Canucks 1999 draft evaluation

By Sukhwinder Pandher

The 1998-99 season ended with the Canucks hitting rock bottom as they achieved their lowest point total since 1977-78 and their lowest winning percentage since the 1972-73 season. It also marked the first time the Canucks failed to reach the 200-goal plateau in a full season. Taking these shortcomings into account and adding to it that it was Brian Burke’s first season as General Manager, there was little doubt, in hindsight, that the Canuck brass were looking to make headlines that would not only excite but offer optimism to the long suffering Canuck fans.

Entering the draft, the Canucks had already sent their second round pick to Colorado as compensation for the signing of Marc Crawford. However with the third overall pick and two additional third round picks to go with their own pick, Burke was in prime position to make a splash in the draft. Canucks management had played their options very close to their vest in the week leading up to the draft and then as Burke stated after the draft that the whole thing came together maybe 15 minutes before the draft started.

The Canucks first traded up and coming defenseman Bryan McCabe and their first rounder in 2000 to Chicago for the fourth overall pick in the 1999 draft. Burke then swapped that pick and added two third round picks to Tampa Bay for the first overall pick. Finally, he traded the first overall pick as well as fourth round and ninth round picks in 1999 to Atlanta for the second overall pick and a third round pick in 2000. Now with the second overall and third overall picks the Canucks could set their franchise for a long time.

The eight Canucks picks in 1999 went on to play at total of 633 NHL games, but all of them are accounted for by the Sedin twins. This calculates to an average of 79 games per pick, a very high average for this draft year.

Daniel Sedin, LW – 1st round, 2nd overall (Modo, SEL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 315

Henrik Sedin, C – 1st round, 3rd overall (Modo, SEL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 318

Five minutes after donning the Canuck jersey, the pressure began to mount on the Sedins, by fans and media alike. Brian Burke, who is one General Manager who doesn’t like to rush players, felt that they were ready to play in the NHL as 18-year-olds.

The Sedins decided to play the 1999-00 season in Sweden and while they improved their individual point totals, they weren’t able to improve on Modo’s team success. The 2000-01 season saw the Sedins start play on the fourth line with the Canucks but once they started clicking with Trent Klatt, the twins saw their ice time increase as they finished the season strong. Daniel scored 20 goals in his rookie campaign. Henrik also played strong fundamental hockey and assisted on many of his brother’s goals, finishing with 29 points. They also saw plenty of ice time in the playoffs, where they impressed with their ability take on the tight checking of the postseason and still average a point a game.

After suffering a back injury at the 2000 World Championships playing for Sweden, Daniel Sedin required back surgery in the offseason. Although he was deemed fit to play, that didn’t seem to be the case during the 2000-01 season. Daniel Sedin only missed three games, mostly due to coach’s decisions, but never seemed to play at the same level that he displayed in his rookie season, as he only scored 9 goals. On the other hand, Henrik Sedin improved his play and was able to contribute 16 goals up from the nine he scored in the previous season.

With Andrew Cassels moving on to Columbus in the offseason, the 2001-02 season saw more attention being paid to the Sedin brothers, as they were pushed into second line status. The added checking didn’t help the Sedin’s development as neither brother showed significant improvement in their play. Daniel was able to improve his goal totals from 9 to 14 and Henrik improved his point totals by just 2 points. Media and fan criticism was at an all time high as very few had confidence in the twins as being top six forwards.

Not very many in the hockey world had confidence that the Sedins would be able to form a solid second line prior to the 2003-04 season, especially with their favorite linemate, Trent Klatt, leaving the team as a free agent. However, the Sedins were able to find a higher level of consistency despite the fact they went through several different linemates during the season. They also were able to absorb the physical punishment that the rest of the league administered on a daily basis. Daniel nearly reached his rookie total of 20 goals with 18 this past year and had a career high in points with 54 points, improving his previous high by 20. Henrik continued to show steady improvement as his point totals continued to rise for the fourth consecutive season.

The twins continue to show flashes of brilliance, but not consistently. However, statistically the Sedins have improved steadily from year to year, except for Daniel in his second year, and would still be considered in the top ten of players selected in the 1999 draft. The big question concerning the brothers and their future is whether they truly are second line players or are they better suited to play on the third line.

