Poor Drafts of the past

By Kirk Pedersen

The Canucks haven’t always been a very good team at the Draft table. They have opted a few times to go for the “safe” choice, rather than picking someone who seems to be more of a gamble, but turned out to be a better player. Hindsight is 20/20, but there have been a few blunders at the draft in the past ten or so years, which are particularly bad.

The Canucks had two first-round picks, the #2, and the #18. The consensus best player going in was Cornwall Royals forward Owen Nolan.

With their first selection, the Canucks chose Petr Nedved.

Players chosen after Nedved:
Keith Tkachuk
Martin Brodeur
Jaromir Jagr
Darryl Sydor
Keith Primeau
Derian Hatcher
Mike Ricci

Analysis: Going into the draft, the Seattle Thunderbirds forward seemed to have everything going for him, and he was taken, which in hindsight, seems erronious, when you see the calibre of players taken after him. He shattered junior scoring records with Seattle, and the big Czech forward was going to be a star in the NHL.

What went wrong: Nedved seemed like a huge gamble, being that he only played one season of major junior hockey. Nedved had two miserable seasons with the Canucks in ’90-91 and ’91-92 before finally breaking out in ’92-93, wrapping up seventy-one points. All was looking up, until a holdout sparked the end of his days in Vancouver. He could have been one of the best Canucks ever, but his attitude prevented that from happening. He only lasted 19 games in St. Louis, before becoming a Pittsburgh Penguin, where he would stage another hold-out before going to the Rangers, who are his current team. A good pick, but for whoever ended up with him.

With their second first-round pick the Canucks selected Shawn Antoski.

Analysis: There are amazing similarities in his game to that of Canucks “prospect” Mike Brown. Both of them scored rather well in junior, and they both are “tough guys”. Antoski was a decent scorer for two seasons with the IHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, the Canucks farm team back then, before having a rotten ’92-93 season when the Canucks changed affiliations, to Hamilton of the AHL. He ended up having to retire in 1997-98 after suffering horrible injuries in a car accident. He had three points in 70 games as a Canuck, and though he wasn’t supposed to be a scorer, but that’s even bad for Stu Grimson. A big bust here.

What went wrong: At no time in his career did he demonstrate that he had any NHL-calibre skills besides fighting. He was always a pretty decent fighter, but by the time he was a full-time Canuck, Gino Odjick had that spot taken.

The Canucks had improved enough to have a short-lived playoff birth, but still picked very high, at #7 overall.

With their top pick in 1991, the Canucks selected Alek Stojanov.

Analysis: The Canucks figured that Stojanov would add to their already potent lineup of tough customers, which included then-prospects Gino Odjick and Shawn Antoski. He’d be a guy who would provide a lot of things that the Canucks didn’t really have back then, such as a big, mean, power forward, in the Todd Bertuzzi mold, but with much less overall skill. Unfortunately, they were wrong, though, and Alek was a bust. The only reason he is even worth mentioning in Canucks’ history is, that he was the guy we pawned off on the Pittsburgh Penguins for then-sulking-Swede Markus Naslund.

What went wrong: Nothing really, he was obviously just another overrated prospect who didn’t become even half the player the Canucks were hoping for. He was a very poor skater, even for his size, and never contributed offensively to any minor-pro or NHL team in which he was a part of. A blunder here by Quinn, as the next pick in the Draft was that of the Minnesota North Stars, who selected rock-solid defenseman Richard Matvichuk.

The Canucks were coming off their best, and most triumphant season in franchise history, save the two cup-drive seasons. They had the 21st pick overall, in what turned out to be a pretty poor overall draft, looking back. With their first pick, they selected another big Czech Libor Polasek.

Analysis: Polasek was shaping up to be a solid player over in North America, where his 6’3, 198 frame would be a bigger asset than over in the Czech Republic. He was a moderately talented offensive player, whom many thought, could be the steal of the draft, if he put all of his skills together in a package, rather than showing a flash of one skill for a short time, which was unfortunately the way it turned out.

What went wrong: Polasek just never adjusted to the North American style of game, as Pat Quinn had hoped. His high for points in a pro season was 23, which he achieved with the Hamilton Canucks in 1993-94. By the 1996-97 Training Camp, Polasek had been released, and went back home to the Czech Republic. Luckily, Quinn made up for this blunder without even knowing at the time, his next pick was a short kid from the Ottawa ’67’s by the name of Michael Peca.

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90, the Canucks had the #12 pick overall, and were looking for some new blood. There still may be some hope for their selection that year, Josh Holden, but it looks doubtful as a Canuck.

Analysis: I’ll be the first to admit, I was jumping for joy when the Canucks took the hard-nosed Regina Pat at #12. I had watched him in junior games, and salivated over the grit, and goal-scoring prowess that he exhibited against his WHL foes. I hoped he’d be in the lineup as soon as possible, as he looked as if he’d be a very exciting player to watch in the future.

What went wrong: Nothing so far, he has just had a string of bad luck, and unfortunate injuries holding him back. He has been passed on the depth chart by the Sedins, Artem Chubarov, and even Brandon Reid. He has had a rash of injuries, and he is by no means one of coach Crawford’s favourite players, so I’m thinking that his days in Vancouver could be numbered. A bust so far, but I hope he gets it together next training camp.