VANCOUVER – Kyle Wellwood hopes switching coasts improves his hockey fortunes.
The Vancouver Canucks are gambling that adding the former Toronto Maple Leafs forward to their roster adds some punch to their offence. The Canucks claimed Wellwood, 25, off NHL waivers Wednesday. The Leafs put Wellwood and goalie Andrew Raycroft on waivers Tuesday.
Wellwood, who has battled groin injuries the last two seasons and is recovering from a broken foot, is hoping a fresh start will change his luck.
“I’m just hoping I can come in and play like a top-six forward,” he said in a conference call. “That’s where I would like to be and be able to get those kind of minutes.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove to the Leafs. They’ve seen me play and I played well for them at some points. I definitely have something to prove to the Canucks and to myself.”
I have something to prove to myself.”
New Canucks general manager Mike Gillis thinks Wellwood has the potential to score goals in Vancouver.
“We’re really pleased, we think he’s a guy that we are prepared to put a lot of time and effort into and work with,” Gillis told The Canadian Press. “We’re quite pleased to have acquired him.”
The Canucks missed the playoffs last year for the second time in three years. Vancouver also scored just 213 goals last year. Only six NHL teams scored fewer.
Wellwood had 21 points (8-13) and a minus-12 rating in 59 games last season while earning US$950,000, the last year of his contract. He showed promise the previous season when he collected 42 points (12-30) in 48 games.
The Leafs took Wellwood 134th overall in the 2001 draft but decided to cut him loose.
“I think they are going in a different direction,” Wellwood said. “I think they are looking for different types of players.
“They wanted to shake things up a bit. My name was one of the question marks. It was just a business decision. I was coming off an injury and didn’t have that good of a year last year. I guess they evaluated me from that.”
The Leafs hoped the five-foot-10, 180-pound Windsor, Ont., native would centre their second line last year. He struggled to come back from sports hernia surgery last summer and there were questions about his fitness level.
Wellwood said he could have handled his recovery better.
“After my first surgery I was playing full time after five weeks,” he said. “I ended up rehurting it and I never recovered over the summer.
“On my part I didn’t communicate enough with the Leafs how I was feeling. I didn’t do well rehabbing it and training hard enough.”
After three groin surgeries, Wellwood thinks he’s “over the hump.”
“A lot of people have trouble with their groins at some point in their career,” he said. “It just happened to me. Fortunately for me, I played well enough to get another shot with another team.”
Wellwood broke his right foot training about a month ago but says it’s healing well.