Archive for the ‘Canucks’ Category

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Canucks season opening home-stand continues tonight as they take on the Winnipeg Jets. The 1-0-1 Canucks will be looking to play more of a physical style against the Jets. Coach Travis Green wants to see his team compete with a higher intensity level, more puck possession, and less softness from his players.

“I thought our intensity level was a little bit lower than the game against Edmonton,” admitted Green. “It wasn’t like we played a terrible hockey game. We’ve got three out of four points in these two games. It’s not a terrible start. I thought our play was a little bit softer than the first game. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Inquiring minds jumped on Green’s comments when he spoke following Wednesday’s practice at UBC. Are the Canucks too soft, do they have the players required to play physical hockey?

“I didn’t say that we were soft physically,” Green, said. “I don’t think we have an overbearingly physical team. Anyone that watches hockey, and knows our team, probably knows that.”

Thomas Vanek is in his first season with the Canucks, and the Austrian winger finds himself playing on the top line with Daniel, and Henrik Sedin. Vanek netted his first goal as a Canuck on Tuesday vs Ottawa. He admits that it will take time to form a team bond.

“I’m new, and there’s a lot of new guys,” Vanek said. “We’re still trying to find our identity and what our game is. Obviously it wasn’t our best one, but still got a point out of it.”

Vanek and the Sedins aren’t going to go out and start throwing thunderous body checks anytime soon. That’s not their style of play, and not what they contribute. As a top line, you want them to have possession in the offensive zone, while creating, and scoring goals. Vanek points out that physical hockey isn’t always about one main statistic.

“I think physical is not just going out there and hitting guys,” Vanek said. “I think physical is having a good stick, taking good angles on guys, and playing a frustrating game.”

It doesn’t take much for Canucks fans to get riled up. Vanek’s hustle, hunger, and intensity has already been questioned. Is he too slow, why doesn’t he bring a maximum effort each game. Vanek committed an unnecessary slashing penalty taking the Canucks off the power play in the first period vs Ottawa.

“Yeah, I don’t think the penalty was much,” Vanek said. “I think I tapped his stick, and I guess that’s a penalty now.”

Henrik is enjoying having Vanek as a line-mate, and he expects chemistry to form as they continue to get familiar with each other. Vanek and the Sedins are terrific in the corners, fantastic passers, and they know how to score from all attacking areas.

“He’s strong, he’s really strong on pucks,” revealed Henrik Sedin. “When he gets the puck, he gives us time to move into areas. We might not be the fastest line on the ice, I think we’ve started good so far. We need to get our power play going, but 5 on 5, its felt good.”

The 33 year-old, is with his 7th NHL organization and he’s played with exceptional hockey players at all of his stops. He knows what it takes to get an offence, and power play going. Vanek admits that there is much more that he can do.

“I mean, it’s early,” said Vanek. “Playing with Hank and Danny, I think we’re getting closer. I think we’re starting to read off each other better, but there’s obviously a lot more to give.”

The Canucks are not built to run teams out of Rogers Arena. They have team toughness, but they won’t be among the league leaders in hits. Moving the puck forward, catching teams on transition, and dominating on special teams is how the Canucks can counter not having a physical team. Games won’t be won on paper.

“Right, exactly,” Vanek agreed. “You can’t look at predictions, I mean obviously you have your four or five teams who are probably better than most teams, but then I think there’s a group of twenty to twenty-five teams who are similar. Like I said, we’re searching for our identity. We feel like we can frustrate teams on most nights, and be in the game.”

The Vancouver Canucks are going to have to grind, and claw their way to a win on most nights. They have skilful, exciting players, and that’s what you can expect to see. As long as they play together as a team, and stick up for each other, you can’t say they’re soft.

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Vancouver Canucks Centre, Griffen Molino at the Canucks Development Camp on Thursday, July 6.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Canucks are loaded with talent down the middle. The centre-ice position looks to be a positive strength for the organization heading into next season. Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, and Brandon Sutter have some new company with free agent acquisitions Sam Gagner, and Alexander Burmistrov. Griffen Molino is another name to watch. The 23 year-old will do his best to make the Canucks opening day roster.

The Trenton, Michigan native, played in five games for the Canucks last season. He made his debut on March 31, vs Los Angeles. It was a whirlwind experience playing in the NHL, and something he wants to continue on a full-time basis.

“It was incredible,” said Molino, following an on ice session at the Canucks Development camp this week. “It was a lot to take in over a short period of time. Honestly, it was a great experience, and everything about it was fantastic. I had a great time. It was super humbling being able to play five games with the Canucks at the end of the year.”

Molino has had a unique experience on his journey to the NHL. He was never drafted, and instead worked his way up to where he is now. He wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot anywhere. His name wasn’t falling out of the mouths of NHL scouts. He simply buckled down, got to work, and successfully made an effort to continue up the ranks. It was at Western Michigan University where he started to attract more and more attention.

“Definitely one of the most uncommon ones,” said Molino of his journey to the NHL. “I think. Every place I played, I picked up something different, and something that helped me along the way. I don’t think I would have done it any differently If I had the choice. I played one-year, Junior A in Brockville, Ontario, made my transition to the USHL, played in Sioux Fall for a year, got traded to Muskegon, had a phenomenal year. I played two-years at Western Michigan University, and learned a lot under head coach, Andy Murray. I was able to take my game, and translate it into a professional game, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Why did Molino decide to sign with Vancouver?

