VANCOUVER - Linden Vey wasn't about to let his first legitimate NHL shot pass him by.
Stuck behind a long line of talented centres in the Los Angeles Kings' organization, the 23-year-old was given a new lease on his hockey life when the Vancouver Canucks acquired him in a trade at June's NHL draft for a second-round pick.
Vey was almost immediately pencilled into rookie head coach Willie Desjardins' lineup, but that served as little comfort heading into training camp last month.
"Just because you're supposed to be slotted in or you're given an opportunity, it's about earning things," Vey said after Wednesday's practice at Rogers Arena. "If you don't produce ... it's easy to find yourself on the outside looking in. Every day is a new day and you've got to continue to produce and continue to prove that you belong here."
The soft-spoken forward has done that and more in the early going, scoring his first NHL goal in the third period of Saturday night's dramatic 5-4 come-from-behind shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Desjardins coached Vey for three full seasons when the two were with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, and while that familiarity didn't hurt, it also provided no guarantees.
"He was given that chance right off the start," said Desjardins. "It was his history that got him that chance — what he's done in the past — and then he did everything he needed to keep that spot."
Vey said there were mixed emotions after he was dealt to the Canucks, but he could also do the math and knew the quickest route to the NHL probably wasn't going to be with the Kings.
"You're excited to move and get a new opportunity, but you're leaving a lot guys that you've played with a number of years and that's tough," said the native of Wakaw, Sask. "I'm excited to be here and looking forward to a really good year."
Selected 96th overall by the Kings back in 2009, Vey had 55 goals and 103 assists in 191 games with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs over the last three seasons, but had yet to score in 19 NHL contests with the Kings and Canucks prior to Saturday.
"I think it's bigger for the player than for anybody else because he's more worried about the fact that he hasn't (scored) and he's had these opportunities," said Desjardins, whose team has two wins to start the season. "But for me it's getting the chances. If you're getting the chances, (goals) will come.
"It was a big step for him and now he doesn't have to worry as much."
Another player who won't have to worry about opening his account with the Canucks is Nick Bonino, who also scored for the first time with his new team on Saturday.
"It's good to get that one out of the way and it's good to get it when you win. I wanted two things for the home opener and we got both of them," he said. "There's always pressure for anyone to score, but I think we've got four good lines that can all contribute and have contributed so far throughout the pre-season and the first two games. If that keeps going it should help us get more wins."
Vey's goal on Saturday night came on a rejuvenated Canucks' power play, where he has often found himself patrolling the high slot on the No. 1 unit with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
"The biggest thing is confidence," said Vey. "Obviously they're great players and you've got to be ready because they're going give you the puck in situations where other players wouldn't. But it's been great and hopefully that can continue."
The trade of Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks for Bonino and Luca Sbisa, and the signings of Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller grabbed headlines in Vancouver this off-season, but Vey is also key to a team that continues to search for secondary scoring behind the Sedin twins.
"For us to make the playoffs we need to roll four lines and we need to have everyone contributing like we had against the Oilers," said Henrik Sedin. "I don't think you would have seen us come back in a game like that the past two years. I think we're deeper now, we have more guys involved that can score."
While Desjardins knew what he had in Vey from their time together in junior, he's been impressed with how those skills have transferred to the pro game.
"He's good with the puck. I think he's really good under pressure," said the coach. "He reads pressure so he knows where to go when guys are coming at him, and he makes himself available when other guys are getting pressure. I think it's just his hockey sense that's kind of helped him."
Notes: Rookie forward Bo Horvat skated with Vancouver on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in pre-season. ... The Canucks will have had five days off by the time they hit the ice Friday in Edmonton against the Oilers. Vancouver then hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.