Hockey is back folks. The first event of training camp for the Vancouver Canucks was held on Friday in the form of a 12-player rookie camp that included the likes of top prospects Vasily Podkolzin, Danila Klimovich, Jett Woo, and rather unexpectedly, goaltender Mike DiPietro (more on him later). It wasn’t the Penticton Young Stars Tournament or the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, but it still was an opportunity to see some of the Canucks prospects on the ice after a long offseason. Especially players like Connor Lockhart who have not seen action in over a year.
I can’t tell you how great it was to be back in an arena hearing the sounds of sticks on ice and pucks shot into the glass. I dare you to find a more beautiful sound as a hockey fan. For the first time ever, I was at Rogers Arena to take in all the action as a member of the media. Here are a few things I walked away with.
DiPietro Looked in Midseason Form
Initially not expected to attend this rookie camp, DiPietro made an appearance with Arturs Silovs and goaltending coach Curtis Sanford, much to the surprise of everyone in the stands. Stuck on the taxi squad for most of last season, he was probably dying to get on the ice and back into the swing of things.
DiPietro didn’t look like he missed a step, as he turned in a performance that could only be described as MVP-like. If you didn’t know any better, you would think he was in sudden-death overtime, in the playoffs no less. Yes, he was that good. Like Roberto Luongo, he doesn’t seem to like being beat in practice.
Throughout the afternoon, DiPietro made saves on snipes from Podkolzin and Klimovich and even did his best Dominik Hasek impression on a goalmouth scramble with Woo. The save was so good that it elicited an audible gasp and cheers from all the media in attendance. Basically, he appeared to be in midseason form…in September. If you weren’t excited before, about seeing him in Abbotsford, you should be now.
Vasily Podkolzin is Finally Here, and He’s Not Nervous
Before Podkolzin was even on the ice for rookie camp, he already made the headlines with his answers in media availability. When asked if he was nervous about starting his journey in the NHL, he said in almost perfect English, “No, I am not nervous”. He didn’t elaborate on it either. That alone should be enough to get you primed for his debut in a Canucks uniform.
Once Podkolzin finally got onto the ice a few hours later, he came as advertised. Before watching him live, I had never seen him outside of video and highlights. He is every bit of the top prospect we have touted him to be over the last two years. He may not be the fastest skater out there, but his skating sure is smooth. Like buttery smooth. He also has a heck of a shot and if not for DiPietro’s brilliance, he would have been bulging twine all afternoon long.
Podkolzin will be exciting to follow throughout training camp. He has already become fast friends with Klimovich and Nils Hoglander and he could potentially play on a line with the latter very soon. All I have to say is, training camp and the preseason can’t come soon enough.
Klimovich’s Shot and Creativity Were on Display
When Klimovich was not wiring shots in the net, his shots were audibly wiring off the glass. He also showed some creativity by trying to go between the legs on DiPietro. He failed to execute the move for a goal, but the fact that he was willing to do it speaks volumes. He also displayed his trademark edge work on various skating drills too.
Abbotsford Canucks general manager and director of player development Ryan Johnson said to media in the morning that there were no preconceived plans for Klimovich before training camp. So, as much as we all believe he’s going to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to join the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in October, it may not be as cut and dry as it seems. If he impresses the brass enough, we might actually see him in Abbotsford with head coach Trent Cull after all.
Emptying the Notebook on Day One of Rookie Camp
- 2021 sixth-round pick Connor Lockhart was noticeable on Day 1 as he buzzed around the ice displaying his speed and overall agility. For a player that has not seen any game action in over a year, that was good to see. He should be a fun player to watch with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Erie Otters this season.
- Viktor Persson’s skating looked sluggish as he seemed to be a step behind the other guys. This was his first skate, so I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He will be joining the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Kamloops Blazers this season and should see a lot of minutes.
- Karel Plasek had a lot of jump in his step throughout the skate. Video from Europe and the World Juniors don’t do him justice. His speed was very noticeable as he looked faster than most of the players on the ice. It should be interesting to see how he develops in Abbotsford this season.
- Woo’s skating seems to have improved from last season. His battle level was also very high during many of the drills.
That’s a wrap for Day 1 of Canucks Rookie Camp. It was also the only day media was allowed to join in the fun. The next big event on the Canucks calendar will be training camp from Abbotsford Centre, which begins on Sept 23. The Hockey Writers will be there to bring you all the action, as the countdown continues for the start of the preseason on Sept 26 against the Seattle Kraken.
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.