Back in the day, when Canucks hockey pretty much ruled my life, I remember sitting around with the regular group of buddies, and being so excited when the Canuck drafted Pavel Bure. My friends and I followed every detail of the story. From anxiously awaiting word from the NHL after other teams filed a protest of our pick claiming Bure was ineligible, to the politics of getting him here. The first night he stepped on the ice for the Canucks is one of my most vivid Canucks memories. As we all know, Bure came as advertised and to this day is the most talented player that has ever worn a Canucks uniform, in my opinion.
There’s a new Russian hope at training camp this year and after a few training camp sessions and a nice two goal performance against what was basically a roster of AHL players and juniors, Sergei Shirokov is turning a lot of heads. There are even fans comparing him to the “Russian Rocket”.
Now that I’m a bit older, I’m excited by Shirokov too, but not enough to make comparisons like that.
The Canucks drafted Shirokov 163rd overall in 2006, and this past summer signed the talented Russian after he decided to forgo more guaranteed money in with CSKA Moscow to pursue and NHL career with the Canucks. Shirokov wanted to play so badly in the NHL he filed a lawsuit against his Russian team when they decided to try an block him from leaving.
“At the end of the day, this kid said: ‘I want to play in the National Hockey League and I’m prepared to do whatever I have to,’” Canuck assistant general manager Laurence Gilman said. “He’s on an entry-level, two-way contract. He understands he has to compete for a spot and if he’s unable to make our team, he’ll play for our minor-league team.”
That determination is admirable, and by all reports Shirokov is putting his talents on display so far in camp, but do we need to heap the pressure of being the next Bure on him? Is that even fair? How about we just look forward to what the first Shirokov can do?
Shirokov is a smallish player, listed at 5’10”, 176 pounds. He had 17 goals and 41 points in 56 games last season in the KHL. There are many who claim he’s played against men for a couple years now in Russia, and that he should be able to adjust to the pace and grind of the NHL quickly, however not many rookies can accomplish that. The NHL plays twice as many games as the KHL, not including playoffs, and it hosts the best players in the world. Shirokov, if he makes the team, is likely going to find that a big adjustment.
Then there is the culture.
His english is spotty at best, and there aren’t any other Russian players on the roster and the adjustment will be massive.
There is no doubt that Shirokov possesses the talent and determination to play in the NHL. There is also no doubt his scoring talents would be a welcome addition to the Canucks offensive depth and trhe club and it’s fans would love nothing better for him to jump right in and bring fans out of their seats.
So start thinking of nicknames and order your Shirokov jersey. Just don’t be surprised if the transition from promising prospect to Canucks superstar take a little longer than a few training camp sessions and a minor league exhibition game.