Vancouver Canucks added organizational depth at 2009 NHL Draft

By Larenzo Jensen

Jordan Schroeder - Vancouver Canucks

Photo: Center Jordan Schroeder, selected 22nd overall in 2009, recently returned to the Canucks lineup after recovering from an ankle injury (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon SMI)

Things were certainly looking up in Vancouver during the 2008-09 campaign, especially considering the note they ended the 2007-08 season with. After failing to make the playoffs, the Canucks bounced back to secure the third seed in the Western Conference.

An argument supporting the parity within the NHL, a mere 12 points were the difference between finishing 11th in the Western Conference in 2007-08, and finishing third during the 2008-09 season.

They also had encouraging news in the form of seven draft picks for the 2009 NHL Draft. The only shadow you could cast on the number of picks was that they were mostly in the last third of each draft round. Interestingly, the results of the 2008 draft would mimic those of the 2009 draft, with a significant center prospect emerging from the first round, followed by arguably disappointing second round selections. The remainder would make up an eclectic mix of hit and miss prospects, with trades moving some of those hits to other NHL teams.

Jordan Schroeder, C, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA) -1st round, 22nd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 40

Given his recent struggles with time lost to a refractured left ankle, it is difficult to label Schroeder a 'can't miss' prospect. That being said, he is a very skillful player and has shown he can compete at the NHL level. His skillset and on-ice vision are sorely needed in a prospect pipeline with limited amounts of offensive potential.

In his relatively short time playing in the NHL, he has improved his defensive play and positioning. This is demonstrated in the penalty killing assignments he was given and allotted ice-time during a variety of situations. Considering that Schroeder's pedigree is that of an offense first type player, his developing defensive attributes are a bit of an unexpected bonus. Before taking the head coaching position with the New York Rangers, Alain Vigneault used Schroeder in a lot of important settings, including defensive zone faceoffs while protecting a lead. Because he has just returned from his surgery, it is too early to prognosticate just how often John Tortorella will use Schroeder, and in what context. But his hands are rather tied at the moment, with both Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli out with injuries, inevitably he will be used rather frequently.

At the end of the day, Schroeder will be most noticeable when he is making offensive contributions. Local media has focused on the Canucks' lack of offensive firepower recently, so there is an excellent opportunity for him to nail down a roster spot. While he was with the Chicago Wolves, he gradually posted improved numbers each season, until fracturing his ankle. Moving forward, it will be intriguing to see how often and under what situations Tortorella uses Schroeder. With a two-goal night following his return from injury, Canucks fans are hoping that this version of Jordan Schroeder sticks around and is able to stay healthy and productive.

Anton Rodin, RW, Brynas J20 (SWE-JR) – 2nd round, 53rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

One thing you have to credit Anton Rodin for is the way he has represented his country on the world stage of hockey. At the 2010 U20 World Junior Championship, he showcased his skill for bronze-medal winning Sweden. Enough so that the Canucks rewarded him with a three-year, entry-level deal in June 2010. Considering that he tied for second overall in points (10) with Magnus Paajarvi during that tournament, Rodin looked like he might have a bright future ahead of him. Few envisioned that future might be back in Sweden, coming full circle after a disappointing North American pro hockey debut.

Unfortunately for Rodin, a shoulder injury would dog him during his time with the Chicago Wolves. That shoulder injury prevented him from participating in any playoff games on North American ice. The Wolves were bounced from the 2011-12 playoffs in the first round by the San Antonio Rampage. They went on to finish fourth in the Midwest Division during the 2012-13 season, thereby missing the playoffs. Shortly after that, Rodin and his agent decided it would be best for his hockey career if he returned to his homeland. He signed a contract with Brynas in May 2013, and plays in Sweden's SHL in 2013-14.

While it would be unfair to suggest that Rodin's situation is the main reason the Canucks have shifted away from drafting Europeans recently, they have endured some negative fallout. It is hard to preach patient drafting when a second round pick fails to live up to expectations.

Kevin Connauton, D, Western Michigan University Broncos (NCAA) – 3rd round, 83rd overall
Status: Prospect (DAL)
NHL games played: 24

Local sportswriters would tell you that, once upon a time, Kevin Connauton and Chris Tanev were supposed to be cornerstones of the Vancouver Canucks defense. Now a member of the Dallas Stars, as part of the infamous Derek Roy playoff rental trade, fans in Vancouver will probably never know what might have been.

Connauton is known primarily for his offensive skills, and he gave Vancouver Giant (WHL) fans what they believed to be a foreshadowing of that during the 2009-10 season. He burst onto the scene putting up 24 goals and 72 points in 69 games on a strong Giants team. The smooth-skating defenseman made the transition to pro hockey nearly seamlessly, improving his point totals and plus-minus rating after his rookie season in Manitoba. He made strides in his defensive game during the 2011-12 season with the Chicago Wolves.

