I do have to admit to being a bit surprised to read that our Vancouver Canucks rated #29 in the NHL, ahead of only the Sharks, according to an ESPN article. Without their insider info ( because I absolutely refuse to pay for the right to hear Scott Burnside's POV ), the PD article seems to say that the gist is that ESPN view our cupboard as pretty bare. Let's explore that, and maybe find out something new about some of our kids, prospects, signings and whatnot after the jump.
Setting aside the fact it is ESPN, and just one of hundreds of scouts, a fellow named Grant Sonier ( I hope this is the same fellow, a minor league coach in the 90s. Probably became a scout too. I mean, how many Grant Soniers can there be?)
Anyhow, according the the PD blurb...
Like the Red Wings, the Canucks have seen their high draft picks limited by their contending for the President's Cup each year. Unlike Detroit, they have not found as much value elsewhere in the draft. And now the Canucks will feel it in their prospect pool. This year's selections -- forward Nicklas Jensen (29th overall) and goaltender David Honzik (71st overall) -- give them a chance to overcome their lack of depth. Jordan Schroeder(notes) (22nd overall, 2009) and Cody Hodgson(notes) (10th overall, 2008) are coming along slowly and cannot be counted out just yet.
Interesting that a system that boasts two players with boundless potential — Schroeder and Hodgson — could be ranked so low. Add in Anton Rodin, and while the Canucks only six top prospects by ESPN's count they might deserve a slightly higher ranking.
But this is about depth, and the Canucks aren't the deepest in the minor leagues ... with the potential forother busts like Sergei Shirokov.
Now, maybe Mr Sonier goes into depth on why the cupboard is so bare. I guess we can be happy they remembered Anton Rodin. I guess its all relative with prospects, its not surprising that the Hawks ranked 4th will the deals they made during the fire sale. I hear the Wings are also high in the rankings. I guess I just distrust the article's veracity a bit, in that it seems they totally discount everyone not named Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder, except to mention Niklas Jensen and David Honzik .
Now, I am not saying the Canucks system right now is Top 10. But I do think that Mike Gillis has done a better drafting job than Mr Sonier thinks he has. I also think he has excelled at using non traditional ways of finding young players. The jury is still out on some of these young men, and more than a few may never lace them up in the NHL. That is an NHL wide thing, not a Canucks thing.
So, let's look at a few of the fine young men GMMG has found. With the help of the Interwebs, maybe we might learn something!
Steve Anthony - a highly regarded bantam and midget in Quebec, he fell to the Canucks in the 7th round, 187th in 2009. We forget these guys are still kids, as his quotes in this quoted article show that he still struggles with his confidence ( and this is a guy as a kid that was being compared to Sidney Crosby ) His last year, he was a point a game player throughout the season, and a +35 in the regular season over 61 games played. Sounds like he learned a lot as the Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup this year.
Aaron Volpatti - another example of signing guys away from the draft process. I hesitate to include him here, as he already has made an impact, even if briefly, at the NHL level. GMMG signed him in March last year, and we all saw what his style can bring. Personally, seeing as he is from one of my old home towns, I hope he makes the team next year. More than likely will play for the Wolves, and become a fan favorite. Really only included him here as an excuse to show this ( where he looks like Ryp' a bit ), and this ( where I was very impressed by how he came back after getting tagged ) and this (WHAT A HIT! ) and this.
Darren Archibald - Jeff Angus gives us a great breakdown here, but it is hard to understand how this guy ( lots of power in these highlights ) has been out there ( check out this goal linked there ) All I know is he got in 37 games with the Ice Dogs last year and scored 23 goals, had 36 points, and scored 10 more with 4 assists in 14 playoff games. It seems the team was happy with him at the prospect camp. maybe a guy to look for making the jump to main camp this fall?
Anton Rodin - one of the prospects actually mentioned in the ESPN article, he is also listed on Hockey Futures a the #2 prospect we have, just behind CoHo, ahead of Jordan Schroeder, Billy Sweatt, Kevin Connauton and Patrick McNally. I went down that far because it should be noted how much of a crap shoot all these rating things are. These guys list us as 27th, and all the guys I listed above are rated ahead of Chris Tanev by the website. Has performed well for Sweden at the highest levels. Should finally be in Canuck / Wolves family this season.
Jordan Schroeder - is the one that always makes me smirk when I read the projections from the "experts". When he was drafted in '09 22nd overall. It was all the "experts" could do to not keep repeating themselves about the "steal of the draft". When he came out of school and joined the Moose, and scored 4 goals and 9 points in 11 games, and then 3 more goals and 6 points in as many playoff games, smiles were wide on Griffiths Way. The fact that his first full season as a pro saw a drop in production is not the worst thing in the world. It does not mean all the kid's talent evaporated. Check some of his highlights from last year. Does that look like he has lost it? Count me as one that is still excited about seeing this kid in Blue and Green in the coming years
Bill Sweatt - Lee Sweatt's little brother is always going to be a sentimental favorite for me. I mean, we picked up him for nothing, he is a guy that decided he wanted to play with his bro' as a pro,( and while that never happened in the NHL, it did at the AHL level ), rejecting his hometown team, and laughing at the Leafs lowball and bluster when he said no. So, is the talent enough to live up to that kind of hype? Well, in 10/11 in Manitoba, ( first full season as a pro ) he had 19 goals, 27 assists in 80 games, and added a goal and 5 assists in 14 playoff games ( and only one minor in the playoffs ). Check some of his highlights. Goes to the net hard, not afraid of the physical play, both giving and taking, good hands in close, and fast as hell. We are deep, but you have to like how this kid's game meshes with our team's style.
So, there is six forwards with varying degrees of upside. Fair enough, There are more, but lets stop there and take a peak at the blue line. We all watched how every time a young guy came up for his chance he seemed to fit right in. Let's look at the prospects on the blue line.
Peter Andersson - a 5th round pick in 2009, this young man joins a long history of drafting Swedish defensemen. You can see from his page at Eliteprospects that he is not a big points guy, but plays a solid two way game, ( and, even without the points, it talks of his big shot and offensive prowess. Craig McTavish will have to work with the young man on making the simple play in his own end. Won Bronze at the 09/10 WJT team for Sweden. Good size at 6'3" and 194.
Sebastion Erixson - undrafted and signed this April , ( undoubtably because the best Swedish scout in the NHL, Thomas Gradin said we should ), this 21 year old has plenty of determination. Some great quotes here on his desire to make our team this year, and willingness to play where he is asked if he doesn't. I like players with that kind of drive. Plenty of skill, he will need to beef up the 5'11" and 185 lb frame to handle the physical play in the NHL.
Kevin Connauton - someone that you would think the ESPN folks noticed as well. A 3rd rounder in '09, the man only set records for points as a Giant in the WHL( his 24 goals and 72 points are franchise records ), and has produced at the AHL level as well.( albeit only 11 goals and 23 points in his 1st pro season, but some outstanding skill shown in some of the linked highlights ) His power play work and skating, poise and great first pass make him yet another of the young men that is knocking at the door on our blue line. Lot's of good info on his Wiki page here . Broke Jonathon Blum's goals record on the Giants, and hit 97 MPH in team's skill's comp this year.
Adam Polasek - this kid is one that I would have to point at as an example of a late round guy ( you know, like the Wings, right ESPN ? Not the only one either. But I get the narrative. Wings good, Canucks bad, right? ;- ), the big Czech was a 5th rounder in '10. His first year in North American hockey was with the PEI Rocket in the QMJHL in the 09/10 season ( stats and bio here ). Check out how he plants a guy and then with the inevitable fight, how he plants that guy too! Will undoubtably be a Craig McTavish favorite, this year.
Yann Sauve - how about a young man that may be ready to take the next step this coming year? At 6'3" and 209. he has the size. The poor bastard just has to avoid traffic at camp ( off the ice more than on! ), and he will have a chance to show some of the skills highlighted here to the big boys. He looked pretty good in the 5 games he got into for the NHL club last year. Let's see if he can live up to the heights he was hyped at when we got him 41st overall in '08.
Patrick McNally - our first pick in the '10 draft, this 4th rounder ( 115 overall ) was a welcome surprise to the Canucks. He fell to our team because he is committed to Harvard, and was snapped up when the 40th rated player in Central Scouting slid as a result of his scholastic plans. His HockeyFutures profile gives us plenty of reasons to smile and wait. Big, skates very well, prolific as a scoring defenseman, this young man has all the potential to be a "man, where did THAT guy come from" prospect when he is finished learning how to rule the world at Harvard.
So, not all bad right? You can make a case for just about any draft pick / prospect in the NHL if you try hard enough. Again, that is only 6 defenders, there are others. Let us look at some of the drafts made by GMMG in 2011. Maybe we are not rated up at the top, but I kind of like how the current Executive of the Year did. Look for all these guys more in the coming years instead of this next year. Though, we like being surprised guys, and it IS the motto of the team that if you can play, you WILL play, regardless.
Niklas Jensen - our 1st rounder. Some highlights here, and his stats here. The thing is with the #29 pick is, he is not scared of the next step at all. Confidence is important to any prospect, and he sounded confident in this story from draft day.
David Honzik - the first of two '11 3rd round picks, the 6'3, 194 lb goaltender came from the Czech leagues to the Q' for, like many European youth players, for the better competition. His skills, where he has been compared to Pekka Rinne, lead one to believe that we might have a good one.
