Shirokov. That’s his name. He pronounces it “nyet” not “net” and he’s hyped. People have been getting really excited about this kid and one of the reason’s might be just that, he’s not exactly a kid. The 23 year old russian who spent time playing with CSKA Moscow of the KHL came over to North America on a mission. He wants to play in the NHL.
It’s clear watching him in practice that his mentality is completely different than the other prospects out there. He’s different than the other rookie prospects because he’s not truly a rookie rookie. The 23 year old came here with the purpose of making the roster. In everything from his warm up to the way he practices drills he stands out. In practice he shows an edge was not making the small skating and stick handling errors a lot of the other prospects were. His vision on the ice was evident in his ability to get open and make smart passes even in both his first pre-season match against the Islanders as well as his drills in practice.
Shirokov’s a known play maker. He represents a breed of neo-Russians. At the risk of sounding like Don Cherry for the rest of this post, it’s clear that Euro’s have clearly different styles of play. The Canucks have had the pleasure of a number of elite Swedes and it’s clear that their game is passive aggressive at best. The Sedins are getting bigger and adding that physical element, but it’s not a natural focus. This new style of player coming out of Russia, the Ovechkins, Malkins, Semins and now the Canucks very own Shirokov have aggressive element to their offensive side which is something the Canucks sorely need. The last real physical forward we had was Todd Bertuzzi. It’s been a while. Shirokov’s aggressive nature shows in everything from the way he skates, to the way he heads to the net with the puck.
Just look at how Shirokov responded in the game against the Golden Bears. He got rocked early on in the first period, and after biding his time he took a run of revenge and leveled a guy head and shoulders taller than him. He’s a small guy, but he’s not afraid to get physical. While he isn’t an Ovechkin, or a Malkin, he brings a physical element to his game which will really inject some energy into the Canucks.
Shirokov is a lot to get excited about. He brings a physical aspect to his game, he brings finish to his game in the offensive and physical categories, and he isn’t coming into camp with limited experience. His play in the KHL has shown he’s playing well above an amateur level. Shirokov proved he was an effective playmaker in a league that rarely hands out second assists. He’s a complete package. He can skate well, he’s got speed and he also has the hands to make some fancy moves. He’ll be an asset in the shootout, and his vision to start the odd man rush and get the puck going the other way will prove invaluable. If this kid can crack the lineup the infusion of his attitude and play with the likes of an already solid core group of players only serves to make this team even better.