Marc Crawford likes what he sees from many of the future Vancouver Canucks.
The head coach of the Canucks had a bird's eye view the past two games as the Manitoba Moose took on the Rochester Americans in an exciting American Hockey League playoff series.
Top prospect Ryan Kesler is drawing rave reviews for his growth as a player and a person during the past season.
"With Ryan, what jumps out at you more than anything when you see him is his skating ability -- he's such a powerful skater," said Crawford, repeating the Trevor Linden comparison which has surfaced since Kesler was chosen in the first round of the 2004 NHL entry draft. "This is an outstanding AHL this year and it's great for us to see how well he's played at this level. We're thrilled. What I like most about him is that he's constantly trying to improve. That is such a great formula for young hockey players, that they don't ever stay satisfied with any accomplishments they have. He's really endeared himself even more to our organization. The further he goes in this playoff, the better it is for his development."
It's safe to say that as long as the NHL gets back to playing, Kesler's days in Manitoba look to be numbered.
BETTER AND BETTER
"He's going to continue to get better and better, guys don't usually plateau their development until their late 20s," said Crawford. "Even just in talking to him, you see so much maturity. He's a confident individual and that probably has a lot to do with playing real well. He's married now and that's probably got something to do with it. He's got a real focus to him. It speaks to professionalism. Being in the NHL, that's what you notice about good and great players, the focus that they have."
Winnipegger Lee Goren has also caught Crawford's attention, with his play on the ice and presence in the Moose locker-room.
"I love it when I hear from everybody about how much they appreciate a guy's leadership -- that to me speaks volumes about a player," said Crawford. "We've watched Lee pretty closely this year and everybody is pleased with how he's played. He certainly deserves a real long look (in the NHL). His skating is improving, maybe it's because he's playing with such confidence. And playing with Kesler doesn't hurt because he forces you to move quicker."
Crawford admits there have been tough times during the past year due to the NHL lockout, but he's been able to grow as a coach and a person.
"Frightening would be one of the words that comes to mind. There is a bit of fear about where we're going to be, how we're going to be and what we're going to be like, who are we going to have," said Crawford, referring to the post-lockout Canucks. "I've used the year to be a little bit more introspective, look at my coaching style and try to develop some extra knowledge. There's no doubt that we miss it though. We're going to be very charged up for next year. As soon as we get this solved, the better it will be for everybody."