Canucks: new top 20 prospects

By Brendan Macgranachan

1. Kirill Koltsov, 20, Defense

Koltsov remains the top prospect for the Canucks. He has played in what looks to
be his final season in Russia after signing with the Canucks in mid-July.
The short, gritty, blue liner played with Avangard Omsk and was golden
at the 2003 World Jr. Championship. Koltsov had 5 goals and 16 points with
Avangard Omsk and had 5 points in the World Juniors. The 2001 pick will
get a good amount of icetime with the AHL Manitoba Moose this year and will also play in
Vancouver in different roles when needed.

2. R.J. Umberger, 21, Center

Umberger has not yet signed with the Canucks and may return to Ohio
State for one more year. If signed, the 21-year-old will probably assume
the same role as Koltsov in Manitoba. The 16th overall pick in 2000 had
his best year at OSU, scoring 26 goals with 53 points, finishing first
in scoring. Umberger was unanimously selected onto the All CCHA First team
and was one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award for the best
player in the NCAA, which was won by Colorado College’s Peter Sejna.

3. Brandon Reid, 22, Center

Unlikely many prospects, Reid has already proven himself at the NHL level. He made his NHL debut in Montreal and got an assist in
only 8 minutes of ice time. Reid played with the Canucks until they were
eliminated by Minnesota and then was sent back to Manitoba to help them
play vs. Hamilton, in which they lost the series 4-3. Reid finished with
54 points that year, first in Moose scoring. Reid’s chances of making the team
are great and will probably play the whole season in Vancouver.

4. Alexander Auld, 22, Goaltender

Auld is not completely
ready and does not have the experience Brian Burke is looking for at the NHL level. In Manitoba on
the other hand, has no other goalie at the moment to knock Auld off the
reins as the starter this year and appears he will start with the Moose
at the beginning of the 2003-04 season.

5. Ryan Kesler, 19 (this month), Center

General Manager Brian Burke recently signed Kesler, in a surprise move. Kesler has plenty of skill
and has had two good seasons in college, finishing third this year in Buