Big Boy Hockey : Young and Restless, Part Two - 2010 to Present

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Wherein the "kids" try to impress to earn this... Like how I tied that all together? Wheels within wheels.

In Part One, comparing the Wings and Canucks history had reached the point where we were headed into a draft after two teams that could be labeled "high skill" had won the Cup, playing attractive, offensive hockey. In the future was a team that did the same, but showed how important size and physical play, coupled with playoff style officiating, could be.

The Canucks were, of course, at the centre of that, although any non Canuck fan would, will, (and "whatever man" ) call it "whining" or some such. The sight of Dustin Byfuglien's ass in front of him inspired our goalie to poetry. It was a pretty strong argument for size as the Hawks progressed through the ensuing rounds after our epic 2010 clash that sealed a rivalry.

It was not just By-Fug_Lee-in, of course. Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Adam Burish, Colin Fraser, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd sliding in and out of your bottom six aint too shabby, in retrospect. Consider how many of those names have big $$$ deals right now.

The Hawks had, and still do have, that skill. They replaced the the size that was skillfully effective in their bottom six ( and that went on to first line roles around the league ) with varying degrees of the same, while maybe even placing more value on skill than the other teams that followed with the more bruising style of playoff play. But the subsequent Cup winners to that team took all the physical ( and very good defensively ) aspects of the Hawks and added in a heavy dose of 1-3-1 #Uberdefense and "block every shot you can" own zone pack it in around the net #MasadaFormation.

That, and the way that they changed the interpretation of interference at the blue line ( another article entirely. That one change did more to scuttle all the changes they made to encourage offense. In would be interesting to see if the concussions to defensemen indeed declined or not ), by letting a player "chip" to protect the guy going to get the puck has made the brutally effective "dump it out endlessly while protecting a one goal lead" popular.

This year looks like we will have another skill and will versus size and skill in the Final. At least, that is what this fan is praying for. Those of us that enjoy watching the skill should be on the Chicago bandwagon for sure! If the Kings and Bruins play in the Final, I may watch. I don't know if I will be able to get through a whole game though!

There's the context for how two high "skill" teams like the Wings and Canucks drafted. Should they, or did they know how much the "chip" play was going to help size over skill? Perhaps. All these guys are way smarter about hockey than you or I, to be sure. I am certainly not saying that it was just one thing, and they were grappling with what to do for some time before. But, when Sidney Crosby got his eggs scrambled around Winter Classic in 2011, they had to do SOMETHING, right?


2010 - Them

1st - Riley Sheehan ( 21st ). Left school after being picked, played in AHL this year. Has played 2 games for Wings already. 6'2" and 202 and growing. Big centres are hardly a surprising 1st round pick!

2nd - Kale Jarnkrok ( 51st ). A 5'11", 156 lb Swedish blueliner, who is almost a point a game in Bynnas. Knowing the Wings Swedish scouts, probably an undersized Lidstrom.

3rd - Louis Marc Aubry ( 81st ). A 2nd generation Wing ( dad played for them in the 80's ). He is a 6'4", 205 lb and growing centre who has seen time in the AHL already.

4th through 7th - The Wings had all their picks in this year, and took an offensive Finn named Teemu Pulkkinen who is 5'11 and 186, a Czech goalie named Petr Mrazek in the 5th round ( who is slightly undersized as goalies go today. 6'0" and only 162 lbs ), a decent centre at 5'11" and 180 in the 6th round, and another undersized defenseman as their last pick that year. Ben Marshall is 5'9" and a buck sixty. Sure, he is a Minnesota kid and another long term pick like late rounders often are, but size did not matter here, obviously.

2010 - Us

1st - A kid named Quinton Howden went to the Panthers instead of the Canucks because we traded for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Some kid named Michael Grabner was also in that deal. So, there's that!!!

2nd - Gone in the deal that acquired Steve Bernier. Eventually becomea Czech RW named Petr Strake for the Blue Jackets.

3rd - Not sure if you are sensing a pattern here like me, but this one was gone to get Andrew Alberts, Who knew that this would be the deal I would look back on most fondly of those three! Anyhow, a big defenseman named Austin Levi, who is 6'4" and 210 lbs now, and probably still growing. Went from being physical in his first year playing for the Plymouth Whalers, and then started lighting up the scoreboard there the next two years. The Hurricanes got a good one. But Andrew Alberts has improved every year, and is still a decent NHLer.

