VANCOUVER – Not many fifth-round NHL draft choices find themselves playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs at the age of 20.
Frank Corrado is proving to be an exception.
The Woodbridge, Ont., native has a good chance of returning to the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup for the second game of their Western Conference quarter-final series against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
“It’s huge,” said Corrado, who was chosen 150th overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, about his NHL post-season opportunity. “That’s the whole point of playing the regular season, and that’s the whole point of getting here so, obviously, it’s great to be in the playoffs.”
He played his first NHL post-season game Wednesday night as the Canucks lost 3-1 to the Sharks in the series opener.
The rookie defenceman is pursuing the Stanley Cup dream less than two weeks after playing his first NHL regular-season game—and less than a month after he made his pro debut with Vancouver’s farm team, the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He has also played for the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves and Kitchener Rangers this season.
“It’s been a whirlwind, a lot of different cities, a lot of different people and different teams,” said Corrado, who also attended Vancouver’s limited post-lockout training camp for a short period.
“But you know what? It’s been fun—obviously, plenty of hockey being played. It’s nice to be a part of it.”
Corrado is filling a void for Vancouver as defenceman Chris Tanev continues to recuperate from a leg injury that sidelined him in early April. The rapidly rising prospect is helping to make up for a shortage of right-handed defencemen that has been accentuated by Tanev’s absence.
Corrado combines fluid skating and offensive ability, which gives the Canucks a stronger presence on the right point in the attacking zone, with a physical style.
He still has some room for improvement, after going minus-1 Wednesday. He was on the ice for San Jose’s winning goal as Tommy Wingels barged to the net and set up Dan Boyle.
But in 12 and a half minutes of ice time, Corrado also recorded two tricky shots on goal through traffic, requiring Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi to make sure he was in the right spots while dealing with distractions.
Coach Alain Vigneault has been impressed with Corrado’s effort and did not hesitate to use him—even though journeyman rearguard Derek Joslin, another right-handed shot with less offensive upside, was available. Joslin, 26, also brought in from the minors late in the regular season, has 116 games of NHL experience, but Vigneault could choose to stick with Corrado as the Canucks try to get their offence untracked and end a five-game home playoff losing skid that dates to the 2010-11 Stanley Cup final.
The coach was concerned that Vancouver’s only goal Wednesday came when Sharks winger Raffi Torres, a former Canuck, put the puck in his own net.
Corrado had 45 points in his OHL regular season and added two more in the OHL playoffs. He also produced two points in three AHL games.
As an accomplished guitarist, he has also done some scoring of the musical variety. During the NHL lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, Corrado decided he needed a hobby because he could not watch as many hockey games on TV.
So he took up guitar, and since then has played in shows while also studying music. Live performances have helped him deal with the pressures of playing on the major junior, minor pro and NHL stages.
“It helps with the nerves,” said Corrado, who plays both acoustic and electric guitar. “And, obviously, if you’re playing on stage, it’s kind of like playing hockey in (an arena.)”
The rhythm and challenges of playing music have also helped him develop parts of his game, and the off-ice activity enables him to relax.
“It’s a good getaway sometimes,” said Corrado. “You kind of get lost in it for an hour or so. It’s a nice release from everyday living.”
Corrado has collected many guitars and has taken one with him wherever he has been living in his rise to the NHL. But he has not packed much during this odyssey of a season as his move to the pros coincides with his adjustment to adulthood.
“It’s not like I can bring my whole closet here,” he said. “So you just pack light and do laundry.
“It’s good. It’s nice to be able to do things on your own now.”
As he learns to become more independent, he is studying NHL veterans, appreciating how they can keep things lighthearted but get serious when they need to.
“These guys, they’re the best at what they do—and it shows,” he said.