Canucks training camp day one: Boudreau sets his lines

News and notes from the first day of Vancouver Canucks training camp.

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WHISTLER — They didn’t score in the scrimmage, but the line of Elias Pettersson centering new Russian wingers Andrey Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev was very effective in the mid-day scrimmage on the first day of Vancouver Canucks training camp.

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Mikheyev’s speed is obvious, while Kuzmenko’s smart play in close quarters stands a good chance of creating even more space for Pettersson in which to work.

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“He’s so smart a guy, and I hope we can use our speed,” Mikheyev said of skating with Pettersson.

“We just helped each other and then today we started the work. Super great,” he said of learning his new team’s systems of play.

Will he and Kuzmenko make Pettersson learn Russian?

“Probably,” he said, with a big smile. “We’ll try, but maybe we need Swedish.”

Russian players Andrey Kuzmenko (left) and Ilya Mikheyev (right) at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday.  (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
Russian players Andrey Kuzmenko (left) and Ilya Mikheyev (right) at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Kuzmenko managed well through his first English-language media session. He spoke alongside Mikheyev, who served as a translator from time to time.

If they prove to be a trio when the season starts, he thinks they’ll gel quickly.

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“Very smart player with me and Ilya. And Pettersson is a very good attack forward.”

The NHL game may prove to be a bit quicker than what he was used to in the KHL, but he’s not worried, Kuzmenko said.

“I think hockey is a very simple game,” he said. “Adaptation with me is every day, every game is better, better, better, better.”

He also said he was excited to play on the smaller NHL ice surface. He thought it would suit his instinct to play in traffic and how quickly you’re at the net. On the bigger ice of the KHL, winning a puck battle doesn’t open up an immediate scoring chance.

“I like it small because when you win one on one in the corner, you go to shoot,” he said.

On the ice at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday.  (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
On the ice at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Mikheyev is a new teammate for Kuzmenko as well. Mikheyev said he remembered skating a few shifts with Kuzmenko for the Russian national team several years ago.

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“I don’t remember,” Kuzmenko said, drawing laughs, as a counter.

Pettersson said he enjoyed skating with the Russians, and said one of his good friends back home in Sweden is Russian, so he knows some of the language.

“Only the bad words,” he joked.

He believed they have great potential as a line.

“Mikheyev’s super fast. He opens up space for us and Kuzmenko, maybe we’re kind of similar in the way we play,” Pettersson said.

Maybe the perfect combination of talents? “That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I had a talk with the coaches and they want to try it out. And I’m all up for it,” he added.

Pettersson was caught defensively in the scrimmage, with Vincent Arseneau opening the scoring for the opposing team.

“Defence, you can learn. I think offense it’s like, it just happens. I mean, all three of us are skilled. Today, I think on the first goal I was a little too excited for a breakaway. But it’s just small details like that you can learn and I’m not too worried about that. I know what we’re capable of.”

In the scrimmage, Cole Shepard also scored for Group C, which added an empty netter to beat Pettersson’s Group B 3-0.

Rookie Canucks winger Andrey Kuzmenko is all smiles on the bench during the first day of Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday.
Rookie Canucks winger Andrey Kuzmenko is all smiles on the bench during the first day of Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Learning the place

Kuzmenko said he was loving Vancouver so far. He’s a big fan of the outdoors. And he’s living in the Aquilini-owned rental tower next to Rogers Arena and has already caught a number of concerts.

“The mountains, the oceans, the forest, I like,” he said.

He’s also been to a Whitecaps game.

“Why not? It’s only 100 meters to the soccer stadium.”

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Brisk sessions

The first group on the ice worked briskly through a series of drills.

A new year, a fresh vibe.

And a new coach who is noted for colorful on-ice feedback.

Tanner Pearson said even a decade into his professional career, the beginning of a new season remains exciting.

“You always have butterflies, right? Start of a new season. You know, wide awake at six o’clock this morning. And you get down here, everyone’s kind of the same way,” he said.

Brock Boeser at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday.  (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
Brock Boeser at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Boeser wants 30

Brock Boeser said this year is a fresh start mentally. Last year was a real drain. His father’s failing health weighed on him and the strain his father’s failing health had on his mother was doubly difficult.

“With my dad’s passing, there’s just not as much to worry about. So I can really focus on hockey,” he said.

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And yes, he knows 30 goals is the target.

“This is the year,” he said.

Line watching

While Boeser skated on a line with JT Miller and Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat centered Vasily Podkolzin and Connor Garland. That’s three lines with plenty of potential to score.

The apparent fourth line, at least for now, features two other summer signings: Dakota Joshua and Curtis Lazar joining Jason Dickinson.

That left Nils Höglander as the early man left out. The little Swede, who is coming off groin surgery, was his usual peppery self in the scrimmage, but was skating with two Swedes who are almost certainly destined for AHL Abbotsford in Nils Åman and Linus Karlsson.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

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