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A collection of Canucks prospects who never “made it”

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2000s edition.

2007 NHL Entry Draft Portraits
33rd overall pick Taylor Ellington of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 23, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

I posed a question to former Canucks Army manager Jackson McDonald a few days ago.

Who are your favourite Canucks prospects to never make it?

A lot of people gave their answers, but it got me thinking. Who are MY personal favourite prospects to never make it? The best of the busts. The guys who you got irrationally hyped for, only for them to break your heart.

The list is made of prospects since I became a fan, so from the early 2000s onwards plus they have had to actually been drafted by the team. The Canucks drafting has been atrocious throughout their 50-year history, so I’m sure the old heads out there could come up with a very historical, exhaustive list. I’m going with what I know.

San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks
Sergei Shirokov #25 of the Vancouver Canucks skates to the bench during their game at Rogers Arena on January 20, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Sharks won 2-1 in a shootout.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Sergei Shirokov

Taken in the 6th round back in 2006, Shirokov put up seven points in just four games in the 2009 preseason, earning him the nickname “Pocket Rocket” from longtime radio colour man Tom Larscheid. Immediately put into the Canucks top six, he proceeded to go six games with zero points and got sent down to the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. A brief call up in 2010-11 saw him get a goal in two games.

Shirokov was the first guy I thought of, but not my personal favourite. He was the classic example of how this market can pump a player’s tires so much, based on something as insignificant as putting up points in the preseason.

Rookie Tournament: Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks
T.J. Brodie #66 of the Calgary Flames checks Prab Rai #53 of the Vancouver Canucks during the final game of the Young Stars Tournament at the South Okanagan Event Centre on September 16, 2010 in Penticton, Canada.
Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Prabh Rai

Fans are always clamouring for the Canucks to draft kids from their backyard. So when Vancouver took Prabh Rai with a fifth-round selection back in 2008, people were stoked. He hovered around a point per game throughout the draft year and the next two season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, but injuries from a serious car crash prevented him from ever making a dent in the AHL or NHL.

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames
Jordan Schroeder #45 of the Vancouver Canucks skates to the bench against the Calgary Flames during day two of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks NHL Young Stars Tournament at the South Okanagan Event Centre on September 12, 2011 in Penticton, B.C.
Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Jordan Schroeder

The classic “I can’t believe he fell to us!” pick for the Canucks that you convince yourself will work out.

He fell to 22nd overall in 2009 despite the numbers he put up in two World Junior tournaments. Over a point per game in his rookie year at Minnesota, he never duplicated that in the NHL. He played 56 games for the Canucks, scoring just 15 points. Once he got sent down to Utica in 2014, that was the end of the line with Vancouver. He got a cup of coffee in both Minnesota and Columbus, but by then he was firmly labelled as a career AHLer.

2007 NHL Entry Draft Portraits
33rd overall pick Taylor Ellington of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 23, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Taylor Ellington

I remember I was fascinated with this draft pick specifically back in 2007. Due to a shrewd trade with Los Angeles back in 2006 for Dan Cloutier, the Canucks had a great draft pick from the basement-dwelling Kings. What would they do with it? Who would they take?

They ended up taking Ellington, a 6’2 207-pound defencemen from the Everett Silvertips. If the Canucks took a player who put up only 13 points in his draft with the 33rd overall pick today, Twitter would lose it. But, 13-year-old Nick was convinced he was going to be great.

The exact opposite happened. He played just 21 games in the AHL, before ending his career in Denmark in 2014. If you don’t want to cry, please avoid looking at what other players were available at that pick.

Vegas Golden Knights v Vancouver Canucks
Cole Cassels in preseason action with the Vancouver Canucks in 2017.
Getty Images

Cole Cassels

If you’re a Canucks fan, one thing comes to mind when you hear the name Cole Cassells.

The McDavid Stopper.

Canucks fans were riveted by his performance in the 2015 OHL finals, rendering Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters. Playing in a shutdown role against him, Cassells held him in check as the Generals took the series 4-1. He even finished with 31 points in 21 playoff games, good for 2nd in scoring behind McDavid.

He was supposed to be the player who would put the clamps on future Oiler McDavid for the Canucks when he eventually made it as a full-time NHLer. Plus he was the son of former Canuck Andrew Cassells.

If you’re seeing a familiar trend here, congrats. Cassells put up just seven points in 67 games in the AHL the following season, and in 2019 was playing in Germany. We never got to see The McDavid Stopper play against his namesake in the NHL.

Olli Juolevi

Oh wait, too soon to call this

Colorado Avalanche v Vancouver Canucks
Anton Rodin (left) never made an impact with the Canucks after being named SHL MVP
Getty Images

Anton Rodin

Feels like every team has this sort of prospect — a player who tears it up over in Europe, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t make it in the NHL. That player for the Canucks was Anton Rodin. Drafted in the 2nd round back in 2009, he played two more years in Sweden before coming over to the Chicago Wolves for two seasons and not doing much.

But Rodin was one of the best players in the Swedish Elite League once making the return back to Sweden winning the SHL MVP in 2016. He decided to come back to North America for one more shot at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.

It didn’t work out. At all.

He finally made his NHL debut on December 23rd, after suffering a knee injury during the preseason. He played three games, collected one assist, and that was that for Rodin. He set the record for longest wait for a Canucks draftee to make his debut at seven years, five months, and 26 days.

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins
Cody Hodgson #9 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a goal with teammates on the bench in the third period against the Boston Bruins on January 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Cody Hodgson

This is my personal vote for favourite Canucks prospect to never make it.

Despite playing 71 games with the Vancouver Canucks, including 63 in the 2011-12 season, I always felt that Cody Hodgson aka Cody Godgson aka Mr. Game 8 had such an incredible peak, that the decline was that much harder to cope with.

I think I jerked off to this goal a few times in January of 2012. That angle starting at the 27-second mark has shades of Steve Yzerman in the 1996 playoffs against the Blues.

Less than two months after that, Cody Hodgson was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

No Canucks prospect has had a moment like that on the come up, and have the rug pulled out from him. So what the hell happened?

Hodgson was drafted 10th overall in the 2008 draft. The first first-round pick of a new GM is pretty important. That’s why Benning will probably keep Virtanen longer than he should. You can’t admit defeat.

In this draft plus one year he had 16 points in six games on Canada’s gold medal World Junior team. He had 92 points in 53 regular-season games and won CHL Player of the Year. Take a look at the list of past players who have won it.

After that, nothing seemed to go right. He suffered a back injury the next season that would see him play just 24 games total. He played the next year in the AHL and even played 12 games in the playoffs for the 2011 Canucks.

He was keyed to be a major player for the 2012 Canucks. 33 points in 63 games seemed to show that. Then on trade deadline day, he was traded for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Reports came out soon afterwards that Hodgson’s dad was a bit of a meddler, and it started with his apparent mistrust of the handling of that back injury in 2010. Mike Gillis even went so far as to say after the 2012 season that he “spent more time on Cody’s issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years.”

Hodgson played three more seasons with the Sabres before signing with Nashville in 2015. He was forced to retire after just one season after it was discovered he had malignant hypothermia, a rare genetic condition. With a lot more injury luck, and a guiding figure that was perhaps a bit more hands-off, things could have been a lot different for the hero of Game 8.