Opportunity knocks

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

Tomas Mojzis and Kirill Koltsov are arguably the top two prospects among defencemen in the Vancouver Canucks organization. So even though he won't admit it, Mojzis probably would have offered to help Koltsov pack last week when the latter bolted from the AHL's Manitoba Moose and returned to Russia to play hockey for Avangard Omsk.

"His problem is he was a pro since he was 16, and he was playing in Russia and that's his home," Mojzis said yesterday in his stilted but ever-improving English. "I've been here five years, so it's not really a big deal for me to live here. It's a different culture and everything, but you get used to it.

"When he got here the first time, he thought he was going to play in the NHL in the first year. That didn't happen, and since that time he's upset about that."

Mojzis and Koltsov were tight off the ice, but Mojzis was probably looking out for himself when Koltsov finally decided to pull chute.

"I didn't try to change his mind," said Mojzis, who is now the lone European on the Moose roster.

The Canucks are not impressed that Koltsov is marching to the beat of his own drum, so Mojzis automatically finds himself in an improved position.

NOT THAT HAPPY

"With Koltsov gone -- and who knows if he's going to come back -- I'm sure the organization is probably not that happy with it," said Moose captain Nolan Baumgarter, who had been playing with Koltsov but is now with Mojzis on the top pairing.

"So obviously in that perspective, it's good for Tomas. He's here, this is where they want to develop their players, and that's going to be big in their eyes.

"If he keeps on learning and developing here, he's going to have a good shot to play there."

Mojzis, a 22-year-old from Kolin, Czech Republic, was the Toronto Maple Leafs' eighth-round pick, 246th overall, in 2001. Koltsov was Vancouver's first pick, 49th overall, in 2002.

Mojzis was traded to the Canucks organization in September 2002 for Brad Leeb, so Mojzis and Koltsov began their North American pro journey together in the fall of 2003.

Now that Koltsov has bailed, Mojzis sees it as a prime opportunity.

"He always was getting more chances than me, and he had more offensive talent," Mojzis said. "But now I hope I can show I can play the same way he's played offensively. And the same on the other side, defensively play better."

Mojzis has four goals and 13 points in 33 games. Koltsov had three goals and 17 points in 28 games, but 10 of those points came on the power play. Now that Koltsov is gone, Mojzis gets his juicy spot on the power play.

"I just have to cash in on the chances," Mojzis said. "I have to. I have no choice."


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