” [Tocchet] He told me, be ready to go to the next training camp in September because it will be more difficult. »
For the first time, Akito Hirose is in the NHL camp.
This is somewhat surprising considering the 24-year-old defender already has seven NHL games under his belt after signing with the Vancouver Canucks late last season. But Hirose did not solicit or accept invitations to NHL development or training camps before signing with the Canucks.
While some unrecorded agents see these camps as opportunities to get the attention of an NHL team for a contract, Hirose never felt it necessary.
“I’ve never been to a development camp before,” Hirose said. “I didn’t really see the point of going there when I wasn’t part of the organisation. I mean, if you play well enough, they’ll come and watch you, so I always thought I’d never go there.
“But now that I’m part of Vancouver, I’m really excited to be here.”
“I’m not really trying to place any expectations on him.”
The excitement is understandable. He kicked off his camp with a contract extension, signing a two-year contract on Sunday — the contract is a two-way deal the first year that becomes a one-way deal the second year, for a maximum of $787,500. .
“Obviously, that’s something I knew I had to take care of this summer,” Hirose said. Allen [Roy]My agent, they’re really good, they keep me in the dark, that’s what I love. Just let them handle it and I’m really excited for the next couple of years here. »
The contract structure gives him some security over the next two years, even if he ends up in the AHL for both seasons. Of course, the AHL isn’t really the plan. There’s an opener on the Canucks’ blue line, with a clear opportunity for Hirose to earn a spot on their roster with a solid training camp in September.
Hirose is generally calm and quiet about the prospect of getting the Canucks out of camp next season.
“I’m not really trying to impose expectations on him,” he said. “I’m just trying to work hard this summer, finish strong for the next two months after development camp, and do the best I can. After that, I can’t control much.”
“It will be more difficult.”
Somehow, Canucks coach Rick Tochet issued the challenge to Hirose at the exit meeting. He explained that there would be an opportunity available, but it would not be given to him alone.
“He just said to me, ‘Be ready to go into the next training camp in September because it’s going to be tougher,'” Hirose said, paraphrasing Tuckett. “There will be a lot of guys vying for this place. So just be ready to go.”
Hirose has impressed Canucks fans with his balance in the NHL shortstop, but he looks at those seven games as objectively as he can.
“It was nice to get a sense of the pace, even though I know it’s time for the last seven games of the year,” Hirose said. “And I think it went well. It’s good to know your type of role at the top level. You’re not going to play the same offensive role, type PP1 midfielder. You have to adapt.”
Hirose presented, along with a few other possibilities, a speech given by Archdeep Pines at the start of the camp. Baines has talked about the changes he made to his game from being the go-to guy with the Red Deer Rebels at the top of the WHL to becoming a reliable player for the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL.
“It’s tough,” Abbotsford coach Jeremy Colliton said of Baines’ speech. “The reason he chose to speak is how open he is to feedback, his willingness to receive and adapt that message and do everything he can – his humility to understand the work he must do to establish himself as a professional.
“Now he was one of our most important players at the end of the year. This is an important lesson for everyone.”
Hirose said the message Baines sent resonated with him because he may have been aiming for the Canucks as a third baseman. It’s a role that could mean more time taking penalties and blocking shots defensively rather than playing offensively.
“You can just say he played in the league.”
Colliton said Hirose caught his eye early in the camp.
“You can tell he’s older and more experienced,” Colliton said. “He’s got a softness and an exaggeration to him, you could just say he played in the league. It’s great when an 18-year-old comes along and sees where he’s kind of competing with him… when he goes first in training and does it well, it’s good for everyone.” .».
With that in mind, Colliton may be secretly hoping to have Hirose at Abbotsford at the start of next season. This may be for the best for Hirose, as he admitted he still needs to work on his size and strength to adapt to the rigors of playing in the NHL every day.
While Hirose is 6’0, he weighs 170 pounds, making him the second-lightest defenseman to play in the NHL last season. Only Jared Spurgeon, who is 5’9, was lighter than Hirose at 166 lbs.
However, Hirose puts the details he learned in development camp above the gains he needs in the gym in the coming months, as he believes these details will be key to winning puck fights.
“I would say body position is the most important thing compared to strength and size. Then I would say it probably goes into footwork, then overall speed, and then maybe fourth, strength and size,” Hirose said. “I mean, if you’re slow and strong, you can’t do much.
“But it is certainly an important thing. There is definitely a minimum standard that you need, and I think that is what I am basing it on.”
Hirose hopes that once he meets these size and strength criteria, his hockey IQ will make him a great contributor to the Canucks blue line next season.