2001-02 Canucks Preview of Ranked Prospects

By Kirk Pedersen

Well, my friends, I’m back, with the Canucks new and revised ‘Top 16’ List! Okay, I know that sounds silly, but I only have sixteen ranked prospects, so bear with me. This season is a very important one for the Canucks, and many of their prospects this season will either make big moves, or flounder, like many young players before them. We face many challenges this upcoming season, the largest fish we have to fry is our goaltending situation, we have a fine prospect in Alexander Auld, but he is out for a month, as he is in a walking cast. This leaves the Canucks with three options, option A is the Waiver Draft, which takes place tomorrow. There are three ‘tenders that would help the Canucks remedy their back-up situation. Jamie McLennan, Chris Osgood, and Stephane Fiset. It has become more than likely that the Canucks will end up with McLennan, as Osgood and Fiset are expected to go rather high in the waiver draft. (What an accomplishment!) Although I’m a big critic of getting someone like McLennan, the price (free, for all intents and purposes) is right. Either way, I’m going to be interested in the events that will transpire during tomorrow’s Draft.

We knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but Josh Holden was left unprotected. In five years since being drafted, Holden has been nothing but a disappointment, with a major injury mixed in here or there. He could never catch a break, but he should have been up here by now if he’s all that he was billed as coming out of the Regina Pats program. I hope he is able to latch on with another NHL team, and get a second chance, even though, as most people on HF would attest, Holden is by far not my favourite prospect. Good luck, Josh.

Well, on to the prospects!

This year’s #1 prospect is Bryan Allen. The big, strapping Defenseman is ready to assume a big role with the Canucks, and I hope he does well in it. He doesn’t have much offensive flash, but, he can, and will be a solid contributor at the NHL-level, if not this season, someday in the future.

Our #2 Prospect this season was just sent down to Manitoba to begin the season, and his name is Artem Chubarov. He should be on one of the top two lines in Manitoba this season, as he attempts to take flight, on a career that was stuck on auto-pilot in ’00-01. He’s strong, he can skate, and he’s got good raw tools. He should get a point-per-game in Manitoba this season, picking right up where he left off in Kansas City.

The third prospect on our list this season is Defenseman Rene Vydareny. The raw blueliner had a difficult time of it last year in Kansas City, and hopes to recover, and have a solid season. He looked lost on the ice at times last season, and will need to improve his defensive play if he is ever to be considered as legitimate NHL stock.

Alexander Auld is Kirk’s #4 prospect this season, despite his injury, which, as previously stated, will keep him out for a month. He’s the Canucks ‘Goalie of the Future’. (Hold your fire, don’t shoot the messenger!) The big goaltender hopes to live up to the lofty title, which has been held by several different netminders in the past few seasons. I really like his chances, as our back-up position might be his for the taking next season, or even this season.

The Canucks selected R.J. Umberger with their first selection in 2001, with the #16 pick, and he takes the #5 spot on my charts. He’s big, strong, and offensively-gifted, but he’s not a very physical player yet, so watch for that facet of his game to develop as he continues through the Ohio State Buckeyes program.

Little Speedster Brandon Reid occupies the six spot this season. Reid, who reached the Memorial Cup last season with Val d’Or, will add an explosive quality to the Manitoba Moose in ’01-02. I hope that he puts up good numbers next season, and gets a chance to break into the Canucks lineup in ’02-03. I don’t know that his chances are that great, though, as we have many centre prospects.

Yet another centre is in our lucky #7 position, in 2000 First-rounder Nathan Smith. He’s not my favourite player, and I’m still frustrated that we didn’t take someone with more offensive gusto with the pick, but I’m really beginning to enjoy his two-way style. He won’t be much more than a third-line checking centre when he breaks into the NHL, but he’ll be a darn good one.

Our #8 spot is possibly subject to change, as Josh Holden has been left unprotected by the Canucks. I’ve already dedicated a small portion to him in this article, so I’m not going to say anything important here. Holden is more than likely done as a Vancouver Canuck. This was the last straw, folks, so long, Josh.

Another recent demotion was that of Zenith Komarniski. The former high-scoring junior Defenseman was sent down to Manitoba, and is slated to begin his fourth professional season in the minor leagues. The smooth-skating, hard-shooting blueliner might be on the Canucks’ list of call-ups this season, if he works hard down in Winnipeg.

We’re into the double-digits now, folks, and Thatcher Bell is our tenth prospect. Bell, who will play his fourth season of Major Junior Hockey this upcoming season, will need a jump in his scoring statistics if he’s going to stay at his current position on my chart. He has good offensive skills, very good skating ability, and is a good passer. He needs more bulk, and he would definitely be well-advised to participate in a training program to gain a few pounds.

1997 second-rounder Ryan Bonni is another player whose stock is slipping fast. The big, hulking defenseman has yet to make a lasting impact in his two seasons in the minors. He needs to have a very strong season to prove his naysayers wrong, and hoist himself up into the NHL, which is where he called home for three games in ’99-00.

Fedor Fedorov, who made quite an impression in Training Camp, was recently sent down to the minors for some seasoning. He’s another guy that I expect big things from this season. He has very good raw tools, like many of the Canucks’ youngsters, and he also has two years on many other players that were drafted in ’01. The big winger should get 25-40 points this season in Manitoba, nothing Earth-shattering, but I hope that he proves me right.

Alfie Michaud has been hit hard by the acquisitions of Alex Auld, and Mark Fitzpatrick, and will most likely take another hit on the depth chart if/when the Canucks select a goaltender in tomorrow’s Waiver Draft. The truth is, I don’t really think he’s NHL material. He will start in Manitoba, at least until Alex Auld gets back from his injury.

Future goon-in-waiting Mike Brown was another guy that took a big hit on my chart last season. The big Surrey product had a poor season in Kansas City, and he will need to rebound if he is truly in the Canucks’ future plans. He can throw ’em with the best of them in the minors, and I anxiously await his full-time arrival in the NHL. He’s not there yet.

One word that is commonly used to describe another Canuck prospect, Justin Morrison, is raw. The big winger finished up his four-year enrollment at Colorado College, and is ready to begin his stint in the Canucks organization. He’s big, as I said before, and he has good raw offensive skills. He should start on the third or fourth line in Manitoba. He’ll be one to watch, I think he will either be boom or bust.

The final prospect that I will profile in this report is OHL Defenseman Tim Branham. He might be a break-out player this season, especially after being traded to the Guelph Storm. He’s another one to watch, he could be a good offensive contributor for the Storm, and could move into a farm apprenticeship as soon as next season. I’ll be keeping close tabs on his season in Guelph in ’01-02.

Well, that’s all for this report, but I just want to add one thing, Justin Kurtz made the trip to California, and he’s a player I’d love to see make the Canucks. Keep plugging away, Justin!

For Hockeysfuture.com,
I’m Kirk Pedersen.