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On the asset management of the team and why this pre-season is relieving for Canucks fans

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Years of being a contender allowed the Canucks to escape from the consequences of their poor drafting and developing history. Now, they must pay for the absence of young talent in the lineup until the likes of Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce and Jared McCann are ready. Is that time now? The Canucks are projected to finish close to the bottom of the basement in the Western Conference, and as Grady Sas explains, it can all be traced back to asset management. The encourgaing performances of the youngsters in pre-season camp does give a sense of relief, though.

If there’s one area where you could pinpoint as to why the Canucks are no longer a contender in a tough Western Conference, it’s there abysmal drafting and developing history along with the mismanagement of built-up assets over approximately the last 15 seasons.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to date back to 1999 draft, when Brian Burke traded up so he could land future Swedish stars, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Fast-forward to September 30th, 2015, and the Sedins just celebrated their 35th birthdays and are heading into their 15th season with the Canucks

It’s probably a safe to say the Sedins have two legitimate years left as first line point producers – or at least match the even strength production of what you’d expect of players making $7 million per year in this day and age of the salary cap.

Whoever is riding shotgun with the Sedins on right-wing will influence their longevity from here on out.

But the notion Canucks fans will ponder in the not so distant future is who replaces the Sedin's production when the offence dries up?

Of this current roster, besides Daniel and Henrik, the Canucks have only FOUR players on their active roster who were drafted by the club – Alex Edler (3rd round, 91st overall in 2004), Bo Horvat (1st round, 9th overall in 2013), Jannik Hansen (9th round, 287th overall in 2004) and Frank Corrado. (5th round, 150th overall in 2011.)

Out of a possible 108 Canucks draft picks selected after the Sedins from 1999 till 2014, only 3.7 % of the Canucks draftees (Edler, Horvat, Hansen and Corrado) are accounted for that are presently on the roster.

If we don’t count the Sedins, Vancouver has 1 player on their roster drafted in the first two rounds to show for from 2000-2015 – and the spot where Horvat was selected wasn’t even originally the Canucks pick. 77 of those 108 picks never played more than 30 NHL games, or at least haven’t yet.

Now before you see for your own eyes just how badly they sacrificed numerous draft picks and prospects away in deals, that should have, in theory, made up the core of your team going forward, let me point out a few things first:

  1. The NHL snipped off two rounds of the NHL draft following the 2004 draft, dropping the total number of players drafted from per year from 291 to 230.
  2. The Canucks have been a pretty damn good hockey team since the Sedins entered the league in the 2000-2001 season; the team only missed the playoffs three times in following 14 seasons. The Canucks picked (in chronological order) 23rd, 16th, 23rd, 26th, 10th, 14th, 25th, 10th, 22th, 29th, 26th, 24th, and 9th overall following the year they drafted the Sedins when they made a selection in the first round with their own pick (Bo Horvat and Jared McCann are excluded). That is an average of the 20th overall pick in the years where they didn’t trade away their pick.
  3. Management parlayed numerous 1st round picks for other pieces (R.J. Umberger for Martin Rucinsky; Ryan Kesler for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and Jared McCann; Cory Schneider for Horvat; Michael Grabner plus their 2010 1st round pick (Quinton Howden, 25th overall) for Keith Ballard; Patrick White for Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich; Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian, which turned into Brandon Prust (who’s one-year away from unrestricted free agency, making that draft pick essentially a dead asset if Prust isn’t re-signed); Kevin Connauton for Derek Roy (brutal), and Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendening, which turned into Brandon Sutter. Unfortunately for the Canucks, they don’t have much to show for besides Horvat, McCann, Sutter and Prust.
  4. The team has lucked out by finding quality free agents Eddie Lack and Ronalds Kenins oversees; snagged college free agents Chris Tanev and Joe Cannata; signed undrafted left-winger Alex Burrows; picked up Dan Hamhuis, Radim Vrbata, Ryan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber on the open market; and acquired Chris Higgins, Linden Vey, Sven Baertschi, Jacob Markstrom, Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Luca Sbisa, Prust and Derek Dorsett through deals to round out the rest of the roster composition that saw them part with picks and players.
  5. The bad asset management of draft picks and selections committed from 1999 to approximately 2013 was the responsibility of the previous three regimes combined. From 2011 and on – ironically the same year the Canucks selected the lowest in the first round when they took a gamble on soon-to-be draft bust Nicklas Jensen at 29th overall -- the Canucks have stockpiled their system with an abundance of quality NHL prospects from 2011 till now: Nicklas Jensen, Joesph LaBate, Alexandre Grenier, Frank Corrado, Brendan Gaunce, Ben Hutton, Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Cole Cassels, Jordan Subban, Anton Cederholm, Jake Virtanen, McCann, Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Lukas Jasek and Guillaume Brisebois all have legitimate chances to be the next generation of Vancouver Canucks. The jury is still out on whether Ludwig Blomstrand, Mike Williamson, Miles Liberati, Nikita Tyramkin, Kyle Pettit and Mackenze Stewart are worthy prospects.

    Every June, teams build are given seven automatic founding assets; it is up to the management group to work closely with their scouting department to determine the best way to utilize them.

    The
    Toronto Maple Leafs traded down in this year’s draft to acquire more early to mid-round picks; they ended up selecting 9 players in the draft. Probability says that all 9 will not make it to the NHL, and they’d be lucky to get maybe 4-5 of those guys to pan out. But at least they acquired assets, and didn’t dump them away.

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Former Canucks general managers Dave Nonis and Mike Gillis were fortunate enough to inherit quality established NHLers like Mattias Ohlund, Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Willie Mitchell, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows when they were respectfully hired.

During the Canucks peak years, Gillis parted away with many of the Canucks high draft picks or prospects, and whether you agree with the majority of his moves or not, the Canucks were a genuine Stanley Cup contender and needed to upgrade without subtracting any important pieces from their roster. Going in for a playoff push was completely understandable and encouraged from the fan base. (Similar to the Toronto Blue Jays right now, but to a much lesser extent in terms of the outside talent coming into the organization.)

Gillis made some solid additions to build the team up to their peak in 2011, when he acquired puck-moving d-man Christan Ehrhoff for failed draftees Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi; signed free agents Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres in the 2010 offseason; and added Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre at the 2011 trade deadline.

Following the cup run is where Gillis began to make questionable moves. It’s hard to crucify "Gilly's" logic of upgrading the team, but the deals finalized were pretty poor in hindsight.

The Canucks were still a solid hockey club that needs tweaks after their Stanley Cup loss, albeit, a declining team. When compiling the former GM's blunder trades with the mismanagement of his predecessor and successor (there’s a few Benning moves that are highly questionable), it doesn’t bode so well in the grand scheme of what’s coming down the prospect pipeline that should, in theory, be transitioning from one generation to another.

I was asked multiple times over the summer of how I think the Canucks will fair next season and informed whomever was asking that I believe they’ll finish around 11th in the conference, give or take.

When my reasoning was questioned, I would simply tell people that the Canucks will suffer because they really don’t have anything to show for as cornerstone pieces with the exception of Bo Horvat, Chris Tanev and a few of the touted prospects.

With all due respect to the Sedins, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen and Frank Corrado, the Canucks have pissed away what should’ve been their core of this team. Since 1999, the traded away their 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 first round picks, had 2005 pick Luc Bourdon tragically pass away, and also dealt away their 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010 first round picks (they didn’t pick unti 115th overal in 2010.) The team let ‘00 1st rounder Nathan Smith and their 22nd overall pick in the ‘09 draft, Jordan Schroeder, walk via free agency. Now, granted, not every team is going to nail every draft pick, but that doesn’t excuse the Canucks from being one of the worst franchises in grooming young talent.

By now, you may be curious as to why the hell I highlighted the Canucks dreadful drafting decisions on an article that was premised around who prospects should make the Canucks opening night roster. (And if you’re still reading this, then I applaud and thank-you, because I would’ve gave up paragraphs ago.)

Because this training camp and pre-season marks the first time in recent memory that the Canucks brass finally has some difficult personnel decisions looming over the next week and a half that involves the youth and foundation of future renditions of this club. It almost seems unprecedented to have this many youngsters legitimately fighting for roster spots.

The Canucks are in a transition stage and need to insert youth into the threshold sooner rather than later, so they avoid doing what Calgary Flames did by prolonging and depreciating the value Mikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla years ago.

Lets face it, folks, the Sedins/Luongo/Kesler/Bieksa is officially over, and it’s time the coaching staff and mangement to let Bo and co. take ownership.

For years, it seemed like Marc Crawford, Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella, and even Willie Desjardins, somewhat, were hesitant to give younger players ice time. There were instances where guys like Zack Kassian would get extended looks playing top minutes, but ultimately were given too short of a leash to learn from screw-ups and gain confidence by wearing his mistakes without demotion. We’ll never really know why Crow, AV and Torts didn’t bother to give more ice-time to the kids. Maybe they simply weren’t ready. Maybe management didn’t provide the sufficient talent. Or maybe it was just reluctance to play the kids, because the coaches were afraid to strip ice-time away from the veterans that were performing at terrific paces.

The absence of to integrating quality youth into the roster is finally catching up with this team.

Bo Horvat might’ve been the most impressive rookie or young player that has impacted the team in the last 15 years with his performance down the stretch and against Calgary in the playoffs.

There’s a real argument to be made that Horvat should be the Canucks 2C and get ample power-play time this season.

How long until Horvat supplants Brandon Sutter?

We know the executives and coaching staff have are begging for the Linden Veys, Sven Baertschis, Ronalds Kenins, Frank Corrados of the world to step into a more prominent role.

The prospects that have caught the attention of Canucks nation this training camp and pre-season are Brendan Gaunce, Ben Hutton, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann, Alexandre Grenier, and last, but certainly not least, Jake Virtanen.

With the exception of Shinkaruk, who was sent down to the Utica Comets over the weekend, all players are currently vying for a roster spot come opening night.

Given the unfortunate circumstances to left-winger Chris Higgins fracturing a bone in his right-foot in the Hockeyville pre-season game, the likelihood of either Brendan Gaunce, Jake Virtanen or Jared McCann making the team out of camp has drastically increased. Early reports indicated Higgins will be re-evaluated in three weeks time, but it seems likely that Higgins won’t be fully healed for another three weeks after that.

Browsing over the Canucks pre-season roster right now, there is a definite logjam of wingers on the right side. If Alex Burrows plays with the Sedins, then Radim Vrbata will slot into the 2RW, while Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett round out the bottom-six.

Sven Baertschi will be on the opening night roster given his contractual specifications of having to clear waivers.

No chance Benning lets him go and risks losing him plus the 2nd round pick he sent to Calgary for Baertschi.

One way the Canucks could have Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann start the season is by sending down Ronalds Kenins to Utica. Kenins formed admirable chemistry with Horvat and Jannik Hansen down the stretch last year and was all but penciled in to be the opening night left-winger on the Canucks third line. Kenins is eligible to be sent to Utica without passing through waivers.

Kenins has looked rather ordinary in the pre-season and hasn’t been the same player he was last spring. Maybe the Latvian Lokomotiv is just working off the rust on the wheels, but he’s in slight danger of being sent down to Utica for the start of the season.

So what players does Higgins’ absence in the lineup directly affect? As I wrote in my Higgins piece the last week, the injury suffered was a blessing in disguise for mostly two Canucks prospects – Brendan Gaunce and Jake Virtanen.

Brendan Gaunce

Gaunce has skyrocketed up the Canucks depth chart over the last year, particularly during Utica’s march to the AHL Championship Final. Gaunce was a durable piece in Travis Green’s lineup, providing enough versatility to move up and down, and left to right in the lineup; Gaunce moved from his natural position of a centreman to left-winger early on in the campaign.

Like any junior hockey player trying to adjust to the professional game, Gaunce found himself struggling at times trying to adjust to the bigger bodies and increased speed from the Ontario Hockey League to the AHL. Gaunce graduated from a star studded Erie Otters team that featured Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome, Travis Dermott, Dane Fox and Connor Brown.

Reduced to a checking role with career minor-league veterans Patrick Kennedy, Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks -- who resemble Gaunce's game -- Brendan primarily played on the fourth line and was a healthy scratch twice over the course of the season. The durable left-winger did see some action on the man-advantage and tallied two power-play goals during his brief stint.

Despite a lack of ice time in his first season, Gaunce potted in a respectable 11 goals and 18 assists (12 of them being a primary assist) in 74 games with Utica. Gaunce was hard pressed for ice time, as Dustin Jeffrey (later moved for Cory Conacher at the trade deadline), Hunter Shinkaruk, Sven Baertschi, Darren Archibald all received more offensive opportunities than Gaunce did.

It wasn’t until the playoffs where Gaunce’s game really came to blossom. After potting in two goals in Round 1 of the Calder Cup against Chicago, Gaunce became a fixture in the baby Canucks postseason push.