4th through 7th - The first time the Canucks picked in 2010 was with the 115th pick, and they took a kid that would have been higher up the list if he was not already committed to Harvard, Patrick McNally, a defenseman at 6'2" and 180 lbs. He had a decent year, and due to "ahem" " scholastic irregularities", may even be available a bit sooner! In the 5th, the Canucks definitely went for size with Adam Polasek, a 6'3", 190 lb physical defenseman . He played in both the ECHL and AHL this past year,so...work in progress ( ? ). For me, I have noticed positive things about the first of two 6th rounders, a 5'9", 186 lber who plays bigger, lit it up for the Niagara Ice Dogs, and was last in both the K-Wings and Wolves lineups as he becomes a pro. The other one was Jonathan Iiahti, a 6'0", 170 Finnish goaltender who likes it better at home right now. With their final pick, the Canucks went for a long term project with definite size in one Sawyer Hannay, a 6'4", 202 lb physical defenseman who was plying his trade in the QMJHL Victoriaville Tigres after getting in ONE game for the Salzberg EC ( Lions? ) in the Austrian league in 2013.

Ok, 2010 goes to the Wings here, obviously.

2011 - Them

1st ,2nd - The Wings are an interesting team. They must have thought the draft was deep, and were not scared of trading the cachet of a 1st rounder, dealing what became some kid named Matt Puempel at the 24th spot to the Senators for the 35th pick ( Thomas Jurco, a 6'1" 190 lb Slovak ) ,who produced for the SeaDogs in the Q', and then proceeded to produce at almost the same pace in the AHL with the Griffins, both regular season and playoffs. They then used the 48th pick also acquired and selected a 6'1", 190 lb defenseman named Xaiver Ouellet, beofre using their own 2nd pick at the 55th spot to take Ryan Sproul, who is 6'3" 185 lbs, and was almost a point a game with the Greyhounds of the OHL in 2011-12.

3rd - Alan Quine was the 85th pick, and is a smaller ( 5'11", 184 lbs ) centre last seen with the Griffins. Was better than a point a Game with the OHL Peterborough Petes, with 30 goals and 70 points in his draft year.

4th through 7th -The Wings Slovak scout seems to be getting heard, as another Slovak was the 4th round pick, with Marek Tverdon, a 6'2", 190 lb RWer who at least should have been known to Canuck scouts, as he was blowing it up for the Giants in his draft year, with 31 goals and 74 points in 60 games! They had two 5th rounders, and one was used on a 6'0", 200lb centre named Philippe Hudon at 145th, before using the 146th pick on a 6'2" defender for Sweden named Mattias Backman. He was only 169 lbs, but the 6th rounder was a monster named Richard Nedomiel ( 6'4" and 204 lb Czech kid who played in the WHL ) and a Russian kid named Alexei Marchenko ( 6'3" and 183 lbs ). If seems as if the Wings got the message on size from the Bruin Cup victory, at least in those later rounds!

2011 - Us

1st - The Vancouver Canucks certainly did get the message. No one in this draft was under 6'0", and the first rounder is definitely projected as a power forward, "Big Boy Hockey" type player with Niklas Jensen, a 6'2", 202 lb winger ( plats both sides ) who already has an NHL contract.

2nd, 3rd - Taking a page from the Wings' playbook, the Canucks traded their 2nd rounder to pick up a couple 3rds, and using them to take David Honzik, a 6'3", 210 lb goalie currently progressing at the "slow" setting by playing last year with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, where he had a 4.40 GAA and an .873 save %. ( Is that good or bad in the Q' ? #lol ), as well as behometh Alexandre Grenier, a 6'5", 200 lber who started the season in Salzberg, got a few games in the AHL, and then settled in for the K'Wings, with 10 goals and 31 points in 37 games.

4th through 7th - Size was still a factor in the later rounds, where both 4th round picks available to the Canucks were big kids. Joseph Labate is 6'4", 200 lbs, and just finished his second season with the University of Wisconsin. The 120th pick ( their own ) was used on Ludwig Blomstrand, a 6'1" 198 lb winger who was thought enough of that he was signed to an NHL contract in 2013, when Mike Gillis said "he is a big strong winger that has exceptional skating ability. In fact, he may be the best skater in our prospect pool." In the 5th round, the Canucks hit a home run with Frank Corrado, a 6'0" 190 lb defender who was last seen playing in the first round of the 2013 playoffs! The 6th round brought a 6'0" 187 lb Swedish RWer named Pathrik Westerholm, and in the 7th, a 6'1", 176 lb defenseman named Henrik Tommernes was selected with the 210th pick.

The verdict for this year has to go to the Canucks on the Frankie Corrado pick alone! 5th round steal baby! It looks like both teams at least had an "eye" towards size when making up the draft list in 2011.

