Canucks 2009 draft preview

By Matt MacInnis

Top 10 Prospects

1. Cody Hodgson, C
2. Cory Schneider, G
3. Jannik Hansen, RW
4. Michael Grabner, RW
5. Yann Sauve, D
6. Taylor Ellington, D
7. Sergei Shirokov, LW
8. Ilja Kablukov, LW
9. Prab Rai, C
10. Nathan McIver, D

Team Needs

The Vancouver Canucks are an organization in a period of significant potential change at the moment. With mainstay defenseman Matthias Ohlund seemingly on his way out of the franchise after 11 seasons, a significant hole opens on the blue line. Looking back, it seems like Ohlund’s departure was inevitable and may have actually occurred a full season earlier if Luc Bourdon’s tragic accident never occurred.

The biggest void on the blue line is for a true puck-moving defenseman. While Kevin Bieksa can do the job, the team lacks someone they can count on to consistently generate offense from the point in a more structured role. Two of the high-profile names being bandied about are Jay Bouwmeester and Scott Niedermayer. The latter, a B.C. native, has been rumored to be coming to Vancouver for most of the past decade at various times. There is no doubt that either all-star would admirably fill the required role.

Up front there are even more questions. With both Sedin brothers pending unrestricted free agents and the disappointing Mats Sundin also set to his the market, the club could potentially be in the midst of a drastic overhaul. At the end of the summer, the Canucks will need to have obtained three top-six forwards in order to remain competitive. The make-up of that group will be largely determined by if the Sedins re-sign.

Organizational Strengths

Goaltending to spare. Schneider has outgrown the American Hockey League but playing just 10-15 games backing up Luongo is not an ideal situation at this stage in his development and career.

At the professional level, the club has a decent drop of defensemen at its disposal and the continuing development of Yann Sauve and Taylor Ellington should further help to provide depth in the organization.

Organizational Weaknesses

The most obvious issue within the Canucks organization is the lack of scoring forwards. This was the case for much of the season in the NHL and the same remains the truth for the broader depth in the prospect cupboard. While Michal Grabner is showing signs of improvement and could be a contributor at the NHL level soon, there isn’t else much beyond super-prospect Cody Hodgson.

Overall the Canucks system is not full of depth. Beyond the top handful of quality prospects there is a significant drop-off that could yield no significant NHL players. The team needs to find a way to restock while continuing to put a competitive team on the ice.

Draft tendencies

With the appointment of Mike Gillis to General Manager last year, it’s a fruitless exercise to look into the draft history of the Canucks. Gillis made it clear in media interviews leading up to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft that he placed a heavy emphasis on character. Many felt this was apparently when he selected Cody Hodgson over players like Kyle Beech who were viewed by some as more talented at the time. Of course, Hodgson had one of the biggest seasons of any prospect last year and now appears poised to make a successful jump to the NHL next season.

Last year the Canucks made five selections, using four to pick up Canadian born players playing in the CHL. The lone European selection was Mats Froshaug, a pick generally seen as a "Thomas Gradin" pick – a pet project of the Canucks’ highly vaunted Sweden-based scout.

History has shown that if the Canucks are going to venture out of North America to pick a quality prospect, it’s going to come from Sweden.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result: 22nd pick, Tim Erixon, D – Skelleftea (Sweden)

Erixon has everything you want in an offensive defenseman and is generally underrated.