The Vancouver Canucks had 11 picks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, but not a first-round selection. The team chose three players from Russia, four players either playing in the NCAA or bound for the American collegiate ranks and one player from the Czech Republic, WHL, QMJHL and Switzerland.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, the draft was an unmitigated disaster despite the abundance of selections. With one NHL appearance between the 11 former prospects, the Canucks take home the 2002 Futile Draft Award with an appalling average of just 0.09 games per prospect. And if you want to look at it closer, the only selection to appear in any NHL uniform was goaltender Rob McVicar whose NHL experienced totals less than three minutes from a brief appearance during the 2005-06 season against Edmonton. This equals approximately 15 seconds of NHL ice time per pick.
Koltsov is the one saving grace that could conceivably prevent this from going down as one of the least productive drafts by a team in NHL history. Koltsov is widely recognized as one of the best skaters not currently playing in the National Hockey League and there is little doubt that he could earn a spot on the Canucks roster next season. The problem is that he has shown little to no signs of wanting to play in North America. After spending a year and a half in the AHL during 2003 and 2004, Koltsov abandoned the Manitoba Moose halfway through the lockout season, returning to Omsk citing he felt he would develop better in the RSL with the elevated level of play. The next season he would understandably remain in his homeland to stay with his ailing mother. He failed to come to Vancouver in 2006-07 and now, having signed a contract rumored to be worth approximately $1.7 million USD, it appears extremely improbable that he will ever appear in an NHL game.
Grot has had probably the most tumultuous experience since being drafted by Vancouver. He was able to crack into the RSL in 2003-04 with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv where he did play in 35 regular season games and appeared in three post-season matches. He was unable to earn a spot with the squad during the lockout year and found himself loaned to Novosibirsk Siber where he played 23 games. He bounced to Moscow Spartak in 2005-06 where he scored his first RSL goal along with five assists in 48 contests. Grot hit the road once again last off-season and found himself spending this past year with Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik where he scored a career-high nine points in 38 games with 59 penalty minutes. Grot has carved out a nice career in the RSL but shows no indication of being willing or able to play in the NHL.
Skinner played three quality seasons of hockey with the University of Denver before somewhat unexpectedly leaving prior to his senior season to begin his professional hockey career. During his debut pro season with the Manitoba Moose in 2005-06, the Canucks dealt his rights to the Anaheim Ducks in a trade deadline deal. He remained with the Moose for the remainder of the season, ending up with 25 points in 65 games and showing signs of having legitimate NHL potential. He played 41 games this past season with the rest of the Ducks’ prospects with the Portland Pirates before finding himself as part of an AHL trade to the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights where he played 20 games. Skinner now faces a significant uphill climb if he hopes to make the transition from depth AHL defender to NHL player as the Ducks have about eight defensive prospects ahead of him on the depth chart.
The 5’8, 170 lbs netminder spent the following two seasons after being drafted putting up decent but unspectacular numbers with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. Mensator opted to return to his home country instead of seeking a roster spot in the ECHL or AHL and has subsequently spent the past three seasons playing with the Karlovy Vary senior team. Mensator appears to be content playing in the Czech Republic and lacks the ability to be an NHL goaltender regardless.
John Laliberte, W
4th round, 114th overall – New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, EJHL
NHL Games Played: 0
After his selection in the 2002 draft, Laliberte went on to have four consistent and steadily offensively improving seasons with Boston University, improving from 11 points in his freshman year to 32 as a senior. Touted as a banging winger with NHL speed who had demonstrated decent offensive talents in college, it was somewhat surprising that he did not receive a contract from the organizations. He signed on with Trenton of the ECHL where he spent the first 30 games of the 2006-07 season, registering an impressive 27 points. He found himself promoted to the AHL, where he appeared in nine games with the Worcester Sharks registering just a lone assist. He was moved to Milwaukee where he was able to rack up 10 points in 27 games as well as seeing action in four post-season contests. Laliberte will be able to carve himself a respectable AHL career, although NHL action is unlikely at the current pace of development.
Rob McVicar, G
5th round, 151st overall – Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
NHL Games Played: 1
Selected after spending parts of the previous three seasons with the Wheat Kings, McVicar was never projected as a starting goalie. He spent one more season in the “Dub,” compiling some steady statistics including a 31-14-5 record. Both the subsequent 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons were spent predominantly in the ECHL ranks with a total of 11 AHL games scattered through the two campaigns. In 2005-06, the Canucks announced an affiliate with the geographically nearby Victoria Salmon Kings which is where McVicar spent the majority of his time. He did however appear in six AHL games and managed to get on the ice for a few minutes of his one and only NHL game to date. His contract was not renewed after the year and he spent 06-07 as the starting goaltender with the Utah Grizzlies.
Marc-Andre Roy, LW
7th Round, 214th round – Baie Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL
NHL Games Played: 0
M-A Roy was selected to be a goon and simply never panned out. The Montreal native did manage to compile an absolutely astounding 653 penalty minutes in his final season in the Q. After appearing in 50 games in the ECHL in the 2003-04 season, Roy spent a few seasons bouncing around the lowest professional ranks before ending up playing for Thetford Mines of the LNAH.
The slight Russian winger has shown some offensive talent over the past few years with the Khimik organization – which he broke into the Russian Super League with for the first time in 2003-04. He’s totaled 19, 23, 15 and 16 points respectively over the course of the past four seasons. Canucks GM Dave Nonis indicated in the past that the organization would be willing to give Krikunov a chance to prove himself in the AHL but it appears unlikely that the winger will leave the comforts of home.
Matt Violin, G
8th Round, 247th overall – Lake Superior University, NCAA
NHL Games Played: 0
Just two years after being drafted Violin found himself job sharing with a freshman who proceeded to seize the starting role in Violin’s senior year. He tried out for the UHL’s Fort Wayne Komets in 2005 but was cut by the team.
Thomas Nussli, W
9th Round, 277th overall – Zug, Swiss-A
NHL Games Played: 0
The big, 6’4, 205 lbs Swiss forward was definitely not a bad gamble at the time. He has very good puck skills but simply was never able to put it together on a consistent basis during league play. He has played in the Swiss men’s divisions since 2000 when he was just 18, spending time with Zug, Basel and Rapperswil-Jona including a pair of stints in the Swiss-B league with Basel. Nussli was the second-leading scorer on his team this year and should have a good career in that league, but he’s clearly not an NHL talent.
The durable defender played out his eligibility with the NCAA but failed to earn an NHL contract. With the exception of five AHL games, his career over the past two years has been spent with the UHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
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