VICTORIA — Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet says he wants to see consistency and creativity from his players as the National Hockey League team prepares for its first pre-season game Sunday against the Flames in Calgary.
Most of the players dressing for Sunday's game in Alberta will be prospects and younger team members, Tocchet said Saturday following a team scrimmage in Victoria where the team has been in training camp.
"You want to get the young guys in," he said. "There's some guys that deserve a shot."
The Canucks have been in Victoria since Thursday and will conclude their training camp Sunday.
Tocchet said the team has been working on five-on-five systems throughout the camp, and consistency and effort are concepts he wants to instil in the players.
"You know me, hard to the bench. The wall work," he said. "A lot of our concepts, a lot of our staples. I want those things first."
But Tocchet said he doesn't want to restrict player creativity.
"If you have a chance, do your magic," he said.
Canucks players squared off against each other Saturday in a full-contact scrimmage ahead of the first pre-season game.
The scrimmage contest saw the Canucks dress two full benches of players, including veterans Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and goalie Thatcher Demko and several rookies trying to crack the line up.
The two-period contest ended in a 3-1 score with team blue defeating the white squad.
Prospects Josh Bloom and Chase Wouters, along with veteran Conor Garland, scored for the blue team, while Teddy Blueger, a former Vegas Golden Knight who signed a free-agent contract with Vancouver in July, replied for team white.
Canucks forward Jack Studnicka said he expects the Canucks, who finished out of the playoffs and in sixth place in the Pacific division, will be a much improved team this season.
"I think we're going to be a good hockey team," he said. "I think we're going to surprise some people."
Studnicka, acquired in a trade last season with the Boston Bruins, said he has added more grit to his game this year.
"It's kind of hard to stand out (at camp) because we're working on a lot of systems stuff, but I'm trying to use my legs and throw my weight around a bit and just show that I'm in shape and I'm able to play in the dirty areas," he said.
Garland also said he also plans to play with more of an edge this year.
"That's how I have to play," said Garland. "It's nice to kind of get back to my old self."
He shrugged off a brief shoving incident with Canucks teammate Dakota Joshua during Saturday's scrimmage.
"That stuff is over in a second," Garland said. "We're actually pretty close off the ice. I'm probably going to have lunch with him."
The Canucks begin the regular season on Oct. 11 against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2023.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press