Jan 182010
 
Sergei Shirokov

Photo credit: canucks.com

Yuliya Talmazan is a Russian-born Vancouverite who blogs about all things Russia. She tracked down Vancouver Canucks prospect Sergei Shirokov, who, incidentally, will appear in the AHL All-Star Game tomorrow, and conducted an email interview with Shirokov. Ms. Talmazan posted the interview on her site and she asked if we can share it with Canucks fans; of course, we were happy to oblige.

YTFiles: Sergei, you are currently playing for the Manitoba Moose, and are the top scorer on the team. But, I am sure what you really came here for was Vancouver Canucks. When do you think you will be able to return to play for the Canucks again?

S.S.: Of course, I came to Canada to play in the NHL. I try to show good results and quality of the game. I am sure that I will still have a chance to play for the Vancouver Canucks, and I will try to use that chance fully.

YTFiles: You have signed with the Vancouver Canucks just four months ago and had to move here from Moscow before the pre-season. How easy was that move for you?

S.S.: My decision to sign a contract with the Vancouver Canucks was well thought-out. My family and friends supported me. The move itself was easy for me, and the adaptation was not a problem either. I had enough free time to see Vancouver. Of course, I have not seen everything, but I will have time to do that.

You can find the full interview on Yuliya’s site, YTFiles.com.

Sep 252009
 

Well, you didn’t expect the Canucks to go 107-0 this season, did you? Without further adieu, here are today’s Canucks-related links:

Sep 232009
 

It’s been clear from day one that Shirokov is here to make the NHL. He’s divulged that publically, and he’s made a statement on the ice. Hodgson has looked lacklustre this pre-season at best. Granted he’s had a back in jury that kept him out of the first few games, since his return, he’s been skating but there hasn’t been that edge to his play.

I remember watching him last season at Canucks training camp and in the pre-season game I went to, and you could see that even though he was making rookie mistakes, and was a little nervous, he wanted it. The fact of the matter is he just doesn’t look like he wants it that badly this season. It’s no secret the position he’s in because of his age. Sending him to junior would be on par with career suicide, and since he can’t play in the AHL it seems almost a foregone conclusion that he’s a walk on to this team as a rookie. While the real walk-ons to this team, the Sedins, the Salos the Keslers of this team, can take the pre-season to work out the kinks, and to perhaps “take it easy”, Hodgson by no means has earned the right to do that.

The former Brampton Battalion star in my mind is coasting on a dream here, and taking for granted what’s coming his way. When you look at Shirokov (knee sprain aside) the kid gave up everything in Russia, came here with one goal in mind – cracking the roster – and he’s playing with an edge that’s noticeable in both practice and in a game.

In a Q and A with the Vancouver Sun Shirokov said,

Q: Your former CKSA teammate Nikita Filatov said if the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to send him back to the minors this season, he would have to consider offers from the KHL very seriously. If you’d be sent to Manitoba, would you share the same idea?

A: I don’t think so. If I will be send to the AHL, I will prove that I deserve to play in the NHL.

Read that again – Here I’ll help you.

    If I will be send to the AHL, I will prove that I deserve to play in the NHL.

This kid has character. This kid has it in his mind that he wants to make this team. Hodgson’s free ride I think is getting to his head. He’s dictating how people pronounce his name and he hasn’t played in a regular season NHL game yet.

Granted he’s hailed as the next Trevor Linden, he’s supposed to be the Canucks next star, but he’s certainly not playing like it.

Cody has a lot to prove, and just because he makes the team on what can be seen as a technicality doesn’t mean much. It’s on par with saying Chris Levesque “earned” a spot as the Canucks backup when Skudra was on the verge of being down and out. In my eyes he hasn’t done enough to prove that he’s worthy of being on a team that’s got so much depth it’s embarrassing. He just doesn’t want it as badly as Shirokov does. And if he does, he’s not showing it. No edge, no energy. Just skating back and forth. The Canucks could dress a contending roster without even taking a second look at Mr. Hodsun. Get your head checked kid. Take a lesson from the Russian, he’s got a few years on you.

Sep 182009
 

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.

