Summer training paying dividends for Canucks’ Kassian

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Zack Kassian will be linked to Cody Hodgson for quite some time after the two players were swapped at the trade deadline. It was a controversial deal that didn’t sit well with some Canucks fans — especially after Vancouver was bounced out of the playoffs in five games — but if Kassian continues to make strides, he might make the fans forget about Hodgson.

With the NHL lockout still dragging on, Kassian has started the 2012-13 campaign with the AHL Chicago Wolves after an intense summer training program.

“We actually brought him back to Vancouver to train with the (Sedin) twins for a week,” Canucks GM Mike Gillis said in a Vancouver Sun report. “We put him in Portland at the Nike high performance center for 10 days, we put him in Winnipeg to train with (skills coach) Glenn Carnegie at his facility for three weeks and he was great every step of the way. He worked really hard and is getting results because of it.”

You don’t have to dig deep to see those results. In two games against the Abbotsford Heat, he had two goals and two fights. Overall he’s had four points and 16 penalty minutes in five contests.

“You can see that the pace of his play is much higher,” said Gillis. “He has lost a little bit of weight, but not that much. But he’s much stronger. Lorne (assistant GM Lorne Henning) thinks he’s a stride ahead of where he was and I think he might be a little bit more actually. When he takes off now with the puck he is pulling away from people.”

Kassian feels quicker too and he’s more confident. It helps that AHL Chicago is giving him an opportunity to play in a lot of different situations and get big minutes. That’s something he didn’t get with the Sabres or Canucks in his rookie season.

Kassian is still just 21 years old and so far it looks like he’s taken a significant step towards becoming the power forward the Canucks are looking for. He should rejoin Vancouver as soon as the lockout ends.

Related:

Kassian hoping to justify much-maligned Hodgson trade

NHL scout calls Hodgson-Kassian deal “a terrible trade for Vancouver”