After one of the most interesting pre seasons in recent memory for the Vancouver Canucks, there now seems to be more questions surrounding the team than before exhibition play started.
A main focal point heading into preseason action this year was the vacancy of the 3rd line center position. Many thought 2012 first rounder Brendan Gaunce was poised and ready, with 2013 first rounder Bo Horvat having an outside chance depending on his play. After 6 exhibition games, Breandan Gaunce has been sent down to Utica of the AHL, and while Bo is still around it has become evident he still needs another year in London of the OHL, and why not, they are hosting the Memorial Cup.
Free agent signing Brad Richardson will best be suited as the 4th line C, which brings me to the suprise of camp and the play of Mike Santorelli. Santorelli has stepped up and made the most of his opportunity putting up 3 goals an adding 1 assist in his 5 games of action trying out for a bottom six role with the club. Stats aside it was his motivation and work ethic that has launched Santorelli up the canucks depth chart. On the first day of camp Canuck players were put through some intense fitness testing which saw one challenge that players were to try and run 2 miles in under 12 minutes.
Only 3 players were able to do so, Henrik and Daniel Sedin coming in 2nd and 3rd naturally, and Mike Santorelli with the best time proved he had been working like a mad man during the offseason, ”He came here to make a hockey club” coach Tortarella noted in a post game media scrum. His work ethic carried over onto the ice as in the first few games Santorelli was arguably Vancouvers best player, and coach John Tortarella took notice leaning on Santorelli in all key situations, PP, PK, and even on Defense for a few shifts in a game where Vancouver sustained multiple injuries on the back end. An X factor that I believe should not be overlooked as well is the fact that Mike Santorelli is notoriously clutch in shootouts. Santorelli has an extremely impressive shootout record scoring 10 times in 19 attemtps.
It is very rare to find a player with over 50% scoring percentage in shootous, something the Canucks desperately need this year as they will be playing tougher competition in their new division. Gone are the days of coasting to division titles as the big battle ready teams in California (LA, Anaheim, and San Jose) pose serious threates to Vancouver which will no doubt result in a lot of 1 goal games, which will prove to be even more important than ever for Vancouver to do better in shootouts or it could mean the difference of missing the plyoffs or getting in when its all said and done. Having personally played against Santorelli I can tell you his offense has gotten him to where he is now, as he possesses a true sniper mentality having a knack for finding the back of the net with his quick and accurate shot.
However he has had to reinvent himself a bit to remain in the show, and has so far seemed to display a strong desire to do whatever it takes even if it means taking a lesser role. There is a strong chance Santorelli has won over Vancouvers coaching staff with his strong 2 way play and his versatility will have helped him land a roster spot with the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks. Santorelli does have a 20 goal season under his belt form his Florida days, and guess who his linemate was that season…none other than current Canucks David Booth.
Perhaps the two reignite the chemistry they once had as Panthers providing some depth scoring for Vancouver. And Oh yeah, did I mention Mike Santorelli is a local kid?! Being from Vancouver never hurts your chances as well. All that being said those are my reasons as to why Mike Santorelli is the best fit for the 3rd line C duties.