Canucks in­trigued by un­even Pedan

‘Rel­a­tively young’ prospect de­fence­man has shown enough to keep Van­cou­ver in­ter­ested

The Province - - SPORTS | HOCKEY - Ben Kuzma bkuzma@post­media.com twit­ter.com/benkuzma

Re­mem­ber The Pedan Plan?

It didn’t rank with The Mc­Cann Plan, The Vir­ta­nen Plan or even The Hor­vat Plan, but there has al­ways been a cu­rios­ity about An­drey Pedan. The Van­cou­ver Canucks prospect de­fence­man has teased of Na­tional Hockey League po­ten­tial and a one-year, two-way con­tract ex­ten­sion for the tow­er­ing Rus­sian — it pays $750,000 US in the bigs — is a ’show-us’ deal be­cause he’ll be a re­stricted free agent again af­ter next sea­son.

A mo­ti­vated Pedan could play into the ros­ter for­ma­tion with the de­par­ture of Nikita Tryamkin and how other back-end domi­noes could fall. It’s up to Pedan, who turns 24 in July, be­cause a roller-coaster Amer­i­can Hockey League sea­son was the con­cern of his old boss in Utica, who is now the new boss in Van­cou­ver.

“I thought he had an up-and-down year,” Canucks coach Travis Green said Thurs­day. “I just found that he had some re­ally dom­i­nat­ing games and some that weren’t great. In his good games, he was re­ally good. He was hard to play against and moved the puck well, and that’s what he has to strive for — con­sis­tency in ev­ery game.

“He’s such a good skater that he can skate him­self into trou­ble. Some­times the ag­gres­sive­ness in gets him into trou­ble. He’ll dump the puck and he keeps go­ing when he doesn’t have to. He gets him­self up into ar­eas that he doesn’t need to be. And some­times that’s just a prod­uct of feel­ing good.

“I re­mem­ber telling Alex Biega, who was fly­ing all over the place, that he looked like a mil­lion dol­lars, but was play­ing like one dol­lar be­cause he was mak­ing mis­takes by get­ting out of po­si­tion and do­ing too much. Some­times less is more.”

The 6-foot-5, 213-pound Pedan was re­called three times this sea­son, but didn’t play a sin­gle NHL game. He had five goals and five as­sists in 52 games with the Utica Comets and dis­played the same game as the 2015-16 sea­son when he ap­peared in 13 games with the Canucks. He would do some­thing spec­tac­u­lar on one shift and then do some­thing con­fus­ing on the next.

This sea­son, Pedan fought in back-to-back AHL games in March, and it’s an added el­e­ment the Canucks are lack­ing. And on April 12 against the Hart­ford Wolf Pack, he un­leashed a heavy shot to score a cru­cial short-handed unas­sisted goal in the sec­ond-to-last game of the reg­u­lar sea­son to keep the Comets’ slim play­off hopes alive. But he was also a healthy scratch late in the year.

Un­like Jared Mc­Cann (who was traded), Jake Vir­ta­nen (who was pur­posely schooled in Utica), and Bo Hor­vat (who rock­eted up the ros­ter), the mere men­tion of Pedan usu­ally brings a scratch of the head and the shrug of the shoul­ders.

He has all the tools with size, speed, shot and a will­ing­ness to fight. But does he have the tool box? Or is this just part of the process where de­fence­men take long to ma­ture, espe­cially if they’ve switched or­ga­ni­za­tions or have come from an­other coun­try?

“He’s still rel­a­tively young for a de­fence­man,” said Green. “Some­times big guys think they don’t have to think their way around the ice as much, but his good games this year were bet­ter than last year. He needs to im­prove his D-zone reads and there are times when he has puck-watched a lit­tle bit, gets out of po­si­tion and lets guys get be­hind him.

“I’m ex­cited and anx­ious. There are some guys who have de­vel­oped and they are what they are and we’re wait­ing to see where he (Pedan) is at.”

Amid trade spec­u­la­tion (Chris Tanev) and an ex­pan­sion-draft claim pos­si­bil­ity (Luca Sbisa) — and whether Olli Juolevi can be groomed at this level next sea­son — there may be added in­cen­tive for Pedan to play more games in Van­cou­ver than Utica. Af­ter all, he went from hav­ing his train­ing-camp at­ti­tude ques­tioned two years ago by for­mer Canucks coach Willie Des­jardins to some­one will­ing to do any­thing to win.

In his first NHL game on Dec. 1, 2015 in Los Angeles as a winger, he promptly dropped Dustin Brown with a crush­ing corner-boards hit.

“That day I couldn’t sleep af­ter the coach told me I might be in the lineup,” he re­called. “I was lay­ing in bed and my heart was beat­ing so fast be­cause I was pic­tur­ing ev­ery play. I came to the rink and I was so fired up. But I knew right away I could play at this level. Ev­ery­body on the ice just seemed like nor­mal hu­mans. It’s just how you men­tally pre­pare to play.”

— GETTY IMAGES FILES

There are open­ings but An­drey Pedan will have to work on his con­sis­tency if he wants to crack the Van­cou­ver Canucks lineup next sea­son.

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