If you’re a Jim Benning fan, you’ll probably want to see this list.
For all the flack that the Canucks fourth-longest tenured general manager has received, what’s been a strength under his regime has been the draft.
That’s reflected in this list, where five of his staff’s six drafts have been considered “good.”
You’ll find the Canucks 20 previous drafts below, separated into categories of bad, “meh” and good. Of course, the Canucks most legendary draft of all-time (when they snagged the Sedin twins in 1999) just misses the cut.
Overall, you could say the Canucks had 7 bad, 5 “meh” and 8 good drafts so far this century. At least, that’s how I classified it. Feel to disagree with me in the comments :)
The Bad Drafts
There wasn’t much to be celebrated from the drafts below, especially in hindsight.
20. 2007: The Patrick White draft
The scoop: Hard to do worse than the Canucks did in the 2007 draft, the last one of the Dave Nonis tenure. Zero games played among the entire draft class, and first-round pick Patrick White never came close to sniffing NHL action.
Best player: Eek...fifth-round pick Ilya Kablukov is still playing in a bottom-six role for SKA St. Petersburg. He’s been with one of the best organizations in the KHL since 2013-14.
But what about... : Taylor Matson? The sixth-round pick of the Canucks arguably had a better career than his college teammate and fellow Vancouver draft pick, Patrick White. Matson outscored White during White’s final season with the University of Minnesota. Currently, Matsen plays with Nils Hoglander and Rogle BK in the SHL.
19. 2002: 11 picks, no players
The scoop: The Canucks had more picks in this draft than any of their other drafts in the 21st century. Among those 11 players, there were a combined 12 NHL games played.
Best player: Brett Skinner played 11 of the 12 NHL games among the Canucks 2002 draft class. He was a 22-year-old prospect at the time when he was traded for Keith Carney at the 2006 trade deadline. All 11 of his NHL games were played with the New York Islanders.
But what about... : Rob McVicar, the only other player from this draft class to play a game. He played three minutes total in the NHL, the lowest amount of ice time among any rookie goalie in Canucks history.
18. 2000: Sedin follow-up draft a dud
The scoop: It was going to be impossible for Brian Burke to top his performance from the 1999 draft where he snagged both Sedins. However, this draft was an absolute dud, highlighted by first round pick Nathan Smith failing to pick up an NHL point in 26 games played. He played most of those games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild.
Best player: Brandon Reid. Drafted as a 19-year-old overager, 208th overall in the seventh round, Reid posted five points in seven games during his Canucks debut in 2002-03. He also played in nine playoff games for the Canucks that season, registering just one assist.
But what about... : Nathan Barrett. The Surrey, British Columbia native was selected in the eighth round, 241st overall. He won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer in 2001-02, beating out Joffrey Lupul by one point.
17. 2010: No picks, no nothing
The scoop: The Canucks didn’t draft until the fourth round after trading their first for Keith Ballard, their second for Steve Bernier (whom they traded to Florida later in the Ballard trade) and their third for Andrew Alberts.
Best player: Alex Friesen played one NHL game with the Canucks in 2015-16, making him the de facto best player.
But what about... : Patrick McNally. The Canucks fourth-round pick briefly made headlines in 2012 for all the wrong reasons, after getting kicked off of Harvard’s hockey team amidst an academic scandal. He currently plays in the Slovak hockey league.
16. 2011: Oh Frankie...
The scoop: Frankie Corrado led all eight Canucks picks in games played from this draft class, suiting up for a whopping 76 NHL contests. Other 2011 picks such as Alexandre Grenier (third round) and Joe Labate (fourth round) also got a cup of coffee at the NHL level.
Best player: Despite only playing in 31 NHL games between the Canucks and the Rangers, Nicklas Jensen was still the best player in this class. He’s turned in a decent career for Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL, leading them in goals scored for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
But what about... : Ludwig Blomstrand. The fourth-round pick with the stellar name was signed by Mike Gillis in 2013, but suited up for just 15 AHL games (spending most of his North American hockey career with the Kalamazoo Wings of hte ECHL).
