Canucks 2004 draft evaluation

By Jason Menard

With their seven selections in the 2004 NHL entry draft, the Canucks drafted three solid NHLers. That number would be four if Cory Schneider had made his way onto the roster sooner.

In 2004, the club was without its second-round selection courtesy of an August 2003 transaction that saw netminder Johan Hedberg arrive from Pittsburgh. The Canucks also dealt their third-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Geoff Sanderson, and their seventh-round selection was the conditional draft pick that went to Pittsburgh in return for blueliner Marc Bergervin — both were 2004 trade deadline moves. Then-General Manager Dave Nonis also made a shrewd move to obtain a player he had his eye on — Alexander Edler. He moved back into the third round of the 2004 draft by obtaining Dallas’ 91st overall selection for his 2005 third-rounder. The move has paid off long-term as Edler has made an impact on the franchise.

The Canucks’ seven selections have played 312 NHL games, for an average of 44.56 games per pick — quite high for this draft class.

Cory Schneider, G, Phillips-Andover, MA — 1st round (26th overall) 
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 8

The Canucks picked up their goaltender of the future this draft — unfortunately for him, they had the opportunity to steal another all-world goaltender a few years later in Roberto Luongo. As a result, the talented American netminder has found himself stuck behind a daunting obstacle in his climb to the NHL.

Schneider has played in eight NHL games — all this season. His record with the Canucks (earned during Luongo’s injury sabbatical) was less than stellar. He posted a 2-4-1 record behind a 3.38 GAA and a shoddy .877. But for all his struggles at the NHL level, the 6’2 netminder shone in the AHL this season. In 40 games he posted a 28-10-1 record, with a 2.04 GAA and a .928 save percentage, en route to earning the AHL‘s goalie of the year title. In the playoffs, he has been even better, propelling the Manitoba Moose to the Calder Cup finals. To date, Schneider has compiled a 12-3 record, with a 2.03 GAA and a .924 save percentage. At one point in the playoffs, the club reeled off 10 straight wins with Schneider standing tall in every match, compiling an 11-2 record on a glittering 1.76 GAA and .935 save percentage.

The question isn’t of NHL readiness, as Schneider has proven himself over his first two professional campaigns; the question is of availability. With Luongo in Vancouver, Schneider has to remain in Manitoba to get enough starts. Barring a trade of the former — which has been rumoured at times — chances are Schneider’s greatest value to the Canucks is as a bargaining chip.

Alexander Edler, D, Jamtland — 3rd round (91st overall)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 177

Edler has been a true diamond in the rough. Unranked in his draft year by Central Scouting, he was referred to the Canucks by their Swedish scout. Unwilling to risk letting the 6’3 blueliner slip through their grasp, Vancouver obtained Dallas’ pick to preempt the Swede-savvy Detroit Red Wings from taking a flyer on him.

The rest has been a scouting story for the ages. From playing in a little-known league (now defunct), Edler has moved from performing solidly in Kelowna to splitting parts of two seasons between the AHL and the NHL (albeit a very small split last season), to becoming a mainstay on the Canucks’ blueline for the past two seasons, playing 75 and 80 games respectively. This year he made his permanent home in the NHL and has provided the Canucks with solid scoring from the blueline, contributing 19 goals and adding 41 assists in his 177 NHL games. And as good as his offensive numbers have been, he’s been solid defensively posting a plus-11 rating this year.

Edler’s play has so impressed the Canucks that he signed a four-year, $13-million contract in October 2008. It’s safe to say this third-round flyer has paid off in spades.

Andrew Sarauer, LW

Langley Hornets (BCHL) — 4th round (125th overall) 
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

At the time, the 6’4 prospect was one of those high-risk, high-reward selections. That reward never panned out and after completing four years at Northern Michigan University, Sarauer has spent his first pro season bouncing around the minor pro ranks.

Just this season he’s played with Iowa (signed for two days) and Johnstown of the ECHL and the AHL‘s Norfolk and Lake Erie franchise. He enjoyed some success with Johnstown, playing in 49 games, scoring 19 goals and adding 27 assists. His two stints in the AHL, totalling 18 games, were less successful, resulting in only one goal.

At 24, Sarauer appears to be running out of chances at an NHL career, although he could prove to be a serviceable pro at the minor pro levels.

Mike Brown, RW

University of Michigan — 5th round (159th overall) 
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 67

While he spent parts of the past two seasons with the Canucks, playing in a handful of games, Brown is now no longer with the organization.

Earlier this season he was traded to Anaheim in return for Nathan MacIver. The 23-year-old is seemingly a perfect fit for the Ducks’ organization, with his robust style of play and caustic on-ice demeanor.

His most productive season to date was 2007, which he split between Manitoba and Vancouver. In 54 AHL games, he racked up 201 points. But what was impressive was how he used those fists for more than just pummelling — he also scored 10 goals that year in 54 games with Manitoba. That season he got into 19 games at the NHL level, scoring once and spending 55 minutes in the box. This season, he was on pace to far eclipse those penalty totals with the Canucks, racking up 85 minutes in just one more total game before the trade.

Limited to spot duty with the Canucks, he saw more action in Anaheim, scoring two goals and adding an assist in 28 games. Brown showed an ability to pick and choose his spots, bringing his PIM-per-game totals down closer to two per game, and that ability to avoid dumb penalties contributed to earning the coaching staff’s trust, evidenced by the fact that he played in 13 of Anaheim’s playoff contests this season.

As long as there’s a physical aspect of the game allowed (or as long as Anaheim keeps its franchise philosophy intact), Brown should remain a productive — and pugilistic — player for the near future.

Julien Ellis, G

Shawinigan Cataractes — 6th round (189th overall) 
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After a solid career with the Shawinigan Cataractes, Ellis has been relegated to the ECHL for the past four seasons.

In that time he’s played in only 14 AHL games, and it appears his career is regressing. In his four full ECHL seasons with the Victoria Salmon Kings, he’s seen his save percentage decrease from a high of .912 in his rookie year to a low of .882 this season. His GAA also hit 3.45 this season after a 3.20 rookie campaign. Ellis doesn’t have the size of most other current goaltending hopefuls, which put him at a disadvantage. Nor does he have the swagger of a top goaltender.

With two premium netminders in front of him, Ellis’ future with the Canucks is dim, but it probably would be no matter what organization he was in. He may be retained for organizational depth, but he’s out of the picture as a viable netminding prospect.

David Schulz, D

Swift Current Broncos  — 8th round (254th overall) 
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After bouncing around the CHL, playing with four different clubs, Schultz has considered his travelling ways in the minor pro leagues. He’s played for clubs in the CHL, ECHL, and AHL, most recently suiting up with the Lake Erie Monsters.

The 6’4, 210-pound blueliner has been steady at best, but likely won’t be suiting up for an NHL franchise. In 58 games this year with Johnstown of the ECHL, he scored one goal and added 10 assists. His play hasn’t warranted a long-term tenure with an AHL club, and his NHL prospects seem dim.

Jannik Hansen, RW

Malmo Jrs— 9th round (287th overall) 
Status: NHL Player
NHL games Played: 60

This season, the last-chance flier cracked the NHL roster, seemingly for good. A low-risk, high-reward selection, Hansen ended up playing in 55 games this season, scoring six goals and adding 15 assists.

The Danish winger’s offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he’s shown an ability to bring a solid contribution to the lineup. Hansen’s not yet a top-six forward and spent some of this season in the press box as a healthy scratch, but he’s established that he has a viable future either with the Canucks or another NHL franchise.

A 6’1, 205 pounds, Hansen has created a spot for himself on the NHL roster, but with Canucks facing a financial crunch, he may be wooed away by another franchise willing to pony up an attractive offer to the RFA.