Canucks 2008 draft preview

By Matt MacInnis

Top 10 prospects

1. Cory Schneider, G
2. Mason Raymond, LW
3. Jannik Hansen, RW
4. Michael Grabner, RW
5. Pat White, C
6. Taylor Ellington, D
7. Juraj Simek, RW
8. Nathan McIver, D
9. Ilja Kablukov, LW
10. Rick Rypien, C

The Canucks have five picks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, including the 10th overall pick.  The team also has a second rounder and picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

Team Needs

The Canucks today are a team desperately in need of secondary scoring.  The Sedin brothers have proven that they are legitimate first line players having both finished the 2007-08 season in the top 30 in league scoring.  With both Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison pending unrestricted free agents, the Canucks will be in serious trouble if they rely solely on the remaining top scoring forwards (Ryan Kesler, Taylor Pyatt and Alex Burrows) to generate offense. 

The team possesses one of the best goaltenders on the planet and a top-six defense corps that, while lacking a single major star, is one of the most solid and deepest in the NHL.  The fact that the Canucks defense didn’t implode last season despite every member of the opening night roster missing a bare minimum of 10 games (and in some cases more than 40) is a testament to the team’s depth at the position.

The Canucks missed the playoffs last season because of an inability to put the puck in the net.  While Alain Vigneault’s defensive scheme played a part in the problem, the diminishing skills of Markus Naslund and overall lack of offensive talent were the major sources of the power outage.  Without an effective second line, the Canucks will fail to make the post-season once again this year.

Organizational Strengths

Goaltending.  That’s really what it comes down to with the Canucks.  Cory Schneider started his first pro campaign last season very poorly but rebounded to become arguably one of the best AHL goalies by the end of the season. 

The Canucks also have a handful of young forwards who show signs of being good supportive scorers in the future.  Prospects like Raymond, Hansen, Grabner and possibly White, Simek and Kablukov appear more likely to fill second or third line roles at this stage of their careers than first liners – although a few of them do have that upside.

Organizational Weaknesses

Unfortunately, the tragic loss of Luc Bourdon has left the Canucks with a significant hole in their blue line’s depth chart looking to the future.  With Alexander Edler clearly a full-time NHL player and no longer a prospect as per HF guidelines, the Canucks have no puck-moving defensemen in the system.  In fact, the Canucks overall have a surprising dearth of defensemen overall, with only three of their Top 20 being defensemen.  The lack of blue liners is more disconcerting when you consider that other than Edler and Kevin Bieksa, none of the other major defensemen on the Canucks can really be considering young anymore.

 On the other hand, the Canucks desperately need to get some highly-talented forwards into their system.  If a player like Mikkel Boedker or Cody Hodgson is available at 10th overall, the Canucks will likely take a long look at the more offensively-talented options.

Draft Tendencies

The Canucks have made 24 selections in the past four drafts, including eight wingers, seven centermen, six defensemen and three goaltenders.

During that time, the Canucks have picked fairly evenly from a variety of sources, with the most players (5) coming from the Western Hockey League.  They picked four either playing in the NCAA or playing in the United States intending to move to the collegiate ranks, four from the Canadian Junior A Hockey Leagues (all destined four college as well) and four from the QMJHL.

Sweden and Russia have been the most popular European leagues to draw from, with three and two draft picks drawing from those leagues respectively.  The Swiss and Slovakian leagues have also produced a draft pick each during that time.

If there is one trend the Canucks have shown since the turn of the century, it’s to use their first-round picks on American collegiate players.  Four of the team’s six first-round draft picks since 2001 have been current or future NCAA players. 

However, with a new GM preaching a new direction, it’s impossible to tell if the same scouting staff will continue to produce the same results.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft result:  Kyle Beach, C, Everett Silvertips, WHL

HF believes the Canucks will take Colin Wilson (2008) if he’s available with their 10th overall pick, but if the versatile American is off the board, don’t be surprised if the organization takes the much-maligned Beach.  Criticized for his lack of discipline, Beach has the potential to be an NHL power-forward who plays the game with a tremendous amount of passion.  The Canucks will know a lot of Beach having scouted and tracked 2007 selections Ellington and Dan Gendur so they know what Beach has to offer on and off the ice.