Jim Benning saw first hand Gaunce playing a reliable role in the Comets bottom-six during the playoffs by drawing the task of limiting top AHL scorers like Teemu Pulkinnen of the Grand Rapids Griffins – the Detroit Red Wings high powered affiliate.

Comets head coach Travis Green dubbed Gaunce the Comets most improved player last season and awarded the native of Markham, Ont., with ice-time in both special teams departments in the playoffs. Not bad for a first year pro that many Canucks fans thought might be the next inductee into the draft wall of shame.

Gaunce’s strong fore-checking ability and excellent board work due to his solid frame has garnished him into the dialogue to replace Chris Higgins’ two-way ability in the Canucks lineup. Is Gaunce ready to take that next step and land a role as the third or fourth line left-winger?

It’s quite possible, especially given the effort Gaunce had on Saturday night, picking up a gritty goal in front of the net by going hard to the crease. If the Canucks want to replace solely replace Higgins in the lineup, then he’s the man.

Gaunce’s responsible 200-foot game can almost mimic what Higgins can do on the ice, and his age and entry-level deal could make Higgins expandable once he returns from injury, although moving that contract is another story in itself.


While the 6’2", 215-pounder will never "wow" you with his offensive creativity, he does fit rather nicely in a checking role and has proved that he can bang in goals in areas where some players refuse to get greasy. He’s noticeably improved his skating ability, where it looked like he was skating in slush in previous training camps and pre-seasons. His stride and first few steps as undergone a massive improvement since the Canucks drafted him coming off of a 68-point season with the Belleville Bulls back in 2012.

But the time isn’t now for Gaunce in Vancouver, it’s over in upstate New York.

As much as fans of the blue and green would love to see another youngster inserted into the lineup, it probably makes the most sense to have Gaunce play one more year in the American Hockey League in a more bonafide role that will surely see his offensive numbers rise. The Comets will rely heavily upon him along with Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen, Adam Cracknell and Blair Jones to provide the offensive punch down on the farm. Factor in the departure of leading scorer Cal O’Reilly, who joined his brother Ryan in Buffalo this offseason, and it will be crucial for Gaunce to play a big role if the Comets want to maintain their high level of play demonstrated in the 2014/15 playoffs.

Let young kids grow together, with a healthy insertion of AHL veterans to compliment them and show ‘em the ropes. Cohesion and camaraderie will be crucial if the Canucks want to compete with the future offensive powerhouse Edmonton Oilers in a few seasons. (Did I really just say that? I’m going to get flamed for that one.)

A reasonable year for Gaunce would be being able to sustain somewhere in the vicinity of his 9 points in 21 playoff games to round out the 2014/15 season. The way he’s looked in the pre-season, I suspect Gaunce will tally around 16 goals and 25 assists this upcoming year in Utica, while being a force both on the power-play and penalty kill, and continuing to draw shutdown assignments.

Jake Virtanen

When Jim Benning inherited a team coming off an abysmal 83-point campaign, the Canucks GM was granted the sixth overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the highest spot the Canucks have selected since they took Henrik second overall after Patrick Stefan in the 2001 draft.

After Benning was coveted by Canucks ownership from Boston, the general manager quickly integrated his signature "meat and potatoes" identity into the Vancouver hockey team after he was brought on to be the successor to Mike Gillis. Naturally, Benning selected Jake Virtanen, who had just come off a 45-goal season with the Calgary Hitman in the WHL. A shoulder injury sidelined the former Abbotsford Minor Hockey Leaguer after he was drafted that forced him to miss last year’s training camp and delayed his 18-year-old WHL season, or known as "draft year + one" in the analytic community.

The hype around the local kid Virtanen from the Canucks faithful didn’t really start until last year at the World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal. Virtanen complemented Canada’s bottom-six forwards tremendously because of the physicality and speed he brought while still supplying sufficient offense while playing in a simplified role. We’ve already seen countless hits already ranging from the World Juniors, to the Utica Comets Calder Cup playoff run, the World Junior Summer Showcase, and more recently, the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. where Virtanen rocked Connor McDavid with a clean hit along the boards.

If you’re a regular on Canucks Twitter, then you are probably familiar with "Virtanen Murders," which is appropriately named after the punishing body checks, reverse hits, and his uncanny ability to literally plows straight through players while somehow managing to remain in complete control of the puck as he enters in the oppositions zone down the far side.

On Twitter I refer to him as Jake "The Hitman" Virtanen.

