Wellwood silencing critics

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- For a guy no one wanted at the start of the season, Vancouver Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood is putting together a pretty solid year.

Heading into last night's contest against the Edmonton Oilers, the five-foot-10, 180-pound centre had already matched a career-high with 12 goals this season. Only Daniel Sedin has scored more for the Canucks this year.

Ales Hemsky leads the Oilers with 10 goals.

'OPEN THINGS UP'

"I've been fortunate enough to play on the first power-play unit and that's helped," Wellwood said. "Scoring goals will get harder as the season goes along because when you are scoring, people tend to key on you. But that's OK, because it should open things up for other people."

Knocked for coming into camp out of shape, Wellwood was waived by the Canucks at the beginning of the season only to be passed over by every team in the league. He went to the minors for a brief stint before returning to the Canucks lineup to score six goals in his first seven games.

"The NHL is such a highly competitive league that there aren't 1,000 players that can go out and play," he said. "But if you show that you can contribute, they're going to give you a job and that's all I wanted."

Selected by Toronto with their fifth pick - 134 overall - of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Wellwood played three seasons with the Maple Leafs before joining the Canucks, who claimed him off waivers this summer. He had groin surgery in April, then broke his foot during off-season workouts, which set him back a couple of months.

OUT OF SHAPE

That attributed to his coming into camp out of shape, making him a bit of a target among the Canucks faithful.

"Kyle is a work in progress," said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. "He's improving every day because of his conditioning. He's always had skill, with the puck, he sees the ice well, and now he's matching that skill with better conditioning. Combined with the fact 30 teams passed on him once, wakes a player up."


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