Canucks' Chris Tanev pushing limits to prove his worth
Rory Barrs, National Post
Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012
AURORA, Ont. — Chris Tanev is trying to affirm that slow and steady wins the race.
The Vancouver Canucks defenceman took an unorthodox route to the National Hockey League, playing three seasons of second-tier Ontario junior and one year of U.S. college hockey in upstate New York.
A proverbial late-bloomer, the 22-year-old Toronto native has added size, strength and experience in two seasons split between the NHL and the American Hockey League, and is hoping to lay claim to a permanent roster spot in Vancouver's upcoming training camp.
"I'm a lot more comfortable than I was when I first started two year ago," said Tanev, who appeared in 25 regular season and five playoff games for the Canucks last season. "I'm excited for camp … hopefully it starts. I'm very excited to try and prove to everyone that I can be a full-time defenceman in the league this year."
Tanev is part of a large contingent of NHLers taking part in the BioSteel Hockey Camp this week north of Toronto, run by performance trainers Gary Roberts and Matt Nichol. For Tanev, the five-day conditioning camp caps off an extended summer of training under Roberts, a veteran of 21 NHL seasons and now a renowned fitness coach for professional athletes.
"I've been [working] with Gary since May, Monday to Saturday," Tanev said. "He knows what he's doing. Everything with him is intense, from workouts, to what you eat, to off-ice treatments."
Committing to a strict off-season regimen is doubly crucial for Tanev, who is trying to catch up to some of the more physically developed players in his age bracket. Standing 6-foot-2, and weighing 185 pounds last season, he was not operating with much margin for error on the blue line. This summer, Tanev has gained roughly seven pounds through weight training and ditching junk food for "healthy stuff."
Although he is still far from physically imposing, Tanev has come a long way from his high school days when he could not find a midget hockey team to take him seriously. He says he was barely over five feet tall in Grade 10 and it wasn't until Grade 12 that he landed a spot with the Durham Fury of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League.
After two additional seasons in that league, Tanev headed south to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he recorded 28 points in 41 games. He played an integral role in the Tigers' surprising run to the NCAA's Frozen Four and was named the 2010 Atlantic Hockey Association's rookie of the year. After negotiating with several NHL organizations, Tanev signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Vancouver.
Tanev has earned an early reputation as a calm, puck-moving defenceman, but in concert with his effort to become more physically imposing in the defensive zone, Tanev is also aiming to add a little more oomph to his shot.
"Definitely trying to add more offence," said Tanev, still goalless through 54 regular season contests. "It comes with confidence I guess. I rarely shoot, so it is something everyone has told me I have to do. I've been working on my shot all summer, so I've got to get a shoot-first mentality instead of always passing."
Roberts is confident that Tanev can be an effective two-way player.
"I think he does have those abilities," Roberts said. "He's got great hands, moves the puck well and skates well. Once he gets a little confidence, I think that's going to be big for him. To go to camp and see that he's got that strength, and to see that he's got that speed and that ability to compete with guys in the National Hockey League, I think that'll really help him get off to a good start.
"I look for him to play lots of games for Vancouver this year and have a great season."
Where exactly Tanev slots in Vancouver's back-end hierarchy remains to be seen. Late last season he paired with Dan Hamuis to form an effective shutdown duo, while also seeing time alongside Keith Ballard in the post-season.
Regulars Sami Salo and Aaron Rome have signed elsewhere this off-season, creating a window of opportunity for Tanev to find consistent minutes in coach Alain Vigneault's lineup.
"He's done his work," Roberts said. "You know that he is prepared for the test, and the test obviously is training camp and proving to those guys that he is doing his work in the summer."
Edited by EvoLu7ioN, 29 August 2012 - 08:11 AM.