Vickerman impresses at Vancouver Giants camp

August 30, 2012 

Couldn't find a link on the Province site for this story, but it was worth sharing. Enjoy.

For the Vancouver Giants, adding Taylor Vickerman could be a little "if you can't beat them, steal from them."

Vickerman, a grinding winger, is a good bet to be one of the team's 16-year-old rookies this season. He's a native of Kennewick, Wash., and grew up a fan of his hometown WHL team, the Tri-City Americans.

Nobody is a punch in the gut to the Giants quite like the Americans. They ousted Vancouver from the playoffs in both 2010 and '11. Last season, Vancouver looked like a contender until losing to Tri-City 11-4 at home on Jan. 13; their campaign spiralled out of control after that and they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Spokane Chiefs.

Maybe Vickerman can help provide an antidote to the Americans. Giants fans can possibly get a look at the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder tonight, assuming he's in the line-up for preseason opener against the Kelowna Rockets at the Ladner Leisure Centre (7p.m.).

"I'd go Wednesdays and watch games and get home at 10 o clock at night and my mom would be like, 'You have to go to school in the morning,' and I'd be, 'I don't care…I want to watch the game,'" Vickerman said of the Americans. "I had a lot of players that I loved. Ben Kilgour was one. Dylan Stanley, Matt Schneider…really good guys who played really good leadership roles on those teams.

"It would be fun to go back there and play. There would be some mixed emotions, even amongst people in the city. Still, it would be fun."

General manager Scott Bonner added: "It will be a little motivation the next time we go play there. We'll finally have somebody in the building cheering for us."

The Americans are arguably the benchmark franchise of the league right now, with six straight seasons of 90 or more points. How did they let one of the rare homegrown kids get by?

Fact is, he made it past a few teams a few times. Vickerman went in the sixth round, 112th overall to the Giants in the 2011 bantam draft.

The Giants haven't been shy about how enamoured they are with him, though. They put out a press release when he signed a WHL contract, something they usually reserve for first and second-round selections.

"He's the closest thing we've had to being a guy like Lance Bouma since Lance left," Bonner said, pointing to the former sledge hammer winger who played his last game in Giant colours in 2009-10. "He's big, strong. He's willing to go down the wall and he's very intelligent.

"I think the U.S. born players are a little different as far as the draft goes. We had Tim Kraus in the seventh round, Jon Blum in the seventh. I think those guys, because they aren't seen as much as the Canadian kid, you can sometimes get a diamond in the rough."

This possible gem does come to the Giants having already played a season away from home, a benefit most 16 year olds don't enjoy. The left-handed shot spent last season playing midget hockey with the Cleveland Barons, a team that plays in the national Tier I Triple A league. He had six goals, 22 points and 34 penalty minutes in 39 games.

One of his agents, Chris Lepkowski, is from Cleveland and set Vickerman up there. Lepkowski works for Surrey-based Points West under Rich Evans, who has represented various Giants in the past.

Vickerman also played for the U.S. national team this summer at the Under-17 Five Nations tournament in the Czech Republic.

He's played in a lot of places. One of next major ones of his list is his hometown; the Giants visit the Americans on Nov. 4.

"I hope the whole city has it circled," he said.

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