Sometimes big names can shroud the unfamiliar ones. Especially when Roberto Luongo just beat ex-teammate Cory Schneider and Daniel Sedin had the second highest ice time on the team (24:38) in the Vancouver Canucks’ 3-2 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
However, the current name at the top of the list for most goals scored by a Canuck is not a Sedin. It is not Alex Burrows, who is out for a few weeks after blocking a shot in the first game of the season, and it is not Ryan Kesler, nor is it any of the defencemen. It is – wait for it – newcomer Mike Santorelli.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Santorelli started out his NHL career with the Nashville Predators, who drafted him in the sixth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He spent a lot of time with the Predators’ AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals, where he collected 70 points in 70 games in 2008-09 and 59 in 57 games in 2009-10. Santorelli was then traded to the Florida Panthers, where he spent two and a half seasons. 2012-13 was a rough year; Santorelli played on four different teams (Tingsryds in Sweden, the Florida Panthers, the Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage) before signing as a free agent with the Canucks on July 6. His best season in the NHL statistically was 2010-11, in which he had 20 goals and 41 points in 82 games with the Panthers.
“This Santorelli, we talk about him every day,” head coach John Tortorella told the Vancouver Sun. “To win consistently in the league, your top players need to be top players. But you need help.”
Santorelli currently leads the team with three goals in four games, two against the Calgary Flames on October 6 (including the overtime winner) and one against the Devils on Tuesday – his second overtime goal in as many games, as he tipped a shot from Jason Garrison past Schneider. Santorelli has proved his ability to simply be in the right place at the right time, as well as his ability to work well with almost anyone, whether that be the Sedins on the top line or with defencemen like Garrison and Kevin Bieksa. He was also on the ice for all three of the Canucks’ goals against the Devils, as they came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game. For the team however, the thing that stands out most about Santorelli is his work ethic.
“He’s just a guy who works hard and really cares about the game,” David Booth, who assisted on Santorelli’s overtime winner against the Devils told the Vancouver Sun. “I don’t want to say it’s a fault, but he really, really cares about the game. I’ve met very few people as dedicated as him; he really wants to succeed. He’ll come tomorrow and work just as hard as he did yesterday.”
Santorelli was never projected to have this sort of influence, especially not this early. In fact, no one was even certain if he would make the Canucks’ line up at the beginning of the season with the multitude of competition from younger players like Nicklas Jensen and Brendan Gaunce. It seems that it is the lessons the Santorelli learned as a young hockey player that are making an effect on him now, a 27 year old veteran who has travelled the league and has everything to prove.
“He taught me that you need to work in this game and you can’t expect things,” Santorelli told the Metro of his BCHL coach Mike Vandekamp.
So what can we expect from Santorelli? Hopefully more goals, but for sure, a hard work ethic and good attitude – and that will carry him far on any team.