Canucks 2009 draft review

By Chris Roberts

The Vancouver Canucks went off the board for the majority of their picks hoping to find a gem, but had a gifted center fall into their lap with the No. 22 selection.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo made the announcement and while he fumbled on the name somewhat, he announced Jordan Schroeder as the newest Vancouver Canuck. Schroeder began a trend of what would become four players selected from the NCAA.  The Canucks stayed true to their affinity for Swedes as well — taking two in Anton Rodin and Peter Andersson.

Steven Anthony, a seventh-round pick, was the only player to be taken out of the CHL by the team. The Canucks acquired the pick from the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Shaun Heshka.

Jordan Schroeder, C – 5’8 175 lbs – NCAA, University of Minnesota
Selected first round, 22nd overall

Through much of the year, Schroeder was regarded as a likely top 15 draft pick. Although undersized at 5’8, his stock was at its highest after the World Junior Championships where he led the United States with 11 points. With the number of players rising up until draft weekend, it was inevitable that some would fall. Schroeder found out what it means to be patient on draft night as he had to wait until the 22nd selection to hear his name called. Schroeder, however, understands reasons why he wasn’t picked, particularly by his homestate Wild, and is thrilled with the opportunity he has in Vancouver.

“I think [Minnesota] was looking for defensemen. They wanted some second and third round picks, as well, so I’m happy for Nick Leddy, my teammate,” Schroeder said at the draft. “The fans [in Vancouver] are crazy about hockey and Canada, I love that. There’s so much enthusiasm up there. I couldn’t be more happy to be with Vancouver.”

Schroeder comes to Vancouver as a speedy center who has close to NHL-ready playmaking ability. He showcased his skill last season for the University of Minnesota, posting 45 points in 35 games including 32 assists. While averaging almost an assist per game in the NCAA is a difficult thing to do even for the most talented seniors, Schroeder managed to do it as a freshman, and was named the WCHA rookie of the year.

He boasts great stick-handling skills and creativity to add to his offensive game. While smaller than his opponents, he has displayed he can handle the physical aspect of the game, especially in battles along the boards. He may not be the most complete player although he knows what it takes to reach the next level.

“I think shooting the puck more and playing a better role defensively [will help me improve],” Schroeder said.

Most importantly, Schroeder knows one other thing he must do.

“Keep getting stronger.”

Anton Rodin, RW/LW – 5’11 175 lbs – Junior SuperElit, Brynäs
Selected second round, 53rd overall

Rodin is a pure goal scorer, with 29 goals in 37 games against competition his own age. He is not the playmaker Schroeder is, but there are similarities.

Rodin is another undersized forward at just 5’11 and 175 pounds and like Schroeder he is a smooth skater who possesses tremendous puck handling skills. While Schroeder is known for his playmaking, it is Rodin’s tremendous shot and knack to score unbelievable goals that have scouts gushing over him.

There is no doubt that Rodin has a very high skill level – it’s just a question of whether he can overcome the strength issue and learn to adapt to the physical bruising of the men’s game. While his numbers were solid in Sweden’s junior league, posting 55 points in 37 games, he was held pointless in six games playing in the top division against men. Rodin has huge potential as a goal scorer in the NHL but will need to work on adding muscle and strength.

Kevin Connauton, D – 6’1 185 lbs – NCAA, Western Michigan
Selected third round, 83rd overall

To say Connauton was under the radar going into the draft would be an understatement. The 6’1 Alberta product played the 2007-08 season for the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL and put up 45 points in 56 games. Following the season, Connauton went south play for Western Michigan University.

His freshman year last season for the Broncos was a very successful one. He was a regular on the power play, logged upwards of 30 minutes per game and earned an honorable mention to the CCHA All-Rookie team. He ended the year with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 40 games.

He was ranked as the 202nd North American skater by Central Scouting heading into the draft but those who have seen him, especially in the Canucks brass, suggest that the ranking is much to do with the struggling team he played for. He is an offensive-minded defenseman with excellent vision who can control the play from the back end. His poise and patience with the puck are above average.

Although he is scheduled to return to Western Michigan next season, the Vancouver Giants of the WHL also hold his rights.

Jeremy Price, D – 6’1 175 lbs – CJHL, Nepean Raiders
Selected fourth round, 113th overall
Committed to Colgate University

Price was a lesser-known pick in the fourth round. He played junior A last season for the Nepean Raiders of the CJHL – a league that isn’t typically called on draft day.

However, Price has high upside as an offensive defenseman and can trouble goaltenders with his rocket of a shot. He used this shot to help him total 12 goals in his first year with the Raiders while adding 29 assists. Like Connauton, he was very important to his team’s power play, scoring half of his 12 goals on the man advantage.

Price actually totalled more points last season in the CJHL than first-round pick Calvin de Haan (NYI), however, his skating is nowhere near the level of de Haan’s and keeping with the trend of Canuck picks – he needs to bulk up and add muscle to become an effective pro.

Peter Andersson, D – 6’3 194 lbs – Swe-Jr, Frolunda Jr.
Selected fifth round, 143rd overall

Andersson would appear to be a giant if he stood next to the previous four Canuck draft picks. At 6’3, Andersson is certainly big on his skates, and at 18, still has room to grow. His skating is above average and he plays a solid all-around game with the ability to jump in on the rush and add some offense.

He has a great shot from the point and plays a steady game yet tends to overcomplicate things when he has control of the puck in high pressure areas. Most importantly he needs to continue to develop his defensive game and play with aggression. He has received comparisons to current Canuck and fellow Swede Alex Edler, however, which bodes well.

Andersson spent the 2008-09 season for Frolunda Jr. and tallied three goals and five assists in 36 games. He will likely be back next season although he may make the jump to the Swedish Elite League.

Joe Cannata, G – 6’1 200 lbs – NCAA, Merrimack University
Selected sixth round, 173rd overall

Cannata was the first goaltender selected by the Canucks in the draft and becomes the first Merrimack goaltender selected since 1991. The Canucks continued their trend of obscure selections with Cannata. There is no denying, however, that Cannata’s numbers look great, especially as a freshman goaltender.

He played a total of 23 games for Merrimack displaying a .918 save percentage and a low 2.35 goals against average to go along with two shutouts.

Cannata does a good job of making himself look big in the net and plays angles very well. He is very technically sound, though when he is out of position he uses sharp hand-eye coordination to make big saves. What impresses most about Cannata is his confidence and overall calmness between the pipes.

Steven Anthony, LW – 6’1 205 lbs – QMJHL, Saint John
Selected seventh round, 187th overall

At just 16 he was hyped as a possible top ten pick for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Up until the halfway point of the 2008-09 QMJHL season he had fell as low as to say he would be a long shot to just be drafted. In the first 93 games of his QMJHL career, Anthony had yet to display the skill that once made him so highly thought of, or the stats to go with it – he had only 32 points. He seemed to find his stride when Chris Didomenico was traded from the Sea Dogs to Drummondville, however, and managed to score a point per game over the last 29 games of the season.

He is a big winger with superb playmaking skills that would normally garner a first round selection though Anthony has two gaping holes in his game that almost left him undrafted – consistency and work ethic. The skill is there, it is just a question of whether or not Anthony can stay focused and motivated. With hard work and effort his skill should translate into NHL success.