov agreed to translate.
While Chibisov smoothened things out a bit, there was still quite a bit of confusion. Take, for example, what transpired when a reporter asked Shirokov who he is rooming with.
“Who is his roommate?”
“Nolan,” Shirkov replied.
“Nolan?” questioned one reporter.
“Baumgartner?” asked another.
“Toigo?” inquired a third.
“Nolan,” Shirokov smiled.
“No one?” a puzzled writer replied.
“Toigo?” someone asked again. “#70, Toigo?”
“Ya, Toigo, ya,” said Shirokov.
Luckily, it’s not hard to understand why the 23-year-old Moscow product is trying his hand at the NHL.
In his first day skating with big league players, Shirokov displayed impressive speed and puck handling and when faced with some rough stuff in the corners during one-on-one drills, he held his 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame high and dished out as much as he took.
Shirokov looked hungry, he looked focused and some believe he looks ready to play in the NHL. That opportunity is what brought Shirokov to Vancouver without any guarantees of making the team.
“He wanted to come over here and play in the NHL and he’ll try to do his best to make the big team and that’s why he’s here,” Shirokov, who skated in Group A alongside Mario Bliznak and Ronald Petrovicky, said through Chibisov.
“The NHL now is the best league in the world and every player likes to come over and play in the NHL.”
In addition to the transitions the young Russian is having to make outside of the rink, the sixth-round pick from 2006 has also been forced to make some on the ice.
Rinks are narrower in North America and the game is a lot faster.
So far, so good for Shirokov.
“He expected the pace today would be fast and he was quite ready for it and he’s really glad to be on the ice today.”
Shirokov, questioning how he and his game would adapt to the changes, consulted a few Russian friends before making his decision to come to Canada. There's nothing quite like being able to pick up the phone to call Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
“He played in the junior programs on the same line with Malkin and Ovehckin so he knows them pretty good.”
The advice Shirokov got from those Russian superstars was simple: “Go. Go try and at the end you’ll be successful.”
That’s just what Shirokov is doing and with each broken English interview or impressive play he makes on the ice, we get to know a little more about this mystifying player.
Only after camp is over and we see him at game speed in pre-season will we know for sure if the mystery was worth the intrigue.