SUN Hockey Pool

He's getting noticed

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

HAMILTON -- Some might say Patrick Coulombe had an unfair advantage when it came to attending Vancouver Canucks training camp.

Being on the ice and training with one of the great young players in the National Hockey League for a couple weeks is a sure-fire way to help you feel comfortable.

And the fact you spent two seasons playing on the same power play with Sidney Crosby on the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League tells you all you need to know about Coulombe's skill level.

"When you play with the exceptional guy, you just want to elevate your level," said Coulombe, who was among the final cuts at Canucks camp, despite being on an American Hockey League contract with the Manitoba Moose. "This summer I practiced with Sidney in Rimouski for two weeks and that helped a little bit."

Coulombe, who joined the Moose on an amateur tryout contract late last season but didn't see any playoff action, was among the last cuts after suiting up in four of the Canucks eight NHL pre-season games.

In his first game action against the San Jose Sharks, Coulombe spent part of the night going up against Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

"It was a great experience for me," said Coulombe, who played on a pairing with Sami Salo. "My first few shifts I was really nervous but then I found I relaxed."

Coulombe looked comfortable running the power play and played nearly 25 minutes in his second-to-last game against the Edmonton Oilers.

FINAL DECISION

Ultimately, head coach Alain Vigneault and the Canucks brass opted to keep 2005 first round draft pick Luc Bourdon.

"Now, a couple of people know who I am," said Coulombe, who is hoping to sign a two-way contract with the Canucks.

Coulombe, who recorded his first assist of the season yesterday, isn't letting his pre-season success go to his head.

He knows he's got plenty of things to work on down on the farm.

"I was surprised to spend the whole camp in Vancouver, my focus in the summer was more on Manitoba," Coulombe confessed. "That was a good thing for me. I learned a lot up there but I want to play good down here. Good defensively, help the offence as well and help the team win."

Moose assistant coach Brad Berry, who works closely with the defence corps, sees plenty of upside when it comes to assessing Coulombe's talent.

"There's a lot of things (you notice) but first and foremost is his skating ability ," said Berry. "The way he handles himself on the ice, jumping up in the play, getting back and retrieving dumped pucks and getting out of trouble that way. Also, shooting and puck handling too, his skills are tremendous. That's a very valuable asset on the power play."

It can be tough for some players to adjust after being sent down when they get so close to making it to the NHL, but Moose head coach Scott Arniel isn't concerned about Coulombe's mental state.

"If anything, his confidence level has risen quite high," said Arniel. "He's one of those guys that both organizations (Canucks and Moose) are excited about."


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