Kassian set to play either way

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

VANCOUVER - NHL lockout or not, Zack Kassian will be playing hockey in North America — and on schedule to boot.

In the second year of his pro contract, the Vancouver Canucks forward is eligible to play in the American Hockey League and could find himself joining the team’s affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, when their training camp starts Sept. 28. That is if the NHL and the player’s union fail to come to a new collective bargaining agreement anytime soon.

Skating at the University of B.C. with about 10 other players Tuesday, Kassian welcomed the chance to hone his skills in the minors, even though he’s anxious to prove himself at the highest level.

“It would be a great opportunity for me to go down there and try to earn ice time and learn to play in every situation and grow as a player,” Kassian said. “But I want to play in the NHL, especially in Vancouver. I want to show the fans what I can do and there were glimpses of it last year, but this year I’m ready to do it full time.”

Last season, the 21-year-old winger had three points in 17 games with the Canucks, after arriving in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres at the deadline. He played 30 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL while in the Sabres system, scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists. But closing the season with Vancouver, Kassian understood what he needed to improve on over the summer.

“Physically, just getting faster, but mentally, just knowing what I can do and now it’s time to just go out and do it.”, the Windsor, Ont. native said, adding he lost a couple of pounds during the off-season.

As for the the situation with the NHL, the youngster has been trying to pay some attention to it, including talking with veteran NHLer Steve Ott.

“I just know enough to get by,” he said. “I know that there’s a lot of negatives right now going on, but for me I have a place to play no matter what so I need to get ready. There’s nothing you can do as a player and just hope for the best.”

Note

Amongst the skaters at UBC Tuesday was Alex Edler, who said he was keeping himself updated with the league happenings. However, he has no alternate plans just yet if the start of the upcoming season is delayed.

“I’m just going to prepare like always and be ready,” the Canucks defenceman said. “A lot of guys are starting to come in now and it’s just been like a regular summer.”


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