Canucks 2006 draft preview

By Matt MacInnis

Canucks Top 10 Prospects

1. Luc Bourdon, D
2. Cory Schneider, G
3. Kevin Bieksa, D
4. Kirill Koltsov, D
5. Jason King, RW
6. Julien Ellis, G
7. Alexander Edler, D
8. Mason Raymond, LW
9. Jannik Hansen, RW
10. Jozef Balej, RW

The Vancouver Canucks have one of the barest prospect cupboards in the entire NHL, including quite possibly the poorest collection of offensive forwards in the league. The team has a number of young players who will contend for roster spots next season.

Team Needs

The Canucks desperately need a top-quality offensive prospect at any of the forward positions. They currently do not have a single forward in their system that has first-line potential or likely to ever score more than 25 goals at the NHL level. There is no question that the Canucks need to aggressively pursue young forwards with strong offensive potential, even if it means taking some chances.

Organizational Strengths

Goaltending. With Cory Schneider, Alexandre Vincent and Julien Ellis, not to mention a young Alex Auld and Mika Noronen at the NHL level already, the Canucks have no shortage of goaltenders under the age of 26. The organization also has a number of offensively gifted defenders such as Luc Bourdon, Kirill Koltsov and Alexander Edler.

Organizational Weaknesses

The ability of their young players to put the puck in the net is a glaring weak spot for the Canucks. They have no high-caliber forwards in the system and have shied away from using top picks on offensively gifted forwards for the past few years. The Canucks also lack depth in terms of quality defensive defensemen. Outside of Kevin Bieksa, who is practically an NHLer at this point, and Bourdon, who is more of an all-arounder, the team does not have a truly physical shut-down defenseman in the system who is likely to develop into a top-four defender.

Draft Tendencies

Since 2000, the Canucks have used their first pick to select three Americans, two Canadians and one European. The only time the Canucks used their first to pick a Euro came in 2002, when the team didn’t have its own first round pick due to the Trevor Linden trade, and used the 49th overall pick to choose Koltsov. Of those six players, one was a goaltender, two were defensemen and three were forwards, including the forgettable Nathan Smith and R.J. Umberger, whom the team was unable to come to terms with on a rookie contract and was eventually traded.

Since 2000, the Canucks have made a total of 47 picks including: 29 forwards, 12 defensemen and six goaltenders. Their selections have come across a wide variety of leagues as well. The Canucks have made 19 selections from the Canadian Hockey League (nine from the QMJHL, six from the WHL and four from the OHL), 40 percent of their total picks. The college ranks have been the team’s second favorite source of prospects, with 15 of the Canucks’ previous picks being players who were playing in the NCAA at the time of being selected or on their way to collegiate hockey through Junior “A” hockey. They represent 32 percent of all draft picks. Of those 15 players, six were chosen out of the CJAHL ranks, including three most recently in the 2005 Entry Draft. The Canucks have gone to Europe 13 times, spread across six countries (Russia, 7; Sweden, 2; and one respectively for Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark and the Czech Republic).

Recent history demonstrated that the Canucks are most likely to choose players from the Quebec Major Junior League, the NCAA ranks or Russia. However, the Canucks have not selected a Russian in the past two drafts, and haven’t used an early pick on a Russian prospect since 2002. With a transfer agreement once again in place between the Russian Federation and the NHL, the team may once again venture into that part of Europe, although it should be pointed out that their success with Russian prospects has been very limited, with the potential of Koltsov as the last real hope from the group.

If recent trends are any indication, you will see the Canucks make several selections of players who are in the NCAA or are on their way there through the Canadian Junior “A” ranks. The team seems to be very willing to take players who are projects and guys they can watch for four or five years before having to offer them a contract.

Historically, the Canucks scouting of the WHL has been lackluster, which is surprisingly considering their proximity to the league. They have not selected a player from Finland in the past six years.

The Canucks have the 14th overall pick as well as their fifth, sixth and seventh round selections. With the team hosting the draft, there is some expectation that they will attempt to make some sort of splash on Draft Day, perhaps moving up in the first round, or attempting to acquire more picks. A trade sending Dan Cloutier elsewhere is distinctly possible as well, perhaps something in the same model of the Patrick Lalime trade at the 2005 Draft.

Hockey’s Future’s staff mock draft result: Patrick Berglund

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