Canucks’ Defensemen

By Kirk Pedersen

A look at the young blueliners who will shape the Canucks’ backline for the coming seasons.

The Big Kahuna of all Canuck prospects, not to mention defensemen, is undoubtedly Bryan Allen. The Giant has been slowed in his development by a slew of injuries, which is unfortunate, if it weren’t for injuries, he probably would have spent the majority of ’00-’01 in Vancouver.

Another of the newcomers this season unfortunately didn’t make the NHL. Rene Vydareny, a steal in the third round of the 1999 Entry Draft, spent a lot of this season walking around Vancouver, as he could not get out of a European contract agreement, which prevented him from playing minor pro. (i.e. the AHL, IHL, UHL, whichever other leagues) Once Rene got under contract, one thought he could just step right in and put up points, but it’s good that the Canucks didn’t rush him along in his development, as he has much to learn in the minor leagues before becoming a productive NHL’er. He only had one lonely point in thirty-nine games with the Blades of the IHL, and looked out of place when he was put on the ice by coach Smyl. He is, however, only one year removed from Junior hockey. He will definitely be worth the wait for the Canucks. ETA: 2004, or late 2003.

The next young defenseman is talented, young Zenith Komarniski. He has raw ability. He hasn’t shown the Canucks all that much thus far in his pro career, although he did earn an eighteen-game call-up with the big club last season, as injuries ravaged the Canucks’ blueline. He has as much potential as any defenseman in the Canuck system, but he needs to tone down his act a shade, and not to take too many foolish penalties, once he can do that, he’ll definitely be a very good NHL regular, if not for the Canucks, for another team. ETA: Late 2002.

Ryan Bonni is a throwback to the big, nasty defensemen of the late seventies and early eighties. He’ll never be a scorer at the NHL level, but he is the kind of player who will be in your face all night long, knocking you down, intimidating, and making life in front of the net a living Hell for opponents. A very mean defensive-minded defenseman, he would be an excellent addition to the Vancouver blueline after a bit more seasoning next season in Manitoba. ETA: Hopefully the first call-up in 2001-02.

David Ytfeldt would have had a great chance to make the Canucks this past season had he attended Training Camp. Another mean defensive-minded defenseman, but more in the Darius Kasparitis mold than Bonni’s up-front toughness. David has slightly more offensive upside than Bonni, but isn’t as big, or strong. If he makes the jump to North America, David will no doubt make a leap on my prospect list. As long as he’s in Sweden playing, though, he’s only a small blip on the Canucks’ radar. ETA: 2004, or never at all.

Brent Sopel made the biggest move of all the Canucks’ Defense prospects this past season. He went all the way from a fringe prospect to an indespensible member of the Canucks’ blueline, and an important cog in their defensive engine for the play-offs. He is the only certain regular for the Canucks next season in their prospect list. Allen should play another season in the minors, it’d only further his development. ETA: Already with team.

Another of the youngster is young Tim Branham. Branham, a Barrie Colt last season, is tall and lanky, with a hint of an offensive game. He needs to put on a bit more muscle to add to his 6’2″ frame, and he needs a couple more years of development time, as his game is unrefined from a defensive standpoint. He needs to get more involved in the physical side of the game. ETA: 2005, if not sooner.