Vancouver Sun

Canucks miscasting Pedan as forward

Big defenceman is better suited to blue-line where he has potential


It doesn’t take long to figure out why Andrey Pedan is so easy to like.

He’s 6-foot-5 and a defenceman. He just put up 20 points in 42 AHL games in a top pairing shutdown role, and he did it without powerplay time.

Plus, the Lithuanian-born Russian learned much of his English watching Prison Break, Dexter, Breaking Bad and Suits. That means he has size, offensive upside and pretty great taste in television.

“Suits is probably my favourite, but it’s hard because there are terms about banking and I had no idea (what they meant),” Pedan said. “By the end, I got the idea of what they were talking about.”

The Canucks are hoping something similar happens with Pedan playing up front as a forward.

For now, he has no idea what’s going on with this odd experiment he’s in. He’s never played the position before, even as a kid. But he is game to try.

“All I thought, was ‘it’s better than not playing.’”

Pedan said he didn’t come to North America six years ago to play 15 NHL games.

“I want to be a full-time NHL player, and I will be because I know how hard I work,” Pedan said. “I’ll get there. I don’t doubt it.”

He would prefer it to happen playing defence. Who wouldn’t?

Pedan hasn’t excelled in Vancouver since being recalled in mid-March. But the underlying data suggests he has been Matt Bartkowski’s equal. Sure, that’s not saying much, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t get the same patience others — like Sven Baertschi — have been given to find his place.

That’s because Pedan oozes potential with his size and production, an area he showed significan­t improvemen­t in this season in Utica where he doubled his goal total from three to six.

“I haven’t played on the power play at all. There was one time they had me out there for a 5-on3, and in three seconds, I scored,” Pedan said. “For me, when I have a chance, I try to bomb it every time.

“They want me to be a stay-athome defenceman.”

Now, they want him to be a forward, too. This idea that the Canucks need a utility player, someone to play both defence and forward, is uncommon.

In a detailed take on this topic at Canucks Army, titled Andrey Pedan at forward is misguided, regular contributi­ng analyst Ryan Biech points out there is but one NHL team which uses a swingman with any regularity. That is Florida, and it’s done there mostly to get an extra defenceman in the game be- cause he’s a power play specialist.

Pedan has not been that. He’s been a rugged, physically-imposing defenceman who can skate, and had enough promise the Canucks traded a third-round pick to get him. Would you rather have that or another fourth-line plugger?

Some are suggesting Pedan’s future is at forward because he won’t be good enough next fall to crack what will likely be another belowavera­ge blue-line.

Next year’s training camp will probably include Alex Biega and Philip Larsen on defence, two players who have not be very good in the NHL. Biega is 28, Larsen is 26 and Pedan is 22.

The first two are likely to clear waivers. It’s bizarre to suggest with a good summer Pedan can’t outplay one of these guys.

In fact, the situation is far more crowded up front where, if you include Emerson Etem and not Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, the Canucks already have 11 forwards for next year. That is not counting Brendan Gaunce, Linden Vey, Jared McCann and any free agents they sign.

It’s counter-intuitive to start transition­ing a potential shutdown defenceman with offensive upside to forward right now, especially because Pedan is missing out on learning as an NHL defenceman.

“I’ve been doing some breakout drills (in practice). I kind of know my position (at forward). I mean, I know my position, but sometimes I’m not used to it.

“I’m getting used to it. I don’t know. I’m getting some ice time.”

Sure, but is it the right kind of ice time?

 ?? JEFF VINNICK/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES FILE ?? Canuck defenceman Andrey Pedan fights with the Kings Jordan Nolan. The imposing defenceman has also been playing as a forward lately.
JEFF VINNICK/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES FILE Canuck defenceman Andrey Pedan fights with the Kings Jordan Nolan. The imposing defenceman has also been playing as a forward lately.

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