Sep 092009
 

By now, you’ve probably seen the following video of Shirokov stickhandling his way around Canucks Prospects Camp:

Amidst all the Cody Hodgson hype, it’s nice to see someone else step up and steal the spotlight. By all reports, Shirokov has been one of the best players – if not the best player – in camp. He’s older than most of the kids there and his three years of pro experience in Russia is obvious. He’s got good hands and a good attitude.

From Iain MacIntyre (Vancouver Sun):

Shirokov was more than OK. His patience, skill and vision with the puck were obvious as the left winger set up a pair of goals and numerous other scoring chances in the Vancouver Canuck prospects’ 4-3 victory against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

And since Shirokov’s initial foray into the Canadian hockey heartland didn’t curb his enthusiasm for his remarkable decision to join the Canucks, nothing will.

Having fought fabled Central Red Army in arbitration to win his release from the Kontinental Hockey League, then signing a two-way, entry-level National Hockey League contract with the Canucks that will pay Shirokov just $65,000 if he spends his rookie season in the minors, the Russian made his North American debut in front of a few hundred fans at a university arena while playing against student-athletes.

“It’s OK,” he smiled. “I go on ice, Vancouver Canucks jersey. I’m happy.

“KHL is good money. But play at NHL is better. Better level. I want to play in Vancouver. Russia, it’s big money. But NHL is better league. I say to coach: I have to go NHL. I go.”

Few expect Shirokov to actually make the Canucks this season, though based on (very) early reviews, he’s determined to make it tough for team brass to make that decision.

Jun 162009
 

Even after signing a two-year, two-way deal with the Canucks, it appears that Shirokov’s move to North America may not be certain.

From James Mirtle:

Russian winger Sergei Shirokov is the talk of Canucks circles these days after he signed a two-year two-way contract with Vancouver for a salary of about 875,000 a season last week. Drafted by the Canucks in the sixth round in 2006, Shirokov has impressed at the world juniors and other international events, and currently plays for CSKA Moscow, where he had 41 points this past season.

The tricky part is the fact that Shirokov’s rights still belong to CSKA, and the team has initiated legal proceedings over the NHL deal he’s signed. It’s hard to say how this one turns out at this point.

Without a transfer agreement in place between the NHL and Russia, I guess this isn’t too surprising. Even Evgeni Malkin, if you remember, had to sneak out of Russia to play for the Penguins. (And no, I’m not comparing Shirokov to Malkin. I wish…)

Stay tuned.

Jun 132009
 

So, it’s been a while, eh? This lovely summer weather hit and I turned into a total blogger slacker. I do apologize my lovelies.

- The Penguins win last night delighted me. There’s a lot of guys I like individually on the Wings but I just wanted it more for the Penguins. Tangers made me weep when he mentioned Luc Bourdon and winning it with him. That is why I wanted the Penguins to pull it off. Geno Malkin was ALL KINDS of adorable in his post game interview. Oh the broken English “Big day…my life…my friends happy…I happy” Ahhhhh. So precious. I want to skip down the street arm and arm with him and have him sing me songs. Max Talbot is a folk hero and I assume he is locked up long term in Pittsburgh but damn. He and Burrows would make one sexy, charming, French Canadian sammich. Next time I’m near a fountain I’m going to wish that so hard.

- Should we talk some Swedins? Lately I’ve been calling them the soft peepers thanks to a blog friend of mine. I kind of like it. It’s pretty cute. Now, if they want 7 million, I say that’s too much cabbage. We’ll have to say hejda (that’s goodbye in Swedish). But if it’s for less than 7 let’s get it done. We need those two crazy kids. With their complexions, they wouldn’t do well in Tampa or LA or other steamy locales. I think for their skins sakes they should stay in Vancouver. Just to do our part, we should try to do everything we can to get them to sign.

Write them haikus. If they were in Swedish and scented to give a little something extra that would be even better.

Send them for massages at the Swedish Touch Massage parlour. Offer to drive the bus. Also, spring a surprise stop at IKEA for meatballs and affordable furniture. If you are at all mechanical offer to put their newly purchased affordable furniture together for them.

Buy apples and carrots for their racehorses. Oh and suger cubes. Horses love that shit.

Wash their volvos.

- The poor little Moosies were eliminated last night. Don’t worry little babies, you’re still totally rad and got further than your parent team did by a long shot. Heh. There’s always next year. Those Bears will…go into hibernation next time.