After a pedestrian career in Allsvenskan, he broke out with 28 goals in 49 games, sixth overall in the league.
This seems like a great time to mention that Johnathen Dahlen currently leads Sweden’s second-best hockey league with 36 goals and 77 points in 51 games.
15. 2016: One pedestrian draft from Benning
The scoop: Benning will get his love later on the list, but this was easily his most disappointing draft to date.
Best player: Despite being one of only four players from the first round in 2016 not to play in an NHL game, it’s still Olli Juolevi. He still projects to be a top-four defenceman in the NHL, and he’s been good in the AHL when healthy.
But what about... : How about the former pick on the most obscure team? Fifth-round pick Cole Candella went overseas to play with Odense Bulldogs in Denmark in 2019-20. Candella, along with three of the Canucks other six picks (Rodrigo Abols, Brett McKenzie and Jakob Stukel) were unsigned following the draft.
14. 2009: Close to “Meh”
The scoop: The Canucks did get NHL games out of their first three picks in the draft, including 22nd overall pick Jordan Schroeder and 53rd overall selection Anton Rodin.
Best player: Third-round pick Kevin Connauton has gone on to have the best NHL career of the bunch, even if none of his 314 career NHL games were played with the Canucks. After being traded to the Dallas Stars for Derek Roy at the 2013 trade deadline, Connauton played games with the Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, and most recently the Colorado Avalanche in 2019-20.
But what about... : Steven Anthony, who’s name will always be brought up in hardcore hockey trivia, as the other Canucks player dealt to Florida when they traded Roberto Luongo back to the Panthers in 2014.
The “Meh” Drafts
Don’t spit up your coffee on the keyboard when you see the “meh” label beside some of these drafts. Sure, the Canucks landed some good players, but some of the misses brings these drafts down to mediocre levels of praise.
13. 2012: Westy’s Favourite Canuck
The scoop: First-round pick Brendan Gaunce could never overcome his average foot speed at the NHL level. Gillis traded the Canucks third-round pick for Maxim Lapierre, and their fourth-round pick for Sami Pahlsson.
Best player: The player who pushes this Canucks draft class from bad to “meh,” Ben Hutton. He flashed top-four potential on defence as a rookie, but ended up being part of the problem more than the solution by the time he reached 276 NHL games in Vancouver.
But what about... : Second-round pick Alexandre Mallet could never make an impact in the NHL, after being drafted as a 19-year-old. He’s a good reason why looking back at old scouting reports can be fun, such as the one that said: “At worst, Mallet looks like he could be a physical, fighty, fourth line centre who can pot 10 goals.”
12. 2008: The First Gillis Draft
The scoop: Gillis’s first draft looked so promising when he selected Cody Hodgson 10th overall. Hodgson went on to star at the World Juniors, but his career started to head south because of his clash with Mike Gillis, followed by a degenerative back condition that forced him to retire at the age of 26.
Best player: I mean, it was still Hodgson, who played 328 of the 336 NHL games among Canucks picks in this draft. Yann Sauve played the other eight.
But what about... : Prab Rai. The Surrey, B.C. native was a fifth-round pick whose career was cut short. Daily Hive did a great feature on him in 2017.
11. 2006: Euro Love
The scoop: Although the 2006 draft was held in Vancouver, it was overshadowed by the Roberto Luongo/Todd Bertuzzi trade that happened the day before. The Canucks were down a second-round pick in a trade for goaltender Mika Noronen. That pick turned into a goalie who enjoyed a much better career in Jhonas Enroth.
Best player: The Canucks first-round pick Michael Grabner was still the best player, even if most of his success came after he was traded from the Canucks.
But what about... : Sergei Shirokov. This sixth-round pick was all the rage during Canucks training camp in 2009, when he made the team but failed to make an impact. He’s played 479 career games in the KHL after a two-year stint in North America.
