I get the feeling we're going to be hearing a lot from Danila Klimovich this season.
After taking on his first English-language interview in Penticton last Saturday, he also spoke to the media after a strong outing in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets' prospects. Then on Monday, he was tasked with announcing the Canucks' starting lineup ahead of their 5-2 tournament-ending loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Even over the brief window of this tournament, it seems like Klimovich's game also showed progress. His thread-the-needle pass to set up linemate Tristen Nielsen against Winnipeg was arguably his highlight of the weekend, and he seemed to impress coach Jeremy Colliton with a workrate that dialled up as he went along.
Speaking of workrate, Nielsen earned himself plenty of fans over the weekend with his high-energy playing style. He's not a big guy, generously listed at 5'10". But the 22-year-old native of Fort St. John, B.C. is looking like he was a good find by Ryan Johnson and the scouting staff when they put an emphasis on bringing in local talent as they stocked the roster of the Abbotsford Canucks last season.
Last year, Nielsen had just 11 points and 17 penalty minutes in 41 games with Abbotsford. He suffered an upper-body injury in early April, which kept him out of the playoffs.
We could see him in a bigger role with the Baby Canucks this season but keep in mind, there are more players earmarked for Abbotsford than just the ones we saw in Penticton this weekend.
Up front, leading scorer Sheldon Rempal has moved on to the Vegas organization and Nic Petan signed with the Minnesota Wild. But 27-year-old Sheldon Dries, Phil di Giuseppe and John Stevens are all likely to be returning, as is 30-year-old Justin Dowling. Dowling is on a one-way NHL contract while Dries, di Giuseppe and Stevens are all on two-way deals.
Nielsen is now in the second year of his AHL contract — and made the most of his opportunity to strut his stuff in front of the full complement of Canucks staff and management in Penticton.
A number of those decision makers, including Bruce Boudreau, were back in the lower mainland on Monday, in time for the annual Jake Milford golf tournament.
The mood was light around the players — with bonus points to Thatcher Demko for his dry chop-busting delivery.
As training camp opened year ago, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson were nowhere to be found as they waited for their new contracts to be finalized. Both were front and centre in Surrey on Monday — with big hopes for this season.
After setting a new franchise record for points by a defenseman last season, Hughes spent his summer....working to improve his offense.
At the player media tour in Vegas last week, Hughes told Josh Clipperton from The Canadian Press
that he's open to bouncing back and forth between the left and right sides — even in the same game.
"I'll play left or right, it doesn't matter," he said, adding that he'll have a "really good partner" in Luke Schenn if he's on the left side.
On the right — where he did spend some time while he was with the U.S. National Team Development Program — "There's more opportunities for me on the right side to get my feet moving at the [offensive-zone] blue line," he said. "I find myself on the left side getting stationary sometimes.
His stick position could also be advantageous.
"I'm on my forehand on the [right] side and I can backwards skate and take it down the wall," he explained. "If a pass comes across, I can just cut in on my forehand and shoot. On the [left] side, I have to put it on my backhand and open up — I don't really have many options.
I expect to see Hughes on the right, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson as his partner, as training camp begins.
And after initially announcing just a two-day training camp at Whistler this weekend, the Canucks sent out a revised schedule to their fans on Monday.
Training sessions at Meadow Park Sports Centre will run from Thursday to Saturday, starting daily at 9:15 a.m. and with scrimmages set for 11:40 a.m. during each session. Training camp is open to the public, and there's a "meet the players" opportunity scheduled for the end of Day 3, at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
From there, of course, it's straight into the fire. The first two preseason games of the year will be played Sunday — split-squad affairs against the Calgary Flames, with puck drop at 4 p.m. PT at Rogers Arena and 5 p.m. PT at the Saddledome.