- Rumour on the street is that the Canucks have signed Sergei Shirokov and he may be coming over for training camp in the fall. Oooooh. We haven’t had a Russian in a while. I always love when the Canucks get more international. This hasn’t been confirmed so we’ll just have to wait and see but there could be some fun competition at camp. Cody Hodgson will be putting shaving cream in Michael Grabner’s skates and Grabby will be shrinking Sergei Shirokov’s sweater. Heh.

- I’m going to be at the draft in Montreal and it will be an epically good time. There will be tons of cooing over the Canucks draft picks and lots of schenanigans around Montreal. If you hear of a girl getting arrested for dancing on a table with underage defence draft picks, it’s most likely me. Send bail money if you’re so inclined.

- There’s only 110 days until the regular season starts! The Canucks will be making us cry and hit the bottle in no time at all.

Jun 122009
 

I started writing this post to point out the Canucks’ God-awful drafting history – after all, not one single Canucks draft pick since 2006 has suited up for the team yet – but with Michael Grabner and Cody Hodgson seemingly having taken further steps in their development this season and news that 2006 6th round draft pick Sergei Shirokov has agreed to a deal in principle this week to come to North America, I had to give pause and revisit what I wanted to say.

While Dave Nonis and Mike Gillis have made decent strides in selecting NHL-caliber players in recent years, the Canucks obviously aren’t on par with the Detroits and New Jerseys of the drafting world. To be sure, the team had ten of their own draft picks play for them last season (Ohlund, Sedins, Bieksa, Kesler, Schneider, Edler, Brown, Hansen and Raymond), including six from the 2003-2005 drafts (Kesler, Schneider, Edler, Brown, Hansen and Raymond). If (when) Hodgson, Grabner and Shirokov somehow make the team, obviously the list of homegrown talent becomes more impressive.

I can’t remember the last time the Canucks drafted this well for consecutive years. And I can’t remember the last time they had this many of their own draft picks play for them – and play key roles too. Too often, the Canucks have had drafts like the 2000 and 2002 ones that don’t produce regular NHL players. (The jury is still out on the 2007 draft.)

Who knows? Maybe the team has indeed turned a corner in this regard. If they can continue to draft – and develop – well, then it bodes well for them in this salary cap world. With Mike Gillis putting in additional resources towards scouting and player development, the hope is that they can.

Jun 112009
 

A couple of days ago, GM Mike Gillis went on The Pipeline Show and indicated that the Canucks were close to signing one its three Russian prospects.

The Russian players that were mentioned (Sergei Shirokov, Ilya Kablukov and Kiril Koltsov)… The one that we have and I won’t mention his name – the number one prospect in that group – we’re very close to signing and bringing over.

Yesterday, a rumor surfaced that the Canucks had indeed signed Sergei Shirokov. The team hasn’t confirmed this yet so I suppose we’ll cross our fingers and wait until they do.

The Canucks drafted Shirokov in the 6th round in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft – this pick was the one that was packaged with Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek (who’s since turned into Shane O’Brien) when they came over from Florida. If Shirokov does come over, I’m sure he’ll be given every opporturnity – along with Michael Grabner – to make the big club and be the first Canucks draft picks from the 2006 draft to suit up for them.

When the Canucks drafted Shirokov, they considered him a late round steal. From CDC:

Shirokov was a late-round steal. He possesses amazing vision, smarts, and playmaking ability, and can improve the play of everyone around him. He’s had great showings at international tournaments and is a leader on his Men’s team as one of the youngest on the roster. He is one of the most NHL-ready prospects in Russia, but is still a year away at least before transferring. He has the ability and skill-package to be a top-six forward, if he chooses to come over to North America.

Three years later, Hockey’s Future seems to agree.

Statistically, Shirokov just finished his best season. Playing in the KHL, he led his CSKA team in goals (17) and points (40) in 56 games; his 40 points were also good for 23rd overall in the league. (To add some context, Sergey Mozyakin led the league with 76 points in 56 GP; Jaromir Jagr had 53 points in 55 GP; Alexander Radulov had 48 points in 52 GP; and Alexei Yashin had 47 points in 56 GP.) For what it’s worth, russianprospects.com currently considers Shirokov as one of the best Russian prospects around.

That Luongo deal just keeps getting better, eh?

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