10. 2013: “I think you’re going to want to hear this”
The scoop: We’re in to the top 10 but despite the hysteria, this draft left something to be desired. Of course, Bo Horvat is rock solid NHL player, but hype around first-round pick Hunter Shinkaruk, third-round pick Cole Cassels and fourth-round pick Jordan Subban turned out to be another case of false hype in the market.
Best player: “Huncho” Horvat, who’s fifth overall in points among players in this draft class. Only Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm have more.
But what about... : The aforementioned Subban, ever wonder what happened to him? After spending the 2018-19 season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, Subban signed in Austria to play with Dornbirn EC for the 2019-20 season. The beginning of his European career didn’t start off great as he was reportedly the victim of racist comments from fans.
9. 2003: Legendary for the league, but “meh” for Vancouver
The scoop: This one was on the cusp of good, as the Canucks selected one of the core pieces of their Stanley Cup-calibre team in Ryan Kesler at 23rd overall. However, they failed to find much of anything with their other eight picks, which drags them into the “meh” category on this list. 83 players from this draft surpassed 100 games, but Kesler was the only player to do so for the Canucks.
Best player: Easily everyone’s favourite Canuck, RK17. He was an absolute beast for Vancouver during the team’s Cup window, and surpassed the 1000 game-mark before injuries took their toll. Nathan McIver (8th round) and Brandon Nolan (4th round) were the only other picks from this class to play in NHL games.
But what about... : Chad Brownlee. The sixth-round pick turned into a country music star after his pro career ended in 2008.
The Good Drafts
As we mentioned off the top, if you’re a Benning fan, show this list to all your friends. Five of the eight drafts that made the “good” list were made during Benning’s regime.
In case you’re interested, here’s how the list broke down by GM tenure.
Brian Burke: Two bad drafts (‘00, ‘02), one “meh” draft (‘03), one good draft (‘01)
Dave Nonis: One bad draft (‘07), one “meh” draft (‘06), two good drafts (‘04, ‘05)
Mike Gillis: Three bad drafts (‘09, ‘10, ‘11), three “meh” drafts (‘08, ‘12, ‘13)
Jim Benning: One bad draft (‘16), five good drafts (‘14, ‘15, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19)
8. 2019: Hogs & Vasily flashing potential
The scoop: It’s too early to get a good grasp on this draft. However, the Canucks first two picks. Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander, look like good bets to become impact NHL players.
Best player: The electrifying Podkolzin. Once projected as a top-three pick, Podkolzin fell to 10th overall when the Canucks grabbed him. He lacked opportunity early in his draft-plus one season, but made a larger impact as the KHL season went on.
But what about... : Aidan McDonagh. A Judd Brackett special, the freshman at Northeastern University finished fourth in team scoring with 11 goals and 27 points in 31 games.
7. 2005: Rest in Peace, Luc
The scoop: We’ll never know the true potential of this draft class after the sudden passing of defenceman Luc Bourdon at the age of 21. His potential, along with a solid second round selection, made this a strong draft for Dave Nonis and his staff.
Best player: Mason Raymond. Drafted from the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL, “MayRay” became a second-line staple on some dominant Canucks teams.
But what about... : Mario Bliznak. The Trencin, Slovakia native was a seventh-round pick for the Canucks, and he helped the Vancouver Giants win their first Memorial Cup in 2007.
6. 2001: Fifth-round knockout
The scoop: Brian Burke made a solid first round selection with R.J. Umberger (selected 16th overall). Umberger finished 13th in points and 10th in goals in that draft class...too bad none of it was in Vancouver. He forced his way out of Vancouver, and Burke traded him in 2004 for 20 games of Martin Ruchinsky. Ouch.
Best player: Kevin Bieksa. Nevermind the dude who strong-armed his way out of the city, it’s Bieksa who makes this draft special. Bieksa is currently sixth in points and fourth in penalty minutes all-time among Canucks defencemen.
But what about... : Fedor Fedorov. The third round pick (66th overall) was a bust in the NHL. However, the legendary story about Bieksa knocking him out while the two were in the minors is a legendary story that helped Bieksa get an entry-level deal with the Canucks.
