Thursday, December 5, 2013
Kyle Wanvig, according to Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen, is a quality American Hockey League player. This guy can play. The question will be whether theres room for him after the parent Buffalo Sabres finalize their roster next week and send players to Portland.
PORTLAND — Kyle Wanvig has been around hockey long enough to know the score.
It's all about the numbers.
''I've been around the league long enough,'' Wanvig said Friday, moments after stepping off the ice following the Portland Pirates' first practice session at the Portland Ice Arena. ''If there's one job, there's three guys going for it. I've got to do my best and hope that's enough.''
Wanvig, a forward, was among 18 skaters and two goalies who participated in the team's first workout of the season.
Most of those players were sent to Portland earlier this week from the training camp of the Pirates' NHL parent, the Buffalo Sabres.
Wanvig, a veteran of eight pro seasons, is among a small group of players invited to try out in Portland.
''I saw his game earlier in the summer and when (the Pirates) played against him when he was in Norfolk, a number of times,'' said Portland Coach Kevin Dineen. ''I know his skill set. I know he's a quality American Hockey League player. This guy can play.''
Wanvig, 27, a native of Calgary, Alberta, had 23 goals and a career-high 33 assists to lead Norfolk in scoring two years ago.
He started last season playing for Amur Khabarovsk, the eastern-most team in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
''I came off a pretty strong year in Norfolk,'' he said. ''(The Kontinental League) pays pretty good money, and it's a very good league. I had a two-year deal with them but I only ended up staying for four months.''
A back injury and a less-than-cordial welcome from his Russian teammates led to Wanvig's early exodus. ''It was one of those things where I showed up for practice and the players said 'Who the heck is this guy?' ''
After his release, Wanvig received an offer to play in Sweden.
''I went to Sweden and it didn't go so well,'' he said. ''It's a very defensive, soft, stand-around kind of game, and that's just not the type of player I am. I need to be moving and physical.''
So Wanvig returned to North America to revive his career.
''I've been home since the end of February, waiting and waiting,'' he said.
''I couldn't even get a tryout in an AHL camp and I didn't expect to be here. I really appreciate the opportunity.''
Wanvig made a good impression in Friday's practice.
''Even in practice today, to see some of the things he could do with the puck are things every organization can use,'' Dineen said. ''I had respect for him as an opponent. Now, just being on the ice with him one day, I think he's justified my opinion of him.''
But there's still no guarantee Dineen will have a spot for Wanvig when the Pirates' roster is finalized before their Oct. 3 opener at Springfield.
''We have a few opportunities that are available now,'' Dineen said. ''On defense we signed a number of players who we feel can play for the Pirates this year. But certainly up front we feel there's some opportunity there.''
The Sabres need to cut at least 10 skaters from their preseason roster and a lot of them will end up playing for the Pirates. Those moves probably won't be made until early next week.
''Unfortunately, the way our game works now, you go through a lot of your decision-making during the summer,'' Dineen said.
''Now it depends on what happens in Buffalo.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: