Shirokov sticking with chosen path

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Sergei Shirokov has no plans to abandon his dream.

There are sure to be lucrative offers for the skilled forward to return to Russia and play in the Kontinental Hockey League, but Shirokov is still planning on being in North America next fall.

"Next year I'll go back to training camp in Vancouver and then we'll see what we're doing," said Shirokov, a 24-year-old from Moscow. "If they send me back down, I'll go to Winnipeg to play and work hard. I want to play in the NHL."

There were plenty of things for Shirokov to experience and adjust to as he played his first season in North America.

"It's a very good season, lots of new things for me," said Shirokov, a sixth-round pick (163rd overall) of the Canucks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "Lots of emotions. New country, new language. I like (Canada), it's very nice."

Shirokov tied for the team lead in goals (22) and was second in points (45) to Marco Rosa (55) while appearing in 76 games with the Moose.

"Not bad, it was OK for the first year," said Shirokov, when asked to assess his own play. "I want to score more goals. I need more shots."

Shirokov also played his first six NHL games with the Canucks, but was shut out offensively.

"It's a little bit different hockey here than in Russia," said Shirokov, who is expected to be among the players assigned to the Canucks for the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "Now I understand the systems. It should be easier (next season)."

Moose head coach Scott Arniel had his patience tested by Shirokov on a few occasions this season, but felt the gifted winger made great strides over the course of the campaign.

"It was a big adjustment for him, but in saying that he had 22 goals and (45) points, that's a pretty good accomplishment for any first-year guy in the AHL," said Arniel. "He learned lots of good things. Compared to the Sergei I had in October, the Sergei I have now knows how to play on this side of the ocean, he knows how to play in the smaller rinks and he knows how to play away from the puck.

"He still can play at a busier level, he has to move his feet more, but in saying that a lot of the time I don't know if the skill that was with him complemented his skill set all the time. If you threw Sergei in our mix last year, you're probably seeing a more dynamic player."

Although Shirokov signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Canucks last summer, there's no deal in place between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, so the threat of losing the winger to his homeland is real.

"I'm sure he's getting a lot of phone calls from back home," said Arniel. "He'd be a pretty hot commodity going back there. I don't think Vancouver wants to lose an asset. They've put money and time into him and I'm sure they're going to want to make sure he's here or in the NHL next year."


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