Hockey pundits dubbed the Vancouver Canucks' 2012 NHL Entry Draft selections as "off the board" after their first round selection of Brendan Gaunce. In retrospect, Canucks scouts and management did their utmost to ensure that their later round selections followed several criteria: big, gritty, with a hint of untapped potential.
There was a strong NCAA connection, with three of their draft picks set to attend Maine, Boston University, and Yale (although sixth round pick Wes Myron is finishing his season with Kalamazoo in the ECHL after leaving BU). The average height of their 2012 draft class was 6'2, and it is quite apparent that their scouts did indeed identify players with grit.
Joseph Labate, C, Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2011
Labate and the Badgers had a solid showing in the NCAA playoffs. Labate factored in offensively, at an even better rate than during the regular season campaign. Though the #8 seeded Wisconsin bowed out of the tournament to #3 seeded UMass-Lowell in the Northeast Regional semifinal of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Badgers were impressive. They were 21-5-5 since November 30th, and were getting contributions from everyone on the team. Labate scored timely goals against St. Cloud State, Minnesota State, and Minnesota-Duluth. He also set up teammates, drawing an assist on the game-winner against Duluth and on the Badgers only goal in their final game with UMass-Lowell. Labate finished the season fifth on Wisconsin in points, scoring nine goals, 14 assists for 23 points in 41 games. He tied for seventh on the team with a plus- eleven rating.
Patrick McNally, D, Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2010
As reported in the Vancouver Canucks mid-season top 20, McNally was involved in a university athletic team infringement, and subsequently removed from the team. Prior to his removal, McNally continued to display the same kind of offensive skills that made him a finalist for the ECAC Rookie of the Year award. In seven games, he recorded a goal and two assists, and even though he is not playing at the moment, he should be suiting up for the Crimson again next season with the hopes of picking up right where he left off as one of the Canucks best up-and-coming offensive-minded defensemen.
Matthew Beattie, LW, Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 207th overall, 2012
The Yale University Bulldogs are currently on an amazing run. After they vanquished a couple of national powers in Minnesota and North Dakota at the West Regional, they won in overtime of their semi-final game at the Frozen Four to advance to the NCAA National Championship game. Yale's appearance in the semi-finals was their first in 61 years, and if they can win one more, the Bulldogs would be bringing home their first national title in school history. Unfortunately for Matt Beattie, it appears he will not be involved in their 2013 Frozen Four quest. While it is uncertain when he will play next for Yale, Beattie played 15 games for the Bulldogs this season, with no points, 8 penalty minutes, and a minus-two rating. Being a freshman, Beattie is most likely being brought along slowly, first and foremost because of the depth this team (eighth ranked team in the country) possesses. Beattie will hopefully see more ice time as he adapts to the quicker, tougher playing style.
Jeremy Price, D, Colgate Raiders (ECAC)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2009
The disappointment Jeremy Price may have felt as his Colgate University Raiders dropped both games in their opening round of the ECAC playoffs may well already be a distant memory. Though they were swept in the two-game series with St. Lawrence, Price was far from done with hockey for the season. Price signed an amateur tryout contract with the Chicago Wolves March 12th, 2013. Through 36 regular season games with Colgate, Price led the team's defensemen with six goals, 14 assists for 20 points. Thus far with the Wolves, he has one assist in five games played, with a minus-one rating and four penalty minutes. The 6'1, 190-pound Milton, Ontario native has natural leadership abilities and continues to develop according to schedule.
Ben Hutton, D, Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 147th overall, 2012
The University of Maine Black Bears enjoyed a solid run leading up to and including the Hockey East quarterfinals. The team was buoyed by excellent goaltending by Martin Ouellette (CBJ), and an excellent performance by their defense, of which Ben Hutton played a strong role. Similar to fellow Canucks prospect Joseph Labate, Hutton and the Black Bears were eliminated from contention by a strong UMass-Lowell team. In 34 regular season games, Hutton recorded four goals, 15 points, and 18 penalty minutes. The freshman led Maine's defensemen in scoring and finished third overall on the team in points. Hutton was playing perhaps his best hockey of the season during their two-game playoff series with New Hampshire. He earned two assists, and was a combined plus-five rating. He was also a factor in their series with Northeastern, scoring a goal and an assist, with a plus-one rating and credited with eight shots. His goal was also the game-winning goal. Hutton is quickly making a name for himself in Hockey East.