Sergei Shirokov has an iPad, dry sense of humour and better command of the English language.
If his game matches the grasp of technology and delivery of one-liners, then the Russian winger might upstage the show he put on one year ago.
Shirokov led the Vancouver Canucks in preseason scoring but was a deer in the headlights in the quicker pace of the regular season.
Dispatched to the Manitoba Moose after just three pointless outings, the point of the exercise was to get Shirokov’s game to a place where he would be as responsible without the puck as potentially dangerous with it.
And along the way, acclimatizing to the North American lifestyle would put him in a better position to stick with the Canucks this season. So far, so good.
“I’m excited about this year,” Shirokov said Sunday, knowing that a second-line spot with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond is dangling like a carrot. “I think it is a little bit easier because last year I never know guys in camp or how hard the practice and this year I know what I need to do on the ice. I now know a lot of new words and I like to joke sometimes. And I know how to play hockey here because they play the same system in Manitoba.”
Despite bouts of inconsistency with the Moose, the 24-year-old Moscow native amassed 22 goals and 45 points in 76 games — finishing third in AHL rookie goals and ninth in points — and his speed and strength seem suited for the NHL. But it’s up to Shirokov and he knows it.