HOPE­FUL CANUCK AIMS TO BREAK THROUGH

2009 sec­ond-round pick An­ton Rodin wants to put any doubts about his sur­gi­cally re­paired knee to bed

24 Hours Vancouver - - SPORTS - JASON BOTCH­FORD

It’s not even Oc­to­ber and An­ton Rodin is wish­ing out loud he’s never asked about his knee again. Good luck with that. He ac­tu­ally has a bet­ter chance of mak­ing the Van­cou­ver Canucks. And that isn’t go­ing to be easy.

But noth­ing has been cake for Rodin. A year ago, the 2009 sec­ond-round draft pick was fi­nally pegged as a po­ten­tial dif­fer­ence maker for a Canucks team des­per­ate for scor­ing.

No one out­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der­stood at the time, but his sur­gi­cally re­paired knee was a prob­lem, and a big one.

It hurt, and did so most of the time.

On the ice, he was cau­tious. Off it, he was lim­ited. Al­most like his legs were roped to­gether.

“Even in train­ing camp I had dis­com­fort in the knee, “Rodin said.

“The big­gest thing was off the ice. I re­ally couldn’t do much. In the gym, stuff like that, it was hard to keep up the strength in the leg.

“It was pain. Ev­ery time I took a step, it hurt. It was tough.”

“I thought it was go­ing to go away. But it never did.”

Rodin played five pre-sea­son games last fall, a pro­gram the Canucks ve­he­mently de­fend to this day, and then spent months try­ing to re­hab the knee.

He played three times. In his third, in Jan­uary, his knee buck­led again. Af­ter, he could barely walk. Surgery and six months of re­hab soon fol­lowed.

“I couldn’t even ex­plain what they did in Swedish,” Rodin joked. “They took a bone out of the knee cap and were re­ally happy.

“Be­fore I had pain and now I don’t have it. It makes it eas­ier to skate.”

Rodin said he could have done the surgery ear­lier, but doc­tors ad­vised him to try and “re­hab the pain away.”

“It feels so much bet­ter not to be hes­i­tat­ing at all,” Rodin said. “You can go hard all the time and work the legs in the gym to get stronger.”

Rodin didn’t have to come back here. There were other op­tions. Swe­den, for one, where he’s only a year re­moved from be­ing the reign­ing elite-league MVP. It prob­a­bly would have been eas­ier than this.

But Rodin has long burned to play in the NHL.

He said there was in­ter­est from other NHL teams, but he didn’t spend much time look­ing into any other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“My first goal was to come back here and now I just need to prove I be­long,” Rodin said.

“We never ex­plored it (the other op­tions).

“I feel like I have un­fin­ished busi­ness. I think this is a good place for me to get into the lineup.” We’ll see about that. It is en­cour­ag­ing a hob­bled Rodin showed sig­nif­i­cant spark dur­ing last year’s pre­sea­son. That was just be­fore a sea­son in which Michael Cha­put, Jayson Megna and Jack Skille all played 55 games.

If ever there was a ros­ter for Rodin to crack, and get sig­nif­i­cant play­ing time, that sure looked like the one.

Now, he’s 26 years old and things are more com­pli­cated. The Canucks have im­proved their vet­eran depth while adding some in­trigu­ing young play­ers like Niko­lay Goldobin and Brock Boeser. Both could bring a lot of the same things Rodin does to a game.

New head coach Travis Green, how­ever, is vow­ing his lineup choices will be based on merit. And if a one-legged Rodin was one of last year’s best pre-sea­son Canucks, what’s the two-legged ver­sion go­ing to do?

“My first goal is to crack a spot on the ros­ter,” Rodin said. “All I can do is play my best hockey and con­vince them I can make this team bet­ter.”

To get that done, all he has to do is score some goals. As for the knee, he said: “I hope th­ese are the last ques­tions about the knee.”

jbotch­ford@post­media.com twit­ter.com/botch­ford

POST­MEDIA FILE

An­ton Rodin has shown some scor­ing prom­ise in the past, some­thing the Canucks des­per­ately need.

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