Like just about everyone else John Tortorella is intrigued by Zack Kassian.

He sees the combination of size strength and skill and thinks about the kind of player Kassian could become.

“You know I have heard so many good things about him” the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks said Wednesday as his players went through off-ice fitness testing on the first day of training camp. “I haven’t seen him play that much. I didn’t see him play in Buffalo because he didn’t. In the tape I watched here I didn’t see him play much but I have talked to a lot of people about him.”

Tortorella also made a point of talking to Kassian this summer. He called him and let the 22-year-old winger know that big things are expected of him. He challenged him basically to become the player so many people think he can be.

“I want to give him a huge opportunity to be a huge part of this team and I told him that” Tortorella said. “I will tell you that I want to give him an opportunity because of what people have told me about him.”

Tortorella is on record saying he wants the Canucks to be a more difficult team to play against. He has suggested the team needs more “bite” and clearly recognizes that Kassian -- at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds -- is a guy who could provide some of that push-back.

“It’s something that I think the team needs as far as his willingness as far as him playing into a bigger role with the team” he said. “I’d like to see it happen he is going to to get the opportunity but he is going to sink or swim himself . . .So that is why I contacted Zack. I think this is a big year for him and it’s a year I want him to step out of himself and be a big part of this club.”

Tortorella said Kassian will be given an opportunity to skate with the Sedin twins early in training camp.

“In scrimmage games right away here he will get an opportunity” Tortorella said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead as far as exhibition (games) but he will get an opportunity to play in a top-six position.”

Kassian met with reporters before Tortorella made his comments but he clearly recognizes this is a big year for him.

“I am excited about the opportunity” he said. “I think everyone is as a team. We are excited with the new coach the new challenges. Personally I am excited to show what I can do and earn a spot on this team as a key player.”