5. 2015: Canucks snag star in legendary class
The scoop: Although the Canucks had the 23rd overall pick in the first round (Benning’s only first-rounder outside of the top 10 during his six drafts in Vancouver), the Canucks were able to snag a star in Brock Boeser. Adam Gaudette, selected in the fifth-round at 149th overall, was on pace for 45 points over a full 82 games in 2019-20. He had 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games before COVID-19 forced the suspension of the NHL season.
Best player: Brock Boeser, who was the first of (soon to be) three straight Canucks to be nominated for the Calder Trophy.
But what about... : Guillaume BREEZE-BAH (Brisebois). The draft pick that was acquired in the Eddie Lack trade has a brother (Mathieu Brisebois) who played for the Nottingham Panthers in England’s EIHL. There’s your useless fact of the day.
4. 2014: Depth acquired despite controversial Virtanen pick.
The scoop: There were some mixed feelings about Benning’s first draft pick as general manager, but Jake Virtanen was having a career-best year in 2019-20. However, all of the Canucks first five selections have gone on to play NHL games, an impressive feat for Benning and his scouting staff. Thatcher Demko (36th overall), Nikita Tryamkin (66th overall) and Gustav Forsling (126th overall) have all had decent stretches in the NHL.
Best player: It could soon be Demko, but for now, Jared McCann remains the best pick of the bunch. The former 24th overall pick set career highs with 14 goals and 35 points with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019-20.
But what about... : MacKenzie Stewart. The physical seventh-round selection of the Canucks was born deaf and didn’t start playing hockey until he was 12 years old.
3. 2004: Four players with 400+ games played
The scoop: Despite being short a second-round selection, the Canucks found three players in the third round and below, who all played more than 400 NHL games, including ninth-round selection Jannik Hansen. They also netted Cory Schneider with the 26th overall selection, who later landed them captain Horvat.
Best player: Alex Edler. The Canucks all-time leader in a number of categories on defence is still a bonafide top four defenceman, nearly 16 years after he was drafted by the Canucks.
But what about... : Mike Brown. Selected 159th overall, the tough-guy managed to carve out a nine-year NHL career with five different teams. Oddly enough, the Canucks traded him for one of their former draft picks and Brown’s former AHL teammate Nathan McIver in 2009, after McIver went unsigned by the Canucks and briefly joined the Ducks.
2. 2018: The best defenceman in Canucks history
The scoop: While quality volume in the draft is important to accumulate, there’s a reason why the next two drafts rank as tops on this list. The Canucks stole an impact player here at seventh overall in Quinn Hughes. He’s easily a top-three player from that draft after having one of the best seasons from any rookie defenceman over the past 25 years. Third-round pick Tyler Madden was having a Hobey Baker-worthy season as well, and he helped the Canucks land Tyler Toffoli.
Best player: Hughes, the best defenceman in Canucks history.
But what about... : Jett Woo. The physical defenceman remains an important prospect considering the Canucks lack of depth on the right side of their defence. Despite the mean streak on the ice, he might be a softy off of it.
A 13 hour drive can get a little lonely! https://t.co/jGxZHSkYqg— Jett R. Woo (@Jett_Woo) March 16, 2020
1. 2017: Who needs the draft lottery
The scoop: Unlike the Hughes selection, there wasn’t a lot of hooting and hollering among the majority of the fan base when the Canucks selected Elias Pettersson. That’s quickly changed with Pettersson developing into one of the most dangerous forwards in the game. Benning’s staff drafted some other promising prospects as well including Kole Lind (33rd overall), goalie Michael DiPietro (64th overall) and Jack Rathbone (94th overall).
Best player: EP40. “The Alien” truly transformed the hockey landscape in Vancouver with his electrifying rookie season in 2018-19.
But what about... : Petrus Palmu. The 5’6” “fire hydrant” was selected in the sixth round, and was having a nice season in Finland’s La Liiga. Some expect him to rejoin the Utica Comets for the beginning of the 2020-21 season.