Vancouver Canucks left winger Chris Higgins says he is open to filling in for Ryan Kesler as the team’s second line centre if the National Hockey League season gets underway.
“It’s was kind of an on-and-off thing and my first couple of years [in Montreal] I played more centre,” Higgins told the Province. “I’m obviously more comfortable playing the wing. Playing centre as not a long-term thing, I know I can play the position and I know I can play it well.
“I could definitely fill in and I’m all for it if it’s what’s needed. It would take a little bit of a learning process, but I could pick it up pretty quickly.”
The often discussed candidate for the second line centre position has been 2009 first round pick Jordan Schroeder, but one has to wonder if the 22 year old is ready for such an important role on a hockey team in a shortened season where there is no room for error. Veteran forward Andrew Ebbett, who was the team’s 13th forward last season, is another option.
Winger Mason Raymond, like Higgins, has played centre in the past, but there is a risk to putting either of the them at centre as they are not as strong at taking faceoffs than a regular centre.
On neutral and defensive zone faceoffs, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault could send out Manny Malhotra to take the faceoff like he has done in the past. However, it could be problematic on icing calls when changes are allowed.. Even in the offensive zone, losing a draw means chasing the puck rather than dictating the play.
Placing Raymond and Higgins at centre maximizes the amount of offensive skill in the top-six, but if neither of them can win a draw to control the play, it negates any advantages. It may be best if the Canucks use a centre in the second line position even if that means using Malhotra.