Canucks’ forwards

By Kirk Pedersen

The Canucks’ youngsters at forward are a bunch of young stallions, some of which will be put out to stud in trade offers, but others, will shine through, still others, will probably, sadly, never make it to the NHL.

The top Canucks forward prospect is none other than big Russian centre Artem Chubarov. He will be a very good NHL’er, once he can shake that injury bug. He still needs a bit of seasoning at the minor league level. He needs one full season at Manitoba this upcoming year, then in 2002-03, he should start making his big step towards the two-way prowess which originally attracted the Canucks to him. He has been a point-a-game man in the minors, in only a small amount of games, but he has gotten a point per game average. Maybe he can get on a streak in Manitoba next season, and be one of the first Canuck call-ups in 2001-02.

The Canuck prospect with the most offensive talent, is arguably Brandon Reid. Getting him so late in the 2000 Draft has proven to be an outright steal for Burke. He should spend at least one year with Manitoba in the IHL, helping him get acclimated to pro hockey slowly, not rushing his development, and hopefully his offensive talent could carry over. If he was a few inches taller, he would have been a first-rounder in the 2000 Draft. He also played very well for the Canadian squad at the 2000 World Junior Championships, getting a point a game for the Bronze medal-winning Canadians.

Jarkko Ruutu. Ruutu is constantly all over the ice, throwing big hits, agitating players, drawing penalties, scoring goals. He’s a lot like Esa Tikkanen, when he was a Canuck for that brief period. They both have good offensive skill, they both annoy the hell out of opponents, they both are great guys to have in the dressing room when your team is winning.

The Canucks first-round pick last season was the one obtained from the Florida Panthers, in the Pavel Bure trade. Brian Burke made a smart decision in acquiring forward Nathan Smith from the Swift Current Broncos. Smith was the kind of player the Canucks could have used in the playoffs, and late in the season. He’s a very good checker, has okay skating ability, his offensive game is average, he doesn’t excel at anything in particular, but he does everything well. Smith is a very hardworking player, who, if he continues to play well, will have a spot in the Canucks’ lineup in the coming seasons.

Thatcher Bell was the highest-ranked QMJHL player going into the Draft. It turns out that he’s a very good two-way player who unfortunately, lost nearly half of the 2000-01 season due to injury. He was still able to get a point per game in the high-scoring QMJHL, though. One thing he should do is put a bit of meat on his bones. Bell could become a solid NHL’er, if not with the Canucks, then with another team, if he gains a bit of muscle. (see Tim Branham.)

Mike Brown was a big disappointment to me this season. All of his vital stats (Goals, Assists, Points, PIM) were down from the previous year. Mike was a first-rounder by the Panthers back in 1997, and was another beneficiary of the Bure deal for the Canucks. His main skill lies within his fists. He won’t be relied upon to put up points at the NHL level, but it’d be nice to see him improve on his rather poor stats of a season ago. He will be a very good scrapper in the NHL, if he can get his head back on his shoulders after a poor season.