Craig Cunningham has put himself in a spot to get noticed.
One of the more noteworthy aspects of the Vancouver Giants' leading scorer's big season (he's a finalist for WHL player of the year, up against Jordan Eberle of Regina Pats and Team Canada) fame is that it came at a new position. Cunningham, played mostly right wing in his first three WHL seasons, but was shifted to centre. That probably helped Cunningham, who attended a New York Rangers prospect camp in 2009, display a new dimension of his game heading into his last crack at the NHL draft (he's rated 108th by Central Scouting).
"He's been really coming along this season for us," said Giants coach Don Hay, whose club leads Tri-City 2-1 entering Game 4 the Western Conference final tonight (Rogers Sportsnet Pacific/West, 10 p.m. ET/7 PT). "The big key for us at the start of the season was that we made the decision to move him to centre from right wing, thinking we needed to do that since James Wright was with the (Tampa Bay) Lightning.
"We knew he could handle it. He's such a responsible guy."
Cunningham (97 points in the regular season, 21 in 13 playoff games) is one of four Giants holdovers from the 2007 Memorial Cup championship club, along with Wright, linemate Lance Bouma and defenceman Nolan Toigo, a nephew of Vancouver owner Ron Toigo. Hay notes that group helps set the tone around the Giants, whose success in recent years is "comparable" with the Kamloops Blazers dynasty he was part of in the 1990s.
"We have a lot of good leaders on our hockey club," Hay says. "Bouma, Cunningham, Wright, they know what our tradition is here ... and they do a great job making the young guys feel like they're part of those expectations."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. He may be contacted at neatesager[at]yahoo[dot]ca.