Pavel Bure fodder Grand Pooba of Player Development Dave Gagner was on the TEAM1040 earlier talking about - who else? - the kids. His comments should warm your heart when it comes to Grabner, Hodgson and even Schroeder. But the much maligned Patrick White is still very well maligned.
First up, Grabner who's going to have himself a third-straight crucial training camp from the sounds of it:
Michael Grabner is very close. He's a guy that can really create a lot from nothing - He's got great speed and a good shot. It's the smaller things in the tighter areas that are things he's had to work on, and he's improving in those areas. He will play in the NHL, it's just trying to get him on a regular basis.
Next up, the golden one, the Wellwood replacement, the great CoHo. Is he ready for the NHL Mr. Gagner?
In my opinion, he is. He's proven everything he can at the Canadian hockey league level - Player of the year. It was the type of year that he was able to experience everything, which is very unique. At the World Junior Championships, he led that in scoring and played a big part in a gold-medal win. At the end of the season, he helped get his team in the OHL final and after that played in the Calder Cup final (with Manitoba). In terms of the experience he gained this year, we couldn't have asked for anything more.
Go ahead and squeeeee. You've earned it.
Now what about the hot-headed Schroeder and his summer training?
He's a lot closer than many of the players selected in front of him are...He could play this year (with the Canucks), probably. It's hard to say the opportunity he'll get, but there's players he's played against and outplayed that are going to be in the NHL next year. So, I don't see why that's such a far stretch.
Can you imagine a scenario where all four of the top prospects - Hodgson, Grabner, Schroeder and Schneider - suit up alongside Luongo, the Sedins, Samuelsson, Kesler and Burrows? Definitely a million to one shot, but fun food for thought nonetheless.
However, it's not all good news on the farm as the Nonis gift that keeps on giving in Patrick White is still struggling:
"He just has to stay focussed [sic] on improving every day and getting better every day. Getting stronger, faster, more skill, and being determined to make those small steps. I mean, it's not going to happen overnight, but if he's determined he can re-invent himself and get something out of his career because he was rated in the first round, he was selected in the first round, so a lot of people saw that skill level in Patrick. So, he's got it in him. He's just got to nurture it and get it out of himself."
Yikes. Though one would hope the possibility of having Schroeder play alongside him in the NCAA next year may help push him towards the improvements he needs.
No ending on a downer though. Let's wash that Patrick White tequila taste out of our mouth with the crisp, cool burst of lime that comes from none other than Mario Bliznak:
I don’t want to speak for anyone else but I don’t think as a group we thought he’d be able to compete in the American Hockey League in his first year out of junior, if ever...He unequivocally proved me wrong and showed some promise that he may be able to compete at the next level. He was the most pleasant surprise on our team
That quote comes from Moose GM Craig Heisinger on Bliznak's play last year. To be the most pleasant surprise on a team that was full of surprises across the board is damned impressive. Bliznak hasn't had a sniff at the NHL level yet. Could that be changing now too?
Check out more of the Bliznak interview at canucks.com and head on over to the TEAM1040 for some .mp3's of the Gagner interview. But just hearing the positive news has me ready for camp to see what these guys got. After a year of waiting on Sundin, the youth movement is a nice change of pace.