The Vancouver Canucks came into the 2012 NHL Draft with only five picks. The organization made the best available selection with their first round pick and went off the board with their remaining picks. There was a strong NCAA connection, with the team selecting players that will attend Maine, Boston University, and Yale. It was also apparent that the Canucks brass were looking to add size to their prospect ranks, as the average height of their 2012 draft class was 6'2.
The Canucks primarily augmented their forward reserves, drafting two centers, two wingers, and only one blueliner. The organization mandate for grit and leadership was evident as well, with management opting to pick several players who are known to be unpleasant to play against.
General manager Mike Gillis indicated the day before the draft that he would be selecting the best available player with the 26th overall pick. He delivered on that front, selecting Brendan Gaunce, younger brother of Cameron Gaunce, who plays in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Brendan was rated 13th among North American skaters by Central Scouting after accumulating 28 goals and 40 assists in 68 games during the 2011-12 season. He also played on Canada's world under-18 team that won the bronze medal, as well as the gold medal-winning team in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where he had a goal and an assist in the championship game versus Sweden.
Gaunce is a gritty, two way center who wore an 'A' as an assistant captain for the Bulls. He has natural leadership qualities which the Canucks hope will spill over to the pro game. Gaunce plays well without the puck, and has the ability to play on the wing, adding some versatility to his game. He finds ways in every game to contribute in multiple ways, enhancing his effectiveness and value to the team. The Markham, Ontario native trains with ex-NHL forward Gary Roberts, and recorded 68 penalty minutes in the 2011-12 season, showing his willingness to mix it up physically.
Alexandre Mallet, C – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
2nd round, 57th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 195 lbs
If the Canucks had a controversial pick, the gritty Amqui, Quebec center was certainly it. Mallet recorded 10 goals and nine assists in 60 games for the Oceanic in 2010-11, along with 86 penalty minutes and a minus-one rating. In 2011-12, he recorded 34 goals, 47 assists for 81 points, posting 132 penalty minutes, and was a plus-23 rating. Scouts rave about his desire and ability to play a physical, even punishing brand of hockey. Mallet's style has also drawn comparisons to famed Detroit Red Wings winger Tomas Holmstrom, projecting as a third line player who is good at both ends of the rink. The 20-year-old left-winger said following the draft that he expected to be taken in the "fifth or sixth" round, and was surprised at being selected late in the second round. Mallet is projected to play in the AHL for the 2012-13 season with Vancouver's affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Ben Hutton, D – Nepean Raiders (CCHL)
5th round, 147th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 192 lbs
Ben Hutton, a 19-year-old playing Junior A hockey in Ontario's Central Canada Hockey League, was the only defender chosen by Vancouver in the 2012 draft. GM Mike Gillis made no secret of his desire to add bigger, grittier forwards to the prospect mix. With Kevin Connauton and Chris Tanev making good progress in the system, the Canucks only afforded a fifth round pick to add another blueliner to the pool. Hutton split time between the Kemptville 73s (and the Nepean Raiders, scoring 11 goals and 43 points in 57 games. He also had a good outing during the playoffs, scoring five goals and adding eight assists for 13 points in 18 games. An above-average skater, Hutton logged huge minutes as captain of the Nepean Raiders, often 35 minutes a night. Playing in all situations, he was always used against the opponents' top lines as well as both special team units. Hutton has verbally committed to attend the University of Maine on a scholarship next fall. He led the Nepean Raiders to the CCHL championship and represented Canada East in the World Junior A Challenge.
Wesley Myron, LW – Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
6th round, 177th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 190 lbs
Wesley Myron is the first British Columbia born player the Canucks have drafted in four years. The 19-year-old Victoria native had 17 goals and 42 points in 26 games during the 2011-12 BCHL season. He was selected to play for Team Canada West for the 2011 World Junior 'A' Challenge. Though he has a tall, lanky frame, Myron is a strong skater who has demonstrated the ability to finish in the BCHL. Perhaps his greatest attribute is his ability to dish the puck to teammates. With 25 assists in 26 games, his passing gets better every year and he has been adding a physical element to his game. Myron is committed to playing for Boston University for the 2012-13 season, where he has the potential to be a top two line center for the Terriers.
Matt Beattie, C/ RW, Phillips Exeter Academy (USHS)
7th round, 207th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 175 lbs
With their final pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks continued to give the nod to Ivy League players. Matt Beattie was a prominent forward in New England prep hockey, managing 39 goals and 35 assists in 28 games. Beattie possesses explosive skating, with hands that strive to match that foot speed. He needs to get his shot off quicker and put on some weight, but the Canucks weren't deterred by those shortcomings. A tireless worker with skills to match the effort, coaches have lauded his ability to learn. With some seasoning and the right opportunity, it's quite fathomable that Beattie could make the transition to the pro game.