Canucks junior prospects season review

By Matt MacInnis

The Canucks had five prospects playing in the CHL this season, plus Taylor Matson spending the season in the USHL.   While none of the young players are likely future stars at the NHL level, the organization can legitimately hope for at least one or two future Canucks out of this year’s junior crop.  For the most part it was a stable season for the prospects, with most of them playing up to expectations. 

Taylor Ellington, D, 19
Drafted: 33rd overall, 2nd round (2007)

The Canucks highest draft pick currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League, Ellington enjoyed his fourth season with the Everett Silvertips.  The sturdy 6’0, 200 lbs blueliner plays a stable, reliable game that isn’t flashy in either ends of the rink. His 14 points in 48 games played was the highest offensive totals of his entire WHL career to date and aren’t likely to be much higher at any level in the future.  Despite his limited production, Ellington enjoyed a stellar season which helped showcase why he was a second-round selection.  His +9 rating is indicative of his strong play in the defensive zone.  Ellington is a much tougher and rougher player than his modest 66 PIM suggests.  Ellington will be back in the “Dub” next season.

Dan Gendur, RW, 21 on May 21st
Drafted: 206th overall, 7th round (2007)

Gendur became Ellington’s teammate midway through last season after being traded from the Prince George Cougars.  Since the move to Everett, Gendur has been a much more potent offensive player.  He led the squad in scoring this season with 29 goals and a total of 84 points in 60 games and added three more points during the Silvertips’ brief post-season appearance.  Gendur showcased his deceptive speed and big-time shooting ability throughout the season en route to leading a team that includes top prospects Zach Hamill (BOS) and Kyle Beach (2008).  However, Gendur’s strong season must be viewed in context.  Gendur was an over-age player who simply played like a 20-year-old playing against high schoolers.  While it is always better to dominate younger competition than blend in, the reality of the matter is it’s very difficult to judge Gendur’s potential based on this season.  The organization will have a much better indication of what he can do next year when he makes his professional debut.

Mario Bliznak, C, 21
Drafted: 205th overall, 7th round (2005)

The Canucks oldest prospect playing in the WHL this season was Mario Bliznak, a Slovakian who opted to cross the pond in 2005.  Obviously another overage player, Bliznak saw significant ice time with the depleted Vancouver Giants who lost many key players following their Memorial Cup win last year.  Bliznak posted 51 points in 67 games, which isn’t as high as one would have hoped from an older player playing alongside some quality talent such as Michal Repik (FLA) and Spencer Machacek (ATL).   Bliznak was never hailed as a great scorer, however.  His two-way game is very strong and he understands how to play a role.  Bliznak may develop into a useful professional player with more seasoning.

Evan Fuller, RW, 19
Drafted: 197th overall, 7th round (2006)

The gritty middleweight had another largely uneventful season.  Fuller began the year with the Prince George Cougars, with whom he played 24 games, registering a respectable 14 points.  He was then traded to Moose Jaw, where his production dropped significantly.  He ended his tenure with the Warriors with six points in 32 games.  He also compiled 61 penalty minutes during the year between the two teams.  Originally selected by the Canucks according to Head Scout Ron Delorme based at least partially on his refusal to back down to a significantly larger enforcer years ago, Fuller shows all the signs of being a wasted draft pick barring a remarkable turnaround.

Charles-Antoine Messier, C, 19
Drafted: 145th overall, 5th round (2007)

The lone Canucks major junior property not playing in the WHL, Messier is a little undersized but possesses very good hands and above-average skating.  During the Canucks’ pre-season rookie training camp, Messier shows flashes of brilliance where his talent stood out, but was also invisible for long stretches of time.  The good times were good enough though for former Canucks GM Dave Nonis to point to Messier on at least one occasion as a player who stood out.  Messier split the season between Acadie-Bathurst and Chicoutimi, totaling 41 points in 66 games.  The point totals are a little meager for a talented center playing in the Q, but Messier will have the opportunity to prove himself next season.  Overall, Messier’s year was not as prolific offensively as one would hope, but it’s hardly a death knell at this stage of his young career. 

Taylor Matson, C, 19
Drafted: 176th overall, 6th round (2007)

A relatively unheralded prospect going into his draft year, Matson was also nearly a year older than many of the players drafted during the 2007 Entry Draft as a result of his Sept.16 birthdate – the day after the annual cut-off.  Matson had a very solid year with the Des Moines Buccaneers, scoring 13 goals and 24 assists in 55 games. The 6’0, 185 lb pivot led his team in scoring, which is exactly what Matson needed during his final season of junior hockey development.  Next season Matson will join the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers – and fellow Canucks prospect Patrick White.  The Gophers have one of the most revered programs in collegiate hockey, and the Canucks are hopeful their sixth-round selection can develop into a late-round offensive gem.