Alexandre Grenier - the 90th overall pick, this 3rd rounder is one that really excites me. He was a guy Patrick Roy used in crucial situations last year, and has been called a classic late bloomer. You have to love the size, at 6'5" and 200 lbs. This highlight package definitely should get fans excited. Will most likely play as an overager for Roy again ( though he is eligible for the AHL ).
Joseph Labate - another prep schooler, this young man was a finalist for Minnesota's "Mr Hockey" award, got to be drafted in his home state, and is currently playing and enrolled at Wisconsin. Drafted in the 4th round, 101st overall, this 6'4", 195 pounder had 29 goals and 52 points in 26 games as a prep schooler. Check the descriptions of his talent here. Nnnnniiiiicccceeeeeee.
Those are just the first four. There are Ludwig Blomstrad, Frankie Corrado, Patrick Westerholm ( and his twin brother Pontius was also at the latest prospect camp ). Another Swede named Henrik Tommernes. I did not even mention a 7th rounder in 2010, Sawyer Hannay, who is 6'4", a shade under 200, and apparently can chuck the knuckles, amongst other things.
We all know about Eddie Lack. Another undrafted fellow. Jon Iilahti, a highly regarded young Finnish tender drafted in 2010. Or Joe Cannata, another young goalie from the year before. Neither was a high draft pick, but with the drafting of a goalie every year he has been here, GMMG is keeping the pipeline full as far as the net is concerned as well.
The thing is, the current GM can only deal with what he has. Yes, other fans like to point at how the current stars were drafted by Brian Burke and Dave Nonis. Let's look at that. ( full Wiki list of the Canucks picks here ) Burke was at the helm from 1998 to 2004, and while his shining jewel was the Sedin deal, and drafted Bryan Allen, Artem Chubarov and Jarko Ruutu 1-2-3 in 1998, no one drafted after that even registers. None of the players in '99 after the Twins. The Nathan Smith draft in 2000 was an absolute disaster, with only Brandon Reid (7th rd ) even getting a sniff in the NHL. 2001? R J Umberger WAS a good pick, and he was tossed aside over 200K so Burke could act the part of "the Boss". Kevin Bieksa was found in the 5th round that year though. 2002? Kirill Koltsov was the top pick in the second round, as our first was gone to get Trevor Linden back. Then of course, in 2003, the folks like to trumpet how we got Ryan Kesler ( folks, I love Kes', but he fell to us at 23rd overall, and the Oilers screwed up! ) And it should be noted that not one player from that draft apart from Kesler ( except Nathan McIver being up and down, and playing a bit for the Nucks and Ducks ) played a minute in the league.
So, maybe it was just Burkie right? You Canuck fans should kiss his feet. He drafted the SEDINS!!!!!!111!!!!
How about Dave Nonis? Well, he has a bit better record than his old boss. In 2004, He drafted Cory Schneider in the 1st round, and Alexander Edler ( it should be noted that, according to Canuck legend, he did not want to draft Edler at all, and had to be strongly convinced by Thomas Gradin, who knew that if the Canucks did not snap him up, the Wings were going to ) Mike Brown was drafted in the 5th round, and Jannik Hansen in the now non existent 9th round that year. In 2005 he again did pretty good. Luc Bourdon was going to be a star, and Mason Raymond was a good pick in the 2nd round. Oh, and Mario Bliznak ( who has returned to Europe ) was a 7th rounder that year.
It was the '06 and '07 drafts that were horrible. In '06, he drafted Michael Grabner in the 1st round. Good pick there. But he traded our 2nd pick that year, took Daniel Rahimi in the 3rd. The 4th and 5th rounders were traded. The 6th round netted Sergei Shirokov ( and fail or success, it was Gillis that put in a ton of work to get the guy over to North America, not the guy who drafted him. ) The '07 draft? Patrick White instead of David Perron, who went to the Blues with the next pick. Taylor fucking Ellington instead of PK Subban, taken 10 picks later, or even Wayne Simmonds, who was the last pick of the second round. No picks until the 5th round again that year. At least we got Taylor Matson 176th overall that year, and Dan Gendur with the 206th pick!
So, let us not put it all on the current management. Not to totally disparage the previous key holders, but they did have a fairly uneven history. Those lost years of '06 and '07, all Nonis's fault, are a definite reason for a shoddy rating now, as those year's picks could and should be challenging for spots right now on the NHL team.
Mr Gillis may have to wait a bit to see how his picks all turn out. Maybe he goes down in history as just as inept at judging young hockey flesh as the team's previous two guys. Maybe not. Ratings like the ESPN story are basically just what one person says anyhow. All I can say is that I am happier as a Canuck fan with the prospects and their slower and more measured progress ( by design ) under Gillis than the way the young players were developed previously.
Just an opinion though, right!
Enjoy your summer.