“I had a relationship with the Canucks for a long time,” revealed Molino. “I like the way things are done here. I think that there’s a good young, core group of players taking this team in the right direction, and I’d love to be a part of that. Aside from that, it’s an unbelievable, historic franchise in a great part of the country. All the pieces fit, and it felt like the right decision. All those things coming together, culminated in my decision.”

The 6-foot, and 185 pound, Molino is a terrific skater with a lot of pace. He knows he has the kind of high hockey IQ required to be an everyday NHL player. Being able to fit into different niches could help his versatility if the Canucks decide to use him on the wing.

September training camp isn’t too far off in the distance. Competition for roster spots will be that much tougher with Gagner, and Burmistrov in the fold. Molino isn’t ready to have his bubble burst, and will be ready to show what he can do at an NHL level.

“There’s a lot of players fighting for a few spots,” said Molino. “I think it’ll just be the little details that define who’s playing, and who’s not. Obviously, those are some great established players in the league. If I’m going to get a shot, it’s going to be a challenge, but one I’m excited for. One I’m looking forward to for sure. I’m still pushing to make it.”

If the time comes for him to hone his skills with the Utica Comets in the AHL. Yes, he’d be willing to do that, but make no bones about it, he wants to stay in the NHL. In the AHL he would get a regular shift, and avoid bouncing around the Canucks press box between games. Comets coach, Trent Cull could be the guy to help Molino improve his game further.

“I don’t want to say comfortable,” said Molino. “I wouldn’t be upset, put it that way. I know I still have a lot to learn in my game, and I know I’m still developing. Maybe sometime in Utica wouldn’t be a bad thing, but in my head, I want to push to make that team, and challenge myself to be an NHLer. If I need to spend some time in Utica, that’s the way it goes, and I’ll be happy wherever I’m at, but I’m going to try to make that team.”

You can never have enough centres on your depth chart. A vital position like that, requires players of all skill levels, and abilities. Griffen Molino is hoping to make his mark, and prove that his five game audition last season was just the start of things to come.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It all starts with building from the net out, and the Vancouver Canucks are setting themselves up for terrific goaltending stability for years to come. The selection of Windsor Spitfires goalkeeper, Michael DiPietro shows that the organization is determined to have a solid future one-two punch with, Thatcher Demko, and DiPietro.

Selected 64th overall in third round of this years NHL draft, DiPietro had a somewhat of an inkling that Vancouver might be the team to call his name at the United Center in Chicago.

“I met with them at the combine,” said DiPietro following Canucks Development camp on Tuesday. “I thought the interview went really really well. I really didn’t think a lot of it. Going into that day, I wanted to keep an open mind. I didn’t hear my name called on the first day, so we came back he second day. I couldn’t go to a better organization, I’m happy to be here.”

The Amherstburg, Ontario native, saw his stock climb after helping the Windsor Spitfires win the 2017 Memorial Cup. The 18 year-old, was a brick wall in net for the hosts. Many fans, scouts, and pundits had him rated as the top goaltender heading into the draft.

“I think it definitely helped my stock in more ways than one,” said DiPietro of the Memorial Cup win. “It shows that I can perform under pressure. Especially being relatively young, and especially being from the area also. I think I showed people that no matter what my size is, I think I can play out there, get the job done, night in, and night out. I’m very happy to be here.”

Having a goaltender that has beaten the odds, and shown that he can compete no matter what the circumstances, is exactly the kind of player, and character athlete every team needs. Listed at 6-foot, and 200 pounds, DiPietro isn’t going to wow you with his frame. He has his fair share of doubters, and he has no problem waving his glove-hand at them.

“I think I’m a hybrid,” revealed DiPietro. “Like you said, I’m a battler. I use my athleticism, my flexibility to get across. My ability to read a play, I think has got better. My instincts are what keeps me afloat sometimes. ‘Grade A scoring chance’, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to stop the puck, and not let that little black thing go over the line.”

Growing up a stones throw away from Detroit, DiPietro was an avid Red Wings fan during his youth years. While watching the Wings Stanley Cup victories, he cheered for Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, and Dominik Hašek. He models his game after a Los Angeles Kings puck-stopper that Canucks fans know all too well.

“I look up to Jonathan Quick,” said DiPietro. “The way he battles, my game is quite similar to his. Just the way we use our flexibility. We’re not six-foot, five, out there, but we can play like we’re six-foot, five out there. We get the proper points in the crease, and good spots. He’s definitely a goalie that I look up to, especially with Stanley Cup rings on his finger.”

DiPietro is likely headed back to Windsor for a couple of more seasons in the OHL He wants to improve his technical side, and put his best skate forward. He won’t make it easy for the Canucks to send him back to junior. If he can keep developing as a goaltender, he could be part of a successful tandem with 21 year-old, Thatcher Demko.

“That’d be awesome, to see my name next to Thatcher’s,” said an enthusiastic DiPietro. “He’s a great goaltender. To be mentioned like that, especially playing for Vancouver. I think that’s a goal of mine, I think it’s any kids goal to make it to the NHL.”

In the ever evolving NHL, you need two competitive goalies who have a healthy compete level with each other. Michael DiPietro could very well be a diamond in the crease that could be the next great Vancouver Canucks goalie.