By Ben Kuzma
September 20, 2016
Andrey Pedan has a message for Willie Desjardins.
“I got a lot stronger for sure this summer and I’ll be way better in my D-zone with the puck,” the towering Vancouver Canucks defenceman predicted Tuesday following an informal team skate at Rogers Arena. “I also played a lot of minutes in Utica last year and that gave me a lot of confidence.”
If all that comes to fruition in the pre-season, the 23-year-old Lithuanian-born defender will not only earn trust from a coach who questioned his training-camp attitude a year ago, it will make the battle for the No. 8 position on the back-end depth chart with Alex Biega more intriguing. General manager Jim Benning wants to carry eight defencemen as injury insurance and the decision could be based on performance, potential, pay, personality and the possibility of losing either player on waivers.
A year ago, the Canucks tried to trade defensive prospect Frank Corrado after rookie Ben Hutton’s strong camp and pre-season showing. They rolled the waiver dice on the 22-year-old Corrado, who was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canucks signed Biega as a free agent in 2013 and a year later gave up a third-round pick to the New York Islanders to acquire Pedan. If they’re worried about losing an asset through waivers and the optics of surrendering that 2016 pick, then Pedan could have a leg up. But he doesn’t see it that way. Even after 13 NHL games and seven goals and 14 assists in 45 AHL games with the Comets last season, he has yet to show his best.
“Some guys are skilled, but some can also play a physical game and I think for me, it’s one thing I can do better than other guys,” said Pedan, who trained in Moscow in the off-season. “I don’t want to be known as a fighter, but I can take care of myself and I don’t think about waivers or whatever, but I think it will be a tougher decision for them (Canucks).
“I’m really excited for this year and I know anything can happen if you play solid. I came to North America because I like this type of hockey. I don’t like the big rinks. It’s slow and you can take a nap between shifts. I like when it’s intense and the boys are going at it. Some (Russian) guys get some injuries and want to take it easy on their bodies and go back there (KHL) and make some money.
“I’m ready to make the NHL.”