Jim Benning publicly stated during the Comets run and on Vancouver radio numerous times over the summer that Virtanen will be given every opportunity to make the Canucks roster come October if he proves he’s defensively responsible in his own zone and away from the puck.

We all know that Virtanen has the size – listed at 6’1", 215 lbs, to play in the league, as well as an NHL-caliber shot and the wheels.

The question now becomes what is best for Jake Virtanen’s development, not what’s best for the Vancouver Canucks, at least in the current state of this franchise.

Insulating their prospects in the right environment and building a new foundation of youth should be the Canucks primary focus right now instead of the ownerships implemented mandate of qualifying for the playoffs. Most Canucks fans – myself included – will tell you this team simply isn’t better than eight other teams in a much improved Western Conference. Some Canuck fans will also tell you they feel this management group is delusional with their attempt to be a playoff team, and would rather seem the team finishing in the bottom of the west so they can stockpile picks and more prospects.

Maybe I’m wrong with my assessment, but that’s the general vibe I got this summer.

The much more likely scenario would to have Jake Virtanen rotate in and out of the lineup till Higgins is ready to return from injury.

Virtanen, to me, is an upgrade over Gaunce for the time being and future.

Virtanen has shown in junior and the style he entails more intensity and explosiveness than Gaunce, and would be more of an intimidating force in a tough Pacific Division. While Gaunce is probably a safer and more trust worthy player in the d-zone (although JV doesn't really expose the team defensively), Virtanen has a natural knack for the net and posses far more superior raw talent than Gaunce. Virtanen can also play either side of the line, which hypothetically gives Willie Desjardins some experimental line combinations to mess around with. Given that Virtanen would likely translate better to a role playing in the top-six or top-nine role over Gaunce due to his tenacious persistence, I'd say Virtanen has the edge.

Virtanen’s right-handed shot and his ability to play the off wing could have him all over the Canucks’ lineup.

There is a case to be made about Virtanen going back to junior to hopefully take the league by a storm in his 19-year-old season.

Virtanen didn’t exactly rip the WHL up last year. In fact, Virtanen didn’t even lead his team in scoring. Now unlike some critiques of Virtanen’s game, I’m going to accredit this decline from 45 goals in 71 games during his draft year to 21 in 50 games played last year to his shoulder injury. Virtanen actually saw his ice time slightly drop this past season, and now where you'd expect it to be for a 6th overall pick.

Was that based off his injury or performance?

Despite the drop in TOI, his estimated points per 60 minutes of 5v5 hockey increased from 3.01 to 3.65 last year. Virtanen finished with the 12th highest PPG among 18-year-old WHLers with 1.04. In 9 games with the Canucks farm affiliate during their run to the AHL finals, Virtanen registered 0 points, but added a definite spark to the lineup.

In my opinion, the Canucks should kept Virtanen around for as long has he proves he’s not a defensive liability in his own end and can keep his composure and not take crass penalties like he’s done in the past.

The Canucks are in danger of being a dull hockey team if all goes south like many are projecting for the upcoming season.

Virtanen negates that theory to a lessor extent if he’s in the lineup, and you know Francesco Aquilini will be pushing to have Virtanen dressed to put rear ends back in the seats.

The way Virtanen plays would definitely make the Canucks a helluva lot more enjoyable to watch this season.

I suspect the team will rotate Virtanen in-and-out of the lineup until Higgins returns, then make another decision based off his report card. If the Canucks roll with Kenins, Baertschi and Virtanen, there will surely be some up-and-downs in one of the youngster’s games, which would create an opportunity for somebody else to rotate in.

Alexandre Grenier

Alexandre Grenier could possibly find his way onto the team, but it's unlikely he makes the team out of camp. Grenier may rack-up the frequent flyer miles this season, as the big 6’5" hulking winger doesn’t need to pass through waivers, and will likely be one of the first recalls to the Canucks. I’d bet that Grenier doesn’t make the opening night roster, but is re-called at some point if a younger prospect makes the team initially then struggles. Grenier will earn $585,000 at the NHL level.

Jared McCann

Before the pre-season, McCann was likely heading back to the Greyhounds of the OHL for one final season to be the go-to guy.

Not so fast anymore.

The Canucks 24th-overall pick in the 2014 draft has been arguably the most impressive forward in the whole camp alongside Brendan Gaunce. McCann is on pace to push Linden Vey out of the fourth line spot and could conceivably play some regular season games before getting sent back to junior if his current production is merely a flash in the pan against non-NHL rosters.