Connauton was dealt along with a second round pick to the Dallas Stars for Derek Roy on April 2nd, 2013. Two months later, the Stars re-signed him to a three-year contract, fully intending to make him earn his money. Thus far in the 2013-14 season, Connauton has 24 NHL games under his belt, and though he is in Texas on a conditioning stint at the moment, it is a safe bet he will be adding to that total soon.

Jeremy Price, D, Nepean Raiders (CJHL) – 4th round, 113th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Price factors in as another Vancouver prospect chosen that would be afforded more time to grow and develop playing college hockey before turning pro. With the earmarks of a decent late-round pick with steady production throughout his time with Colgate University (ECAC), Price has appeal. Add to the fact that he also has some leadership capabilities, and the Canucks were sold. In fact, they have trended towards players that exemplify those kinds of qualities.

Sometimes referred to as a quiet leader, it appears other parts of his game were too quiet – the Canucks did not offer him an entry-level contract. Price is now considered an UFA, as he is over four years removed from his draft day and is longer a bona fide college student (August 15th was cutoff). Although Price went unsigned, the Canucks fleshed out their farm system already during the offseason, as well as with a trade with Carolina. They also had a five-game window at the end of the 2012-13 season to watch him play for the Chicago Wolves. Whatever the reason, Jeremy Price is now playing for the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL, and is an UFA should another NHL team decide to pursue him.

Peter Andersson, D, Frolunda J20 (SWE-JR) – 5th round, 143rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Canucks dipped into the European talent pool for the second time in the 2009 draft, selecting Andersson from Frolunda Junior. No doubt Thomas Gradin factored into the decision, but the Canucks were sold on his size, versatility, and his top end speed.

The lanky Andersson remained in Sweden for the next four seasons, putting together some rather consistent figures. Nothing overly impressive, though he did have a small spike in goals in his final Allsvenskan season with Orebro HC during 2011-12. Unlike fellow Swede draftee, Anton Rodin, Andersson was able to acclimate to the North American style. His big body and versatility served him well, and had a mildly successful inaugural pro season with the Chicago Wolves. With the Canucks farm team being relocated to Utica, Andersson has not only made the transition, but is producing at a better clip, while not shirking his defensive responsibilities.

Andersson is certainly producing for the Comets, but one of the most stark contrasts has be how well he is defending while increasing his point totals. Compared to other defensemen who have similar numbers offensively (Henrik Tommernes, Yann Sauve), his plus-minus rating is noteworthy. Indeed, although there is the chance fans may never see Anton Rodin wearing a Canucks jersey, the same cannot be speculated about Peter Andersson.

Joe Cannata, G, Merrimack College (NCAA) – 6th round, 173rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Cannata will be remembered as one of the most successful players to ever come out of the Merrimack College program. Currently, he is the backup goaltender (to Joacim Eriksson) for the Utica Comets. Similar to Andersson, he has made the transition to pro hockey rather well. After his four years of College hockey with Merrimack, there was a small stint with the Kalamazoo Wings before getting his shot with the Chicago Wolves.

If you were to read numbers alone, you might conclude that Cannata has not been as successful in his second year of pro hockey. When Roberto Luongo went down with a lower body injury, the shuffle effect pulled Joacim Eriksson to the parent club to mind the net. In turn, Cannata took up the starting position with the Comets, who have the second lowest point total in the AHL. In all frankness, both Eriksson and Cannata have managed to steal some points here and there for Utica. They are both competitive and have been a steadying influence on their teammates.

While Cannata may never become a starting goaltender in the NHL, considering his resume and his underdog nature, once certainly would not bet against him either. He has a workhorse mentality and is an athlete through and through, complete with solid technical skills. The Canucks could not have asked for more from a sixth round draft pick.

Steven Anthony, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) – 7th round, 187th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Anthony's time as a Vancouver Canuck prospect may soon be coming to an end. Much like Jeremy Price, it is hard to envision the Canucks offering the pending RFA a contract.

Fans were optimistic when Anthony entered the QMJHL as a 16-year-old, but his offensive numbers were skewed somewhat. He was playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs, a dominant powerhouse that owned the league's top record. After the Canucks drafted him, he assumed more of a two-way role for the Sea Dogs, but with that style change he began to sustain more injuries. Those injuries varied from groin to shoulder injuries that cost him time in playoff games. However, they were not as significant as the concussions that awaited him once he started his pro career.

Anthony had difficulty sustaining any momentum while playing for the Kalamazoo Wings. He played 34 regular season games and missed the entire playoffs after receiving an illegal hit to the head. He managed 41 games in his second pro season with the K-Wings, but again saw no playoff action as the Wings did not make the postseason.

His saving grace is that he is a bona fide left winger, which is in short supply within the system. Now playing for the St. Charles Chill in the CHL, he will need some dramatics to garner the attention of Canuck management if he is to procure another contract.