Yes, Mike Gillis did attend the draft. Apparently not liking the looks of things in the first round, the Vancouver Canucks‘ General Manager sent the 25th overall pick, along with Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier, to Florida in exchange for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. The Panthers took Quinton Howden, who has yet to become a full-fledged NHL player, but the Canucks might have taken a gamble on a player still on the board like Evgeny Kuznetzov, Brock Nelson, or Emerson Etem who have done so.
The second round pick was already long-gone, having been traded in 2008 for, ironically enough, Steve Bernier.
The third round pick had been traded at the 2010 deadline to Carolina in exchange for Andrew Alberts. Alberts never quite stayed healthy while a Canuck, and retired after the 2013-14 season.
This left picks in each of the four remaining rounds, plus an extra sixth-round pick acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Mathieu Schneider and contingent on his clearing waivers, which he did.
While it is too soon to write off this entire draft class, it was an underwhelming group of selections to be sure, especially for a draft that has featured several late-bloomers that might have been excellent additions to a Canucks group that needed more top talent over the last few seasons.
4th Round, 115th Overall: Patrick McNally, D, Milton Academy (Massachusetts High School)
NHL Games Played: 0
Patrick McNally was a very highly-regarded prep star, but things have not worked with him very well so far. He will turn 24 during the 2015-16 season and the lost years of development are catching up to him. For the Canucks, he has to be a huge disappointment, having chosen his own path that will surely give him some great advantages for the rest of his life.
McNally played one post-draft season in high school before hitting the ground running as a freshman at Harvard. That season saw McNally collect several honors, including a spot on the ECAC All-Rookie team. The next season was marred by academic scandal, and rather than leave school, McNally continued on despite the lack of actual game play. Last season, he was a big part of helping Harvard to an NCAA Tournament spot, having returned from what looked like a season-ending knee injury. While it still remains to be seen whether the NCAA will grant McNally and the other athletes implicated in the scandal another year of eligibility, McNally is very unlikely to be part of the Canucks’ future plans.
Polasek was a pick right in line with the Central Scouting list, and was ranked 122nd overall by International Scouting Service. The young Czech had already broken out with the Prince Edward Island Rocket and represented good value at this spot. He played another season in the QMJHL with the Rocket, putting up 39 points in 61 games for a middling squad alongside fellow Czech Andrej Nestrasil. Polasek made his AHL debut the next season with the Chicago Wolves, and was productive despite very limited minutes on a deep blueline. The 2012-13 version of the Wolves had a similar blueline surplus and Polasek never got the traction he needed, accepting demotions to the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings that season and the next as he struggled to produce. He returned to Prague in the end of December, 2013. Since then, Polasek has been one of the most productive defensemen in the Czech Extraliga, leading all blueliners in scoring in 2014-15 while with Sparta.
This was Alex Friesen’s second go-around at the draft. What the Canucks saw that prompted them to select the Niagara native is unclear, since his offense had not really improved from his first draft-eligible season. Despite that, he stands out as easily the most successful pick Gillis and company made in 2010.
The Canucks sent Friesen back to the OHL for two post-draft seasons. Once he turned pro, he was sent to the ECHL for ten games. He did start to figure things out somewhat by 2013-14, putting up 20 points in 54 games for Utica. Friesen has arrived as a pro this season, with 30 points in 60 games and a playoff run that is impressive so far, even if it likely measures the boundaries of his pro career.
Iilahti was a reasonable bet at the time, being ranked at least by Central Scouting. No doubt the trickiest job for any scout is staking a reputation on a goalie, and since of all the goalies picked only Calvin Pickard (COL) and Petr Mrazek (DET) are on track to have real NHL success, one can forgive a sixth round miss. Iilahti had some pedigree, playing for Finland internationally in several tournaments. Being picked by the Canucks also induced the Vancouver Giants to spend a first round import pick on the young Finn in 2011, although he never did make it to North America. Rather he kicked around Finland, finding some success in the Junior-A ranks. Lately he has found a professional niche with Timrå, a Swedish club which was relegated from the SHL, appearing in two games for the club at the Allsvenskan level.
7th Round, 205th Overall: Sawyer Hannay, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
There was little mystery about Sawyer Hannay’s future role in hockey when this pick was made. The young right-handed defenseman had racked up 158 minutes in penalties during his season, second on his team. He had also managed to do something he never would again in his hockey career: score a goal.
After spending several seasons more in the Q, Hannay tried his luck in the ECHL. He eventually made a decision very much to his credit: enrolling in university and continuing at St. Thomas University in Fredericton as a scholar-athlete. True to form, one who still managed 101 penalty minutes in the 2014-15 collegiate campaign.
Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring former Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis, where he discusses the Draft Day trade that brought Ballard to Vancouver.
Despite the underwhelming nature of the 2010 draft, Canucks fans have a lot to celebrate in the performances of several prospects during the 2014-15 season. The Utica Comets are battling hard in the Calder Cup Final against the Manchester Monarchs, mostly on the strength of an experienced core led by Jacob Markstrom, Cal O’Reilly, Sven Baertschi and Bobby Sanguinetti. Winger Alexandre Grenier has stepped his game up, and the aforementioned Alex Friesen has been good as well. Although getting a lesser share of minutes, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and even Nicklas Jensen have had their moments as well. Adam Clendening has been inconsistent as far as his offense, but is an important defensive presence. 2009 draftee Peter Andersson has also found the scoreboard some and looked solid in his end, but too late to salvage his North American career most likely. Jake Virtanen has been used very sparingly, but the organization is getting a glimpse of a player who could possibly be valuable in a limited NHL role next season. Whatever else happens, the young Comets get invaluable experience.
The best Canucks prospect this season was Cole Cassels of the Oshawa Generals. The 2013 third-rounder had a good regular season, but his intensity in the playoffs made a huge difference for his squad. He went head-t0-head with top prospects, most notably Vancouver’s own Jared McCann of Sault Ste. Marie and the Erie Otters’ Connor McDavid, and came out on top, leading the Generals to an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup berth. His run did not end there, as he next helped neutralize players like Marc-Olivier Roy (2015) and Leon Draisaitl (EDM) en route to winning the Memorial Cup. Cassels brought a measure of strength and determination, to go with his checking and scoring ability, that surely helped his positioning in the organizational depth chart.