Rene Vydareny, D – 3rd round, 69th overall (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

In the season following the draft, Vydareny played with Rimouski of the QMJHL and had 30 points in 51 games. Interest began to rise in the young Slovakian defenseman. The 2000-01 began with a stalemate for Vydareny, as his former club team in Slovakia disputed his contract with the Canucks. He only appeared in 39 games and wasn’t able to find his comfort level with then affiliate Kansas City of the IHL. Despite his strong skating, Vydareny wasn’t able to improve his defensive play and brought nothing physical to the table. Vyrdareny continued his lackluster play each year and wasn’t able to improve his overall play, thus he slipped down the prospect rankings each year. The Canucks finally traded him at the 2004 deadline to Montreal for minor league forward Sylvain Blouin.

Ryan Thorpe, LW – 5th round, 129th overall (Spokane, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

Ryan Thorpe moved from being unranked at the mid-season CSB report to No. 97 in the final rankings. He accomplished this feat by scoring 10 goals in a 19-game stretch after being traded to Spokane half way through his draft year. Unfortunately, Thorpe never elevated his play in the WHL. He was invited to training camps but was never signed and never played a game in any professional leagues. He did make it to the international stage as a player for Team Sweden for the 2004 movie ‘Miracle’.

Josh Reed, D – 6th round, 172nd overall (Cowichan, BCJHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Canucks picked their second BC born player in the 1999 when they selected the tough bruising defenseman Josh Reed in the sixth round. Reed went to play U.S. college hockey for UMass-Lowell where he enjoyed four solid years of hockey as a physical stay at home defenseman. He entered 2004 Canuck training camp as an invitee without a contract and wasn’t able to earn one with his play. He signed with Texas of the ECHL, coached by former Canuck Robert Dirk, where he only played five games before moving onto Lubbock of the CHL. Reed only played two games for the Cotton Kings before leaving the team due to personal reasons.

Kevin Swanson, G – 7th round, 189th overall (Kelowna, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Swanson was a smallish, 19-year-old goalie who was able to turn one solid year of goaltending with Kelowna into being drafted by a NHL team. After playing two more seasons in the WHL with Kelowna, Swanson made his professional debut with Columbia of the ECHL in the 2001-02 season and played in 19 games, where he posted respectable numbers. With Alex Auld being anointed as the goalie of the future and Alfie Michaud outplaying him in training camp, Swanson’s contract was bought out by the Canucks in November of 2002. He signed a letter of intent with the University of British Columbia and was the third string goalie this past year.

Markus Kankaanpera, D – 8th round, 218th overall (JYP Jyvaskyla, Finland)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Kankaanpera was a slider going into the 1999 draft, as he was rated in the top 40 of all European skaters at mid-season CSB rankings and had slipped 29 spots to the No. 71 position. He continued his free fall as he wasn’t plucked until the eighth round. Kankaanpera has played in the SM Liga (Finland) since he was 17 and has shown steady improvement in all the years since his rookie season. This includes career highs in goals (6), assists (6), points (12), and penalty minutes (101) this past year. He has been described as having good hockey sense, being solid in the defensive zone, possessing a hard shot and playing with typical Finnish toughness. He could be on his way to North America next year and start as a top four defenseman for the Manitoba Moose and eventually could be a solid 5-6 defenseman in the NHL.

Darrell Hay, D – 9th round, 271st overall (Tri-City, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With the second last pick in the draft the Canucks selected the offensive minded defenseman Darrell Hay of the Tri-City Americans. Although he was skilled offensively the big knock on Hay was his size (6’0” 190 lbs.), and his lack of defensive zone coverage. He played one more season in juniors before coming to training camp in 2000, where he was assigned to Florida of the ECHL and also spent time with Kansas City of the IHL. He continued to split his seasons between Columbia and Manitoba for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, enjoying more success in the ECHL. Hay was non-tendered after the 2003 season and became a free agent. He signed on with Utah of the AHL, coached by his father Don Hay, but spent most of his season with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. Hay might have a chance to develop into a solid AHL defenseman, but anything more is expecting too much.