Vancouver Canucks 2014 NHL Draft preview

By Larenzo Jensen

Bo Horvat - London Knights

Photo: The Canucks selected Bo Horvat ninth overall, then the club’s earliest pick since 1999, at the 2013 NHL Draft. Vancouver will move up to sixth overall in 2014 (courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

It may have been former General Manager Mike Gillis that coined the term "reset," but it is the current tandem of President Trevor Linden and new General Manager Jim Benning that will enact a true organizational reset for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks will not be able to make the same splash as they did in the 1999 NHL Draft, but they are armed with their best draft position since that year. A lot of work remains to help return the Canucks as regular fixtures in the playoffs, but Linden has stated that he has the immediate goal of returning the team to post-season action.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Bo Horvat, C
2. Nicklas Jensen, RW
3. Brendan Gaunce, C
4. Jordan Schroeder, C
5. Frank Corrado, D
6. Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW
7. Joacim Eriksson, G
8. Joseph Labate, C
9. Alexandre Grenier, RW
10. Joe Cannata, G

Team Needs

The Canucks team depth was truly tested this past season, with a record amount of man-games lost to injuries. They were exposed on the third and fourth lines, and Gillis trading Dale Weise to the Montreal Canadiens for Raphael Diaz only compounded matters. Now that they have stockpiled a number of talented centers, they need to concentrate on both the left and right wings. They have quantity but will be looking to add quality, particularly on the left side. There is a chance that Hunter Shinkaruk has a strong training camp and challenges for a spot, but it is more probable that he is at least another year away. Nicklas Jensen is the closest to earning a regular spot in the lineup, but after him Alexandre Grenier, despite his good season in Utica, may not be ready yet for the NHL.

In goal, the Canucks would also do well to add at least one goaltending prospect to help compensate the dearth at that position. Joacim Eriksson may be ready for NHL backup duties at times, but much will depend on the progress, or lack thereof, of Jacob Markstrom. Few imagined that the Canucks would be starting the 2014-15 season without both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, but that is where they find themselves now. With their departures, it is imperative that they restock the pipeline with at least one more goaltender, if only for depth's sake.

Organizational Strengths

The Canucks boast a strong stable of two-way defensemen. Several late-round gambles have paid off recently and have made their mark primarily in minor pro and the CHL. Frank Corrado is NHL ready, and with some added development, Peter Andersson and Ben Hutton look poised to get a shot at the big show in the not-too-distant future. The organization has been careful not to rush youngsters, recognizing the difficulty of the learning curve at the defensive position. Some were surprised that Corrado was not leaned on more heavily during the rash of Canuck defensive injuries, but it is apparent the club is not ready to trade player development for immediate gain, especially if it may hinder a player's future progress.

As noted earlier, the Canucks have put the focus in recent years on drafting and developing at the center position. They have certainly graduated some excellent centers, namely Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, but have not had the luxury of having the quantity of pivot prospects they enjoy at this time. It could be argued that the pool is the deepest it has been in the team's history. Within the current pool, Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce are most likely to don a Canucks sweaters, while Cole Cassels and Joseph Labate not far away from their debuts at the pro level.

Organizational Weaknesses

With the amount of resources they have thrown at augmenting their center prospects, the Canucks have had fewer picks to spend on upgrading the wings. There is a good chance Nicklas Jensen will cement a spot in the upcoming season on the Canucks' top-nine forwards, but outside of him, there are question marks. Darren Archibald worked hard and showed some promise during his call-up to the parent club last season, and he will likely get another opportunity. Hunter Shinkaruk will need to be lights out during summer camp to make the opening night roster. The more likely scenario, though, considering he had season ending surgery, is more development time.

Also, the team needs to bulk up its goaltending prospect pool. Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata have been seeing increased responsibility within the organization. No matter what role they graduate to, the roles they currently occupy will need to be replenished. Again, Jacob Markstrom is a real X-factor in this equation, but it would be surprising to see them not acquire a goaltender, either through the draft or via trade during the offseason.

Draft Tendencies

If there ever was a draft year where the Canucks were to throw tendencies out the window, the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia would be the one. Partly due to being stocked nicely at defense and partly because Jim Benning will have a lot of say, but largely because of the Canucks' drafting position. In 2010, the Canucks drafted a bevy of defenders, but 2014 may be the year when drafting wingers is their foremost priority.

They have focused on Canadian players recently, scooping players from both the OHL and QMJHL, while avoiding the WHL. Although Mike Gillis often used the "best pick available" policy with his first round selections, Linden and Benning will surely target one of their deficient areas with their first round pick. They are also less likely to go with an off the board kind of selection, similar to Gillis' selection of Alexandre Mallet with the 57th pick of 2012.

The number six is the theme for Vancouver this draft. They possess the sixth overall pick, as well as six draft picks. The Canucks own the sixth, 36th, 66th, 126th, 156th, and 186th picks of the draft. Their fourth round pick (96th) went to Carolina along with Kellan Tochkin in the deal that brought Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Walsh to Vancouver.

Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results

6. Kasperi Kapanen, LW, KalPa (Liiga)

While some pundits feel that any picks outside of the top five are wide open, taking Kapanen with the sixth pick was a difficult decision. Considering the Canucks need for bona fide left wingers and players that will buy into the team game philosophy, Kapanen would be an excellent fit for the Canucks. While William Nylander is quite possibly more gifted offensively, Kapanen has excellent play-making skills and uses his teammates more often. While Kapanen's style lacks physicality, there are not the same (under)sized issues surrounding his build. In today's NHL, players lacking size have a difficult time competing with the big, strong players that have become the norm. Kasperi Kapanen could be the play-making winger that Vancouver has coveted, replete with puck-handling panache.