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Fun with Canucks Russians Day One – Camp Notes

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On VHN’s initial short list of players to watch at Canucks training camp we included new Russian import Andrei Kuzmenko. The 26-year-old forward spent the last eight seasons in his native country’s KHL, playing four years in Moscow and then four more in St. Petersburg.

Moving from the larger Olympic ice surface to the tighter NHL sheet, 15-feet narrower, didn’t appear to be a problem on Thursday.

“I like the smaller area,” Kuzmenko said with the help of his interpreter sidekick and three-season NHL’er Ilya Mikheyev. “In KHL it is bigger, I like the small because you win one-on-one in corner, you go to shoot, go to goal in front.”

Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said earlier in the week that the thing he’d be looking for from Kuzmenko was his ability to get to those dirty areas, to battle for pucks and to deal with the speed. It appears the 26-year-old had no trouble answering those questions, and of course actions speak louder than words.

The two Russians skated with Swedish centre Elias Pettersson, the new version of a ‘Baltic Line’. ‘Petey’ had brief stints with fellow Swede Nils Höglander and Russian Vasily Podkolzin last season.

“His level of play is high, yes,” Mikheyev said of ‘Petey’. “He’s a smart guy. I have speed, he can use me and it’s good chemistry for us, and maybe I can help add for this line, speed.”

Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev.

Team white prevailed over team blue in the scrimmage 3-0. Youngsters Vince Arseneau, who played prominently in the informal practice sessions in Burnaby over the last couple of weeks, and linemate Cole Shepard each scored a goal. Veteran winger Conor Garland added an empty netter.

The battle of the day came in front of the blue net with Garland getting into it with lanky, left-shot defenceman Wyatt Kalynuk for position. Jabs, elbows, hearty cross checks continued back-and-forth for a solid twenty seconds before Garland tore himself lose and left the zone following a clear. The Canucks signed the 25-year-old Kalynuk to a one year, two-way contract in July.

Defenceman Danny Dekeyser, a pro-try out (PTO) signee, had a glorious opportunity to start camp out on a high note during the first three minutes of the scrimmage, but missed a completely wide open net from in close after a solid effort to create a 2-on-1 down low. The 32-year-old lefty D-man spent the last decade with his hometown Detroit Red Wings organization.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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