Canucks 2008 draft review

By Matt MacInnis

The Vancouver Canucks had five picks heading into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and made no moves to change their status during the draft.  Just like three years prior when the draft was held in Ottawa, the Canucks held the 10th overall pick.  In the days leading up to the draft, new Canucks GM Mike Gillis made it clear that he had directed the scouting staff to bring him players with good character.  That single direction may end up significantly changing the direction of the franchise in the future as character was most likely the defining factor in the Canucks’ decision to select Cody Hodgson over Kyle Beach.

With a bit of a recent history of reaching slightly to pick “their guy,” the Canucks basically stuck to the widely-accepted script for the first two rounds before diverging a bit more into the unknown with their final three selections.  The Canucks come out of the draft with three new centers, a defenseman and a goaltender.

Cody Hodgson, C – Brampton Battalion

10th Overall, 1st Round
5’11, 185 lbs
February 18, 1990

A consensus top 10 pick who has drawn comparisons to Chris Drury, Hodgson had a prolific year in the OHL, scoring 40 goals and 45 assists in 68 games.  Not a big player or a great skater, Hodgson is a unique player who doesn’t seem to shine at any one particular facet of the game, but perhaps puts his skills together better than any forward in the draft outside of Steven Stamkos.  Hodgson is a very smart player both offensively and defensively who has proven he’s equally adept at scoring as he is playmaking.  He’s developed a reputation as a good face-off man in junior as well, a weakness that’s plagued the Canucks at the NHL level for years.

The Canucks have more than enough forwards signed to fill their roster this season and with Hodgson’s size, it’s unlikely he’s ready for the show anyhow.  It’s generally assumed Hodgson will return to junior this season barring a spectacular training camp – and even that most likely will only earn a nine-game trial stint.  Hodgson is a talented forward with first-line potential.

Yann Sauve, D – Saint John Fog Devils

41st Overall, 2nd Round
6’3, 209 lbs
February 18, 1990

A big, mean defenseman from the QMJHL, Sauve’s stock fell slightly during the season due to concerns about his decision-making with the puck.  Already possessing NHL size and the right mentality to play in the big show, Sauve nonetheless has quite a bit of developing to do by all accounts.  He put up 21 points and 92 PIM in 69 regular-season games this year.  Sauve stylistically isn’t all that different from Daniel Rahimi, the Canucks’ third rounder selection from 2006.  He’s very aggressive with can be both an asset and a detriment at this stage of his career. 

Sauve is a bit of a project who is probably three to four years away from being a significant impact player at the professional level.  Expect the Canucks to take it slow with Sauve and allow him to develop at an appropriate pace.  He will never be an offensive contributor for the Canucks, but his stick skills must improve in order to get him to the big show.

Prab Rai, C – Seattle Thunderbirds

131st Overall, 5th Round
5’11, 191 lbs
November 22, 1989

The most glaring exception to the “character” rule among the Canucks 2008 selections seems to be Prab Rai, a Surrey, BC native who essentially quit on the Prince George Cougars in 2006 and forced a trade over an ice-time squabble.  The Canucks were willing to overlook the past transgression, however, with GM Gillis citing that he’ll always take a prospect who wants to do more.  Rai was an unranked, unheralded and largely considered unremarkable fringe prospect before the draft, but the Canucks loved what they saw in the second half of the season and could not let who they felt was one of the best skaters in the draft slide anymore.  A very fast player, Rai scored 65 points in 72 regular season games and was an impressive +31.  The biggest knock on Rai is that he is a perimeter player who is unwilling to physically engage at times. 

The hometown prospect is an anomaly for the Canucks who don’t have many Lower Mainlanders in the system.  Rai will need to improve his overall game and commit to playing more in high-traffic areas in order to impress the team moving forward.  He does possess an under-appreciated skill set and is expected to build upon his offensive numbers from last season.  At this point, Rai is a long-shot to become a second liner.

Mats Froshaug, C – Linkopling Jr

161st Overall, 6th Round
6’1, 198 lbs
July 31, 1988

The most unexpected selection of the draft was certainly Norwegian Mats Froshaug, a soon-to-be 20-year-old playing in Sweden.  Froshaug scored 36 points in 35 games with Linkopling’s junior squad.  A veteran of Norway’s World Junior teams, Froshaug is a stellar two-way player who does everything moderately well.  The fact that Froshaug is an unknown is being ignored by many Canucks fans who are generally pleased anytime it seems like Swedish scout Thomas Gradin (the brains mostly recently behind the Alexander Edler selection) is responsible for a pick.  He’s expected to play in the Swedish Elite League next season.  How he adjusts to the step up in competition will be a very good indicating factor of his long-term potential. 

Morgan Clark, G – Red Deer Rebels

191st Overall, 7th Round
5’11, 160 lbs
February 17, 1990

The Canucks’ most recent forays into pint-sized goaltenders (Julien Ellis and Lukas Mensator) have not been fruitful to date, but the Canucks opted to choose another small goalie prospect with their final pick in 2008.  Clark had a difficult season playing with a weak Rebels team which inflated some of his goaltending stats.  Clark finished the year with a dismal 10-30 record, accompanied with a 3.70 GAA and unimpressive .884 save percentage.  Clark is the son of Canucks goaltending consultant Ian Clark which has led some to ask if this was a pick based on merit or familiarity.