Last night I had the chance to watch the Moose play as they came to town to take on the Calgary Flames affiliate the Abbotsford Heat. One thing I was looking forward to seeing was Sergei Shirokov play. I was all over the kid in the pre-season, and foolish enough to think he was ready to play on the Canucks roster this season. Brian from Canucks Corner put me in my place, but after watching Shirokov play last night things make a little more sense.
I like many others was wondering why players like Desbiens and Grabner were being called up over players like Shirokov but after watching the Moscow talent play last night there are certain facets of his game that need addressing before he’s ready for the NHL. I think the biggest concern at the moment is Shirokov has no defensive responsibility. His back check doesn’t exist and almost every shift he was on the ice, if the Moose had possession he was wandering off by the Heat’s blue line waiting for the stretch pass or a chance to cherry pick. The difference was when you saw the way Grabner approach the play he not only backchecked but he wasn’t wandering waiting for that breakaway chance rendering himself completely ineffective otherwise.
That’s the only major issue I saw with Shirokov last night but one that made sense. For a small guy he’s going to have to fight to make this league, but he’s strong on the puck, he can skate and he’s got a wicked shot. Several times his shot handcuffed the Heat goaltender unfortunately though neither resulted in a goal. Shirokov was in on two of the goals though picking up two assists on the night and assisting on Nycholat’s game winning goal in overtime after the Moose clawed back from down 2-0 at the end of the first to win 4-3 in OT.
It’s clear Shirokov’s still learning the North American game and he’s got a little way to go. Next year depending how the free agent market pans out there’s a good chance we might see him in the lineup. That said, the best place for the 23 year old Russian is the Moose and it’s great that he’s leading the team offensively and showing he can put up points. That’s the best way to show he can show he’s ready to head up to the big leagues. Through 39 games played with the Moose he leads all Moose regulars in goals, points, shooting percentage, and plus/minus and is 2nd in shots power play goals and short handed goals. He’s proving he can lead that team offensively and with that will come his development and understanding of the game.