Canucks sizing up Taylor

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Justin Taylor is one of the prime candidates to wear the captain's "C" for the London Knights this OHL season.

But before his leadership is tested, the 20-year-old forward will see if he can crack one NHL organization (the Canucks) after being dumped by another (the Capitals) this summer.

He knows now how to keep his head above sea-level in these tryouts. Catch someone's eye.

"Vancouver is another opportunity," Taylor said yesterday during Knights training camp at the John Labatt Centre. "I've been to two camps with Washington. I'm looking for a job and I want to play pro hockey the rest of my life.

"You need a little bit of luck but you have to do something that'll help you stand out."

Taylor, who might still play in tonight's Knights' exhibition opener against the Sarnia Sting, said his surgically-repaired shoulder is fine. When Washington left him unsigned, he got the Canucks look thanks to former Knights assistant coach Dave Gagner, Vancouver's director of player development.

"Dave got to watch me play for the past four years," said Taylor, who scored 37 goals last season. "He saw enough to get me an invite. It opened another door."

It's a second chance for Taylor.

Burly Jason Wilson is getting his first.

The Boston Bruins want to see the big undrafted winger up close and are bringing him to rookie training camp in Kitchener this weekend.

Knights goalie Michael Hutchinson, Bruins property, will be there, too. So will Maple Leafs first-rounder Nazem Kadri in the NHL mini-tourney at The Aud.

"Naz is already suited up (in his blue-and-white) and we'll get a chance to play each other," Wilson said. "It's a great opportunity for me. I'm just going to keep it simple, work hard in the corners.

"I just spent all summer at home in Aurora and all I did was work out, sleep and eat."

Though the mass exodus leaves the Knights a skeleton crew for preseason skates, a spin at an NHL camp never hurts.

The Knights already have a ton on the move.

John Tavares is the latest shining star of the Lighthouse Project on Long Island.

Washington made a Capital suggestion to add John Carlson to it's Calder Cup-winning Hershey Bears roster.

Technically, both are still Knights property, but no one's counting on them coming back.

Star defenceman Michael Del Zotto is taking another bite at the Big Apple with the Rangers. Phil Varone and Daniel Erlich are small fishes in the massive shark tank of San Jose.

Knights grads Matt Clarke, Kevin Montgomery and goalie Trevor Cann will try to find a rocky mountain high in Colorado.

Big Leigh Salters and Phil McRae are due with the Blues in St. Louis, while OHL penalty minute king Zac Rinaldo won't take long to immerse himself in Philly's hockey culture after signing with the Flyers.

Some of the skaters won't make it to their respective club's main camps. Others will linger up to a month, missing the start of the OHL season, while a few might even make the big team or, if they're old enough, a minor-league affiliate.

In their absence, rookie Knights like goalie Michael Houser and defencemen Scott Harrington and Jake Worrad will get a chance to hold down the fort.

"It'll be a good experience for the young guys to get some more ice," Taylor said.

Especially with the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires, already favoured to win it again, on deck for the season opener. Both clubs know they'll look a lot different on Sept. 18 than they will a month later.

The Knights' look, in particular, will be radically changed. Their new-logo jerseys are ready to go, but a league-wide agreement with Reebok is holding off the official unveiling until Wednesday.

The Knights could then wear the altered threads at home on Sept. 11 against Plymouth.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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