VANCOUVER – A frustrating season for Ryan Shannon has finally shown signs of turning around, but the Vancouver Canucks forward knows things can change pretty quickly when you’re trying to hold onto a job in the NHL.
Shannon made highlight reels when he scored on a spin-o-rama move in a shootout Sunday night to give the Canucks a much needed win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The play, which has worked its way onto YouTube, came in Shannon’s second game after being called up from the minors. It supplied a little light to a dark season that saw the 24-year-old from Darien, Conn., battle his way back from three knee injuries.
“I had been injured for so long I had nerves about coming back and being able to play up to speed,” Shannon said Wednesday after practice. “I just wanted to come here and soak in as much as I could.
“Now I have two games under my belt. Hopefully I can get more and keep using that window of opportunity to impress and stick here as long as I can.”
Shannon had two goals and 11 assists in 53 games with the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks last season. He also had two goals and nine points in 14 games with the AHL Portland Pirates.
He was traded to Vancouver in June for Jason King and future considerations.
Shannon started the season with the Canucks, scoring twice in three games, but was sent to the AHL Manitoba Moose after Vancouver’s disastrous 8-2 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 10. He was a minus-4 in that game, leaving him minus-7.
The demotion took him by surprise.
“I didn’t see it coming but I understood it,” said Shannon. “I understand when things don’t go well in the NHL, especially in a market like this, there is a demand for success.”
Shannon tried to take a positive attitude to Manitoba.
“When I was sent down last year I was kind of devastated,” he said. “I let it get to me a little too much. I learned my lesson.
“I think the best way to go about this business is to play emotional but not let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.”
Shannon barely had time to unpack his bags before tearing up his knee, an injury that sidelined him for six weeks. Cleared to play, he re-aggraved the knee in practice before even getting into a game.
After another six weeks of rehab he hurt the knee again in his first game.
“It’s just a big punch in the face,” Shannon said, trying to describe the emotional roller-coaster he rode. “Those days after (being hurt again) you find yourself really tired all the time because it’s such an emotional let down.
“At no point did I say this is too hard coming back or I don’t want to do this anymore. I think there is a lot more to come. There are going to be better days.”
Shannon, who is expected to be in the lineup for Vancouver’s important divisional game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, wants to make the most of his chance with the Canucks.
“It’s another window of opportunity for me to prove that I can play here,” he said.
“I’ve always had self-confidence in my abilities. I feel like I’m prepared and willing to sacrifice the things that need to be sacrificed. I’m excited to be in the NHL. You have to perform and you have to be lucky as well.”
So far coach Alain Vigneault has liked what he’s seen.
“He’s had good speed and skill,” said Vigneault. “He seems to have good hockey sense.
“This is a young man that has a lot of confidence in his ability. It’s unfortunate for him that he got injured because he would have been here a lot quicker. We think he’s an offensive player and we are expecting him to contribute that way.”
Shannon played four years of hockey at Boston College, where he earned a degree in economics.
Being part of the Ducks’ championship run last season was like a dream for Shannon. He earned a Stanley Cup ring but puts the experience in perspective.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “My first year in the NHL, sitting next to a guy like Teemu Selanne who played 16 seasons and had never really gotten that close . . . I feel really fortunate to be part of something like that.
“But I’m not a full-time NHL player. In a sense it doesn’t feel like I was really part of it. I wasn’t a core guy. I was fortunate to have a light shine on me. Now it’s all about getting that next one and wanting to have that feeling as a core player.”