While many wouldn’t consider them of the blockbuster variety, the Canucks have been active in building on their depth through signing a number of unrestricted free agents the past few weeks. On July 1, Vancouver went out and signed veteran NHL forward Marco Sturm. The 32 year-old native of Germany has plenty of expereince to bring to the defending Western Conference champions, having scored 239 goals and 482 points in 890 career regular season games.
While Sturm is about to enter his 14th season in the NHL, a number of other players with NHL experience have been brought into the Canucks system in hopes of cracking the opening night roster in early October.
Here’s a run down of some players you might want to get a bit more familiar with before they put on a Canucks uniform in training camp in September.
5’9”, 174 lbs.
Hometown: Vernon, B.C.
The native of the north Okanagan is getting an opportunity to play for his
provincial team after starting his hockey career in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in 2001. The following four years, Ebbett played NCAA hockey at the University of Michigan, which included captaining the Wolverines in his senior year.
Having been passed by the NHL Draft, Ebbett signed a free agent contract with the Ottawa Senators in 2006. Having never played a game with the Sens, Ebbett then signed on with the Anaheim Ducks, where he appeared in 53 games from 2008-2010.
The 2009/10 campain was a bit of a whirlwind for Ebbett, who thanks to being claimed on waivers, skated in games with the likes of Anaheim, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Minnesota Wild.
Ebbett is hopeful his most recent season can boost his confidence coming to Vancouver. After signing a one-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes, the 28 year-old played in 33 games with the Arizona club, posting two goals and three assists. However, having played in just 37 games with the San Antonio Rampage in the American Hockey League, Ebbett finished sixth on his team in scoring with 11 goals and 27 assists.
6’5, 215 lbs.
Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Originally a fourth round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2003 (107th overall),
Bitz has ties to British Columbia. The season he was drafted into the NHL, Bitz put up 27 goals and 73 points and was named BCHL Rookie of the Year while playing for the Nanaimo Clippers.
Bitz went on to play four years of Ivy League hockey at Cornell University, which included an appearance with the Big Red in the 2005 NCAA Finals. In 2007, Bitz stepped into the pros bouncing back and forth between the Bruins and their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence. In March of last year, Bitz was dealt to the Florida Panthers.
Last September at training camp, Bitz suffered a sports hernia injury which required surgery and as a result, he was forced to miss the entire season.
Having just turned 27, Bitz has 89 games of NHL experience, collecting nine goals and nine assists along the way.
6’3”, 225 lbs.
Hometown: London, Ontario
A member of the Buffalo Sabres organization the last six seasons, Mancari is
looking to make the jump to being a full time NHLer after some very productive years in the American Hockey League.
Mancari was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 7th round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (207th overall). He played four years with the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League before beginning his pro career in the 2005/06 season.
Mancari has averaged 60 points per season with the Sabres AHL affiliate Portland Pirates over the last six seasons. In that same period, Mancari appeared in 36 NHL games with Buffalo, scoring three goals and ten assists along the way.
Last season, the 26 year-old was named to the AHL’s First All Star Team. He also holds the American Hockey League’s hardest shot record, which was a speed of 102.8 mph recorded at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic Skills Competition.
Hometown: Kaufbeuren, Germany
Not to be mistaken for fomer Canucks blue-liner and fellow countryman
Christian Erhoff, Sulzer has shown the ability to be a steady depth defenceman at the NHL level. The 27 year-old spent the first seven years of his hockey career playing junior and professionally in Germany. In 2003, he was drafted in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators (92nd overall).
He made the jump to North America in the 2007/08 season where he played for the Predators AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Over the following three seasons, Sulzer appeared in 53 games with Nashville. In those same seasons, he averaged more than 30 points per year for Nashville’s farm team.
Last season, Sulzer was dealt to the Florida Panthers for a conditional draft pick, but failed to re-sign with the club.
Sulzer is a mainstay on the blue line for Germany’s national team. He has played in four different World Championships and has represented his country at the Olympics in Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010.