Vancouver Giants look for unsung hero to step up 0
Pavlo Padakin of the Calgary Hitmen is sandwiched between Reid Zalitach and goalie Payton Lee of the Vancouver Giants in Western Hockey League action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta. on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. The Hitmen won 5-4. (Lyle Aspinall/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency)
Scott Bonner is confident this season won't be like the last.
With the way the Vancouver Giants finished their 2012-13 campaign, the odds, more or less, are in their favour of ending up higher in the standings this time around — even competing for a playoff spot. And the team's general manager feels his young squad has what it takes to get there.
"When you finish in last place, making the playoffs is a leap," Bonner said of his team's disappointing season that ended with a 21-49-2 record. "It's tough making the playoffs with younger players, but if we do it properly … that's what our goal would be.
"We've always prided ourselves of being one of the hardest-working teams."
Having said that, Bonner isn't oblivious to what area needs the most improving as the Giants begin their 13th season in the Western Hockey League Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum against the Victoria Royals. He lauds his defence, calling it "one of the top in the conference," but secondary scoring could again be an issue.
If the G-Men hope to reach the playoffs — after missing for the first time in 11 years last season — they will most likely need to take a page out of their own history books and have several utility players bring their game to a whole other level.
"We're at a point where some of our unsung heroes have to step up and become prominent players now if we are to make a step," he said. "We're fortunate over our time here in Vancouver that seems to have happened along the way, with the J.D. Watts, the Milan Lucics, the Spencer Machaceks. There's always been a guy that goes from 10 to 30 goals, and we're going to need that to happen."
Then again, the trade route is also a viable option if goals don't come.
"If I was pinpointing one area that I have to try to acquire some talent, it would be to at least find one more guy, if not two, that can score," said Bonner, the team's GM since they joined the league.
"We're going to struggle at times to score goals and we know that heading in until somebody else steps up. We're going to rely heavily on the D, and obviously health threw a real wrench at us last year."
Four players to watch:
Jackson Houck #27, Cain Franson #12
Bonner said these are the two guys the team is "really going to lean on." The pair was one-two in scoring for Vancouver last season, with the 18-year-old Houck finishing first with 23 goals and 57 points. Franson takes up one of the over-ager spots and will look to improve on his 54-point showing last season.
"If we are to score goals, it's going to be heavily relied on those two guys," Bonner said.
Andreas Eder #20
Selected in the 2013 CHL import draft, the German forward will be a "sleeper," according to Bonner. The 17-year-old, who is also expected to play for his country at the World Juniors tournament, is one of the team's bigger forwards at 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds.
"He's a strong centreman, which we've lacked for a number of years," Bonner said. "We're hoping he's sort of the complementary guy to those two high-end guys."
Arvin Atwal #6
The Delta, B.C., native enters his NHL draft year and, based on early rankings, could go in the first three rounds. The defenceman played just 30 games last season but is expected to have a bigger role this year.
"He plays with bite," Bonner said. "We'd love for him to add to that top four. We know that Mason Geertsen, Brett Kulak, and if Dalton Thrower is back (currently in the Montreal Canadiens system), that's our top four. He's the guy NHL teams are coming to watch."