For this year, let's just tighten this up a bit. Most of the names from the 2012 draft are going to be 18 and 19 year olds. Players that age do sometimes play in the NHL ( see Corrado, Frankie ) from the later picks ( Detroit picked 19th last year, the Canucks 26th )...

2012 - Them

1st through 7th - Well, the first was gone in the Kyle Quincey deal, but with the 49th pick in the 2nd round, they selected another Czech, a 6'0", almost 200 lb named Martin Frk who had 16 G and 29 assists in 34 games for the Halifax Mooseheads the year he was selected. The 3rd rounder was a goaltender named Jake Paterson ( started 50 games for the OHL saginaw Spirit last year, 3.53 GAA ), and the 4th was used on tongue twister Andreas Athanasiou, who was a London Knight centre who went from -11 in his first year there before being a +22 the next, and was better than a point a game this year for the Barrie Colts. He looks like a good one. The later rounds for the Wings have become the "size rounds" by the looks of it, with the 5th rounder a 6'4", 229 defenseman named Michael McKee, a 6th round defenseman at 6'2", 197 lb named James de Haas, and in the 7th round, they used the 200th pick to select 6'6" 207 lb defenseman Rasmus Bodin from the Swedish team Ostersunds ( tier 3 ), though he has payed for his country on the under 18 team too.

2012 - Us

1st through 7th - Brendan Gaunce was mentioned explicitly by the GM as a player that will be given "every chance" to make the roster this coming year. No surprise for a player that had 33 G and 60 P in 60 games as a leader on the Belleville Bulls, and then followed it up with 8 G and 22 P in 17 playoff games. Mind you, the 6'1" 207 lb centre was only given a "C" chance of making the NHL at all by Hockey Prospects. In the 2nd round, at the 57th position, overager Alexandre Mallet was selected specifically FOR his "Big Boy Hockey" style of play ( at only 6'1" and 195 lbs. ). He is still a work in progress, and played 18 games for the Wolves before settling in with the K'Wings, where he had 10 G, 29 P, and 48 PIM in 44 games. The 3rd round pick went to Florida as part of the Chris Higgins deal, and both 4ths the Canucks had went to the Blue Jackets for Samme Pahlsson, but in the 5th they selected a defender with size ( 6'3", 200 lbs ) named Ben Hutton, currently at the University of Maine, and in the 6th round took a 6'2", 187 lb forward named Wesley Myron, who hails from Victoria, and went from Boston University to the K'Wings. Their last pick? A 6'3", 200 lb forward named Mathew Beattie, who had zero points and 8 PIM in 15 games at Yale. But, it's Yale! Smart guys go to Yale.

I won't presume to be expert enough tell you who won this draft, as we just have not seen enough. As a Canuck fan, I am very happy about Gaunce getting the chance he will, but it is just too far out to be fair.

It does seem that our team, and the "gold standard" have taken a similar view on size, however. While the Wings have the reputation for placing players from the late rounds on their roster, it should be noted that Abdelkader was a 2nd rounder( 2005 ), Andersson was a 3rd rounder ( 2007 ), Brunner wasn't even a pick, and only Darren Helm fits that mould ( 2005, 5th round ). It should be apparent that the "overcook your prospects in the minors " is definitely the long view, but one with a solid success rate.

The Canucks have a bunch of folks that were signed in non traditional ways, like Eddie Lack and Kellan Lain ( Wings also signed a high value college kid named DeKeyser ), and filled in some of the spots on their prospect list with guys like Darren Archibald, Pinizzotto, and Weise. Jannik Hansen was a 9th rounder in 2004. Chris Tanev went to the NHL roster from Tier Two hockey in Ontario for God's sake!

So, as long as you can play, you can play. And it seems apparent that both teams still place a value on skill. But, even the Wings started filling up the later rounds with big fellows, even more so than the Canucks!

Look for the 2013 draft to be an interesting one in that respect. When your GM has already given strong hints about changing his thinking, I fully expect the Canucks to once again be ahead of the curve, and sign some NCAA football star that skated for training in the winters as a "project". As long as he is at least 6'4"...

It is interesting though, how that persistent narrative of the Wings and their depth drafting still is strong, when Darren Helm is about the most recent success in that regard, and the Canucks have Frankie Corrado jump right into the lineup, and are somehow rated 29th overall by "Hockey Prospects". ( Who, by the way, was rated as having a "C" chance of ever making the NHL by that somewhat questionable ( to me ) bunch of "experts" )

It's almost like the draft is sometimes just a crapshoot!

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