New-look Canucks wrap up training camp in Whistler 

Regular season starts Oct. 8

click to enlarge Going for goal
  • Going for goal

After three days of on-ice workouts and one intrasquad scrimmage, the Vancouver Canucks wrapped up their training camp at Meadow Park Sports Centre in Whistler earlier this week.

But as fans that attended the on-ice sessions might have noticed, it was a new-look team compared to the one that missed the playoffs in 2013/14.

"I think it's a different team. This is the most turnover I've seen since I've been here, so I think it's exciting," said veteran left-winger Daniel Sedin.

"(There are) a lot of new faces, and they're going to make us a deeper team, and that's going to win us games."

One of those new faces was right-winger Radim Vrbata, who signed with the Canucks on July 3.

Vrbata spent much of the camp paired with Sedin and brother Henrik as the team's first line.

"He's such a good player," Sedin said.

"We've watched him playing in Phoenix (and) really like how he plays the game, so it's exciting."

Having camp away from the familiarity of Vancouver gave the team a chance to bond, Sedin said.

"That's one thing maybe we've been missing the last few years, where we stayed in Vancouver for camp," he said.

"You always talk about going for dinners and stuff, but a lot of guys have families and so you tend to go home after practice and spend time with your family, but up here you go golfing, you have dinners, and I think it brings the group together."

Head coach Willie Desjardins — another new face in the Canucks dressing room — liked what he saw from his new top line of Sedin-Sedin-Vrbata.

"They have been good," Desjardins said.

"You have to get into the other calibre of competition before you can tell, but they've all got skill and they're all smart players, so, so far it's been good."

Also new to this year's camp was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, there was no goalie controversy surrounding the team's No. 1 netminder.

The signing of veteran goaltender Ryan Miller on July 1 put an end to the long-running questions surrounding the position.

"The last few years that's always been kind of the story coming into camp," Sedin said.

"Who's going to play, who's going to be here... Ryan coming in, he's such a good guy, calm guy, and it brings calmness to the situation."

Miller, calm as ever, said he hopes to live up to his new teammates' expectations.

"It helps having those kind of guys around me where their expectations are high, and they're super talented," Miller said.

"It makes you want to play to a high level and earn their respect and earn the chance to play behind them every night."

Miller was traded to the St. Louis Blues from the Buffalo Sabres late last season.

After finishing third overall in the Western Conference in 2014, the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The first-round exit only serves as motivation for the 34-year-old Miller.

"Getting back to the playoffs and challenging and pushing and ultimately winning the Stanley Cup is my goal, and I want to do that before I say it's a career," Miller said.

"I'm getting down to the point where I really have to start making these seasons count, and you look back on your experiences and try and draw from that."

While the veterans are always bound to take much of the headlines, training camp also offers the opportunity for younger players to make a name for themselves.

With the biggest names sitting out for Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage, the way was clear for some Canucks prospects to get noticed.

And surprisingly, the biggest splash may have come from undrafted and unsigned 21-year-old Curtis Valk, who scored two goals to help Team Quinn to a 5-4 shootout win over Team Kurtenbach in Sunday's scrimmage.

"He scored in junior," Desjardins said.

"He's kind of a guy we didn't know a lot about coming in, but he's proved (himself at the Canucks YoungStars Classic) and he was real good again today."

After each on-ice session, the Canucks greeted fans waiting behind the rink to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

"It's cool. It's nice to see them up close and personal like that," said Dale Schinnan, who drove up from Squamish with his son to check out camp.

"It's awesome. This is my first time doing the training camp."

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden may have them beat, however.

The mayor was presented with a jersey signed by every player at camp prior to dropping the ceremonial puck for Sunday's scrimmage.

"Whistler just loves hockey and loves the Canucks, and you can see from the crowd — it's a sellout, even though you didn't have to pay to get in," Wilhelm-Morden said with a laugh.

"I'm just really, really thrilled that they chose to come back in 2014 for their training camp here in Whistler again."

The Canucks kick off the regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 8 on the road against the Calgary Flames.

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