It’s no secret a forward is on the Vancouver Canucks shopping list right now, and a new report has them linked to a veteran centre from Halifax.
Sheppard spent last season in Switzerland playing for the Kloten Flyers, where he had 25 points in 37 games.
Although those numbers scream out “sign me!”, he hasn’t been able to translate those stats to the NHL level, having never scored 10 goals in a season.
He put up decent numbers in his first two seasons, recording 19 and 24 points respectively under defensive specialist Jacques Lemaire. The future looked bright for Sheppard, until he was injured in an ATV accident in September 2010.
More from The Canuck Way
- Which team won the Bo Horvat trade?
- What to expect from newcomers Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty
- Back to the future: How the skate uniforms became a regular Canucks’ feature night
- Canucks kick off 2023 with disappointing 6-2 loss to Islanders
- 2nd period penalty trouble sinks Canucks in 4-2 loss against Winnipeg
Sheppard wouldn’t see NHL ice until three years later when he suited up for the San Jose Sharks and was only able to put up four points in 32 games.
He did show a slight return to form when the Sharks ran into injury troubles in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, but ultimately fell victim to an overcrowded group of centres that included Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
He was shipped off to the New York Rangers just before the trade deadline, but was never able to get a consistent spot in the lineup. He only got into 14 games, scoring two goals before leaving for Switzerland, after failing to make the Columbus Blue Jackets in training camp.
If Sheppard can put up the offensive numbers he did in Switzerland, that would be fantastic. However, that doesn’t seem like a realistic possibility.
Instead, if Sheppard is going to return to an NHL roster, he will have to sell teams on his ability to win face-offs. In his last full NHL season, he won 45 percent of his face-offs, which put him on par with Derek Stepan and Dave Bolland and would have placed him third on the Canucks, behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.
Where He Would Fit in
Right now, I would project Henrik Sedin as the first-line centre, Bo Horvat slots in on the second line, Brandon Sutter would be the third checking-line centre and Markus Granlund would then slot in on the fourth line. However, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Canucks to have the 23-year old Finn playing that role. In my opinion, he would be much better suited playing top-six minutes down in Utica.
With Granlund developing in the AHL, the Canucks would have a hole in the fourth line waiting to be filled by a player like Sheppard. He’d average around eight to 10 minutes a game, playing alongside Derek Dorsett and likely Emerson Etem. He wouldn’t have to worry about putting up huge offensive numbers, and instead could focus on the face-off dot. If injuries were to occur like last season, Sheppard has proven to be quite capable of moving up the lineup if the circumstances call for it.
But in order for Sheppard to even be considered for that spot, he’s going to have to come to camp, prove that he’s still the same player he was in San Jose, and be willing to take a pay-cut off the $1.3 million he made in his last season in San Jose