VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks got a glimpse of their future on Tuesday night.
Bo Horvat scored the winner and Hunter Shinkaruk added a goal and an assist as the Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in a split-squad game that kicked off the pre-season for both clubs.
Members of the Canucks’ 2013 draft class — Horvat was taken ninth overall with the pick acquired in the Cory Schneider trade with the New Jersey Devils, while Shinkaruk was selected 15 spots later — the 19-year-olds are in a battle for a job with the Canucks, and each showed a willingness to go to the dirty areas on the ice on their goals.
“I try to go to the net as much as I can. It was definitely nice to get that one,” said Horvat, who banged home his goal at 11:33 of the third. “You always want to help your team offensively. I’ve been getting points all my life. To finally get on the board and finally score a goal in NHL pre-season is definitely special and something I won’t forget.”
Shinkaruk, meanwhile, also swatted home a loose puck to give Vancouver a brief 2-1 lead late in the second.
“You’ve just got to play your game. At the end of the day it’s going to be what it’s going to be. I’m just trying to come in here every day and prove to the brass that I can play,” said Shinkaruk. “That’s what I feel I made a step towards tonight.
“This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for a 19-year-old and I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
And with good reason.
Shinkaruk missed most of last season after undergoing hip surgery, but has fully recovered to try to make a splash with the Canucks at his second training camp.
“It was really nice mentally for me. I knew that I felt really good coming into the game,” he said. “There was a lot that I had to go through, a lot that my family had to go through, last year. I felt good tonight.”
Canucks assistant coach Doug Lidster said both Horvat and Shinkaruk settled into the game after some early nerves.
“They’re getting stronger every day, and that’s what you would expect from a young guy,” he said. “I thought that as the game wore on they got a little bit more comfortable out there and they showed what they’re capable of.”
Jordan Subban gave the Canucks an early lead, while Linden Vey — who like Horvat and Shinkaruk is in a fight for a forward spot with the Canucks after coming over in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in June — added an empty-net goal with under a minute to go after chipping in with two assists.
“You can’t worry about offence. I think when you’re playing well things like that happen,” said the 23-year-old. “You don’t go into a game worrying about points or goals or anything like that. You want to just go out there and play a solid game.”
Vey would appear to be ahead of Horvat and Shinkaruk in the pecking order, and Lidster said the Canucks want a battle for spots.
“He had a good game tonight and if he continues to do that, that’s certainly going to be good for him,” he said. “We want competition on the team. We want guys to step up and play hard and make tough decisions and he did that tonight.”
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said it’s exciting to see players battle for spots in training camp.
“It’s great. I think every year they come in and they keep getting better,” he said. “A lot of times in camp there’s talk about one guy making the team. This year there’s a lot of guys that can come in and make a difference for us.”
Another storyline for the Canucks was Radim Vrbata playing his first game with Henrik and Daniel Sedin on the top line. The trio had some chances and looked dangerous as they continue to try to develop chemistry.
“First game after a long time for everybody — it’s always tough,” said Vrbata, who signed a two-year deal in the off-season. “I thought we had some good shifts and some good looks on the power play. Unfortunately nothing went in but I think we can build from here.”
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist for San Jose, while Brent Burns also scored as the Sharks outshot the Canucks 34-20.
Eddie Lack started for Vancouver and stopped all 16 shots he faced before being replaced midway through the second by Joe Cannata, who also finished with 16 saves.
Alex Stalock made 15 stops for San Jose.
Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was not in Vancouver for Tuesday’s game and instead travelled to Stockton, Calif., for the other split-squad game between the two clubs, which San Jose took 5-2.
The 6 p.m. local time start in Vancouver meant that Rogers Arena looked about half empty at puck drop, but many fans also appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach with the team under new president Trevor Linden as the Canucks look to rebound in 2014-15 after missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
After Subban scored in the first period for Vancouver, San Jose tied it at 16:07 of the second when Burns ripped a shot past Cannata on the power play off a Marleau feed.
Shinkaruk restored the Vancouver advantage just 50 seconds later, but the Sharks got right back on even terms 1:03 after that when Canucks forward Derek Dorsett turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Marleau, who moved in alone and beat Cannata.
Notes: Lidster ran the Vancouver bench along with fellow assistant Glen Gulutzan in Desjardins’ absence. … The Canucks visit the Calgary Flames on Thursday before the two teams meet again on Friday at Rogers Arena. … Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler left the game in the first period after taking a puck in the face. … Sharks centre Logan Couture left the game in the second but the team said it was just a precaution.