VANCOUVER - A new chapter in the Vancouver Canucks' goaltending saga is about to unfold at the NHL club's training camp.
But this one is not specifically about Roberto Luongo or another crease crusader. Instead, it involves rookie centre Bo Horvat, the club's top pick in this year's NHL draft.
Horvat will get a chance to make an impression Friday as the Canucks hold their first on-ice workouts after on-ice testing Thursday at UBC and off-ice evalutions on Wednesday at Rogers Arena.
Horvat, an 18-year-old Rodney, Ont., native, was selected with the ninth overall pick that the Canucks acquired in a trade from the New Jersey Devils for goaltender Cory Schneider. But Horvat is trying not to get caught up in the hype surrounding the deal, which resulted after Schneider was expected to remain as No. 1 and Luongo anticipated for more than a year that he would be dealt.
Horvat's future will determine the return on the Schneider trade. But, aside from the pleasure of being wanted in a high-profile trade, the rookie tries not to think too much about the deal.
"It's always going to be in the back of your mind, it's always going to be brought up everywhere," said Horvat, who had 33 goals and 28 assists with the London Knights of the OHL last season.
"But I just try to be positive about it."
The six-foot 206-pound centre is among few prospects expected to merit serious consideration for permanent NHL employment with Vancouver's veteran-laden club.
"I just want to play the best I can," said Horvat. "You always want to take that spot. You always want to make the team in your first year, but whatever happens, happens. It's a win-win, I think, just for me. I've got the Memorial Cup to fall back on."
Horvat's junior club, the London Knights will host the Canadian major junior championship tournament. He is also a candidate for Canada's entry at the world junior championships during the Christmas holidays.
If Horvat does not crack the Canucks lineup, he must return to junior because he is too young to play in the minors under the terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. But a roster opening to shoot for after fourth-line centre Max Lapierre left the Canucks via free agency and the third line middle spot is in flux as Jordan Schroeder attempts to come back from off-season shoulder surgery.
"I just try not to think about it too much," he said. "I just try to go out there and play my game; and whatever happens, happens. Obviously, I know that there's a spot open. But you just keep that in the back of your mind and go out there and play your game and show them what you can do."
Horvat made his first audition before new coach John Tortorella in the on-ice tests. Tortorella deployed short skating tests that mirror shifts in a game.
The coach, who has pledged to try and integrate young players into the lineup, said he is looking forward to seeing Horvat in action.
The difficult time tests offered an early idea of the arduous workouts that Canucks rookies and veterans will face in coming days.
"It was a pretty good (bag skate)—that's for sure," said Horvat. "But it was good to get it over with, and I'm glad I did it."
He fared well in a group with veterans Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Zack Kassian.
"You've got the Sedins trailing you, and they're pushing the pace, and Kass was out there in my group, too," he said. "It was not always like that back in junior."
It was not like that at a recent prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C., either where Horvat scored on his second shift in the tournament that included Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks draft picks and farmhands as well as free agent hopefuls on tryouts with the clubs.
Tortorella was not in Penticton, so Horvat's first real test before the new bench boss will occur in a scrimmage Friday. Horvat just wants to play his best as pre-season games approach, but realizes his best will have to be better than it was in Penticton.
"You're up against men now and you're up against a lot of veterans now who have been there and played in the league and been through it all," he said. "So it's definitely going to be a lot tougher, but I'm looking forward to getting going."
Notes_Tortorella indicated it was too soon to get an impression of Horvat, but Hunter Shinkaruk, the club's other first-round pick (24th overall), piqued his interest with his skating ability. ... Goaltenders worked out separately with goaltending coach Roland Melanson and consultant Dan Cloutier while other position players went through their tests.
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