I wouldn’t bet on McCann making the team, but you got to think he’s in the running if he’s made it this far. I’m not so sure having Jared McCann start the season in a battle for the 4th line centre position with Linden Vey to have the honours of centreing Prust and Dorsett is best for McCann’s long-term development. McCann has an NHL ready shot and has been a strong possession player in the OHL, and may have the skill to make the team now, but like I mentioned above, don’t count on it. At least for the full season.

McCann could possibly play left-wing in the lineup like he did against Arizona the other night, but the Canucks want him playing centre.

He leads all Canucks prospects in the pre-season with +6 shot differential and has four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 4 games played. In 56 OHL games last season, McCann notched 34 goals and 81 points total.

Bo Horvat proved to us last year that Willie Desjardins loves his two-way centres. Although it took a little warming up from Desjardins to trust Bo with more responsibility, Horvat was relied on his crucial situations like taking a draw in the defensive zone nursing a one-goal lead with :30 seconds left in the third period.

McCann making the team is still an entire possibility, and his strong defensive attributes certainly help his case rather than if he was a one-dimensional offensive threat It would require some serious line shuffling and likely cost a veteran, or even Linden Vey's spot on the team.

I really do wonder if McCann (and Vey for that matter) can handle the rugged Pacific Division. Being listed below 180-pounds in a division with Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar is worreysome.

For the sake of McCann’s development process, what good will he get from playing limited minutes in a role not suited for him?

How did that work out with Linden Vey last year?

Granted, McCann isn’t the same player as Vey, but let’s not forget that McCann got rocked in the World Junior Summer Showcase pretty good, you can bet he’d get rocked a lot harder in the NHL. Small guys like Johhny Gaudreau and Tyler Johnson (not the same type of players as McCann) are flourishing in today’s game, but it remains to be seen if McCann is on that level of talent.

Trevor Linden and Jim Benning are still hopeful that Linden Vey can find his way. Vey reportedly added ten pounds of muscle this past summer, which should translate to him being stronger on the puck – one of the definite areas needing major improvement in his game. Playing with two pugilists in Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett may or may not help Vey’s chances of being an everyday NHLer – I’ll take the ladder.

Vey has been horrendous in the pre-season, sporting a -9 shot differential through 4 games played.

The Canucks seem pretty adamant about Gaunce being a left-winger and not a centreman anymore, so don’t expect Gaunce to back in the middle anytime soon, barring any unexpected injuries, of course. If I were to bet, I'd say McCann lands that spot in the middle, at least temporarily for 9 games or less, and bumps Vey to the press box where he belongs.

Conclusion

The Canucks finally have an intriguing group of prospects, which can really only provide a glimmer of hope, right now, for Canucks fans. Because of misevaluations of talent by previous regimes, the Canucks will suffer for a few years being a mediocre team in the Pacific Division. It’s not that the Canucks are a bad team by any means; they simply didn’t improve as much as their Western Conference rivals and lack the talent to contend.

There is hope, though. Seeing hometown product Jake Virtanen obliterate opposing players with thunderous checks is an encouraging sign. Watching Gaunce and McCann take steps forward in their development gives promising way of hope to a franchise that desperately needs a rebuilt revitalization.

The only real bright spot of this pre-season so far has been the play of the prospects, let's be honest.

Although Canucks fans would go bonkers if Virtanen to stepped into a supporting role as early as this season, Jim Benning and Trevor Linden need to be astute and diligent with all their prospects, especially Virtanen. Power-forwards tend to take longer to reach any untapped potential than playmakers, snipers or two-way forwards, so expect to be given a little more patience than maybe some other prospects.

The Canucks are still an elite centre, a game-breaking winger, or a true number one stud defenceman away from being a serious contender again, but there’s no denying now that the Canucks finally have a core group of prospects to mend, something that they’ve lacked for a considerable amount of time after years of incompetence in developing their own talent from within.

Comment below what you think the opening night lineup will be, or if you feel the need to bash the length or content of my article. Thanks for reading.


My opening lineup is as follows:


Sedin-Sedin-Burrows
Baertschi-Sutter-Vrbata
Virtanen-Horvat-Hansen
Prust-McCann-Dorsett
Vey, Kenins

Edler-Tanev
Hamhuis-Weber
Bartowski-Corrado
Sbisa

Players I've bolded means I'm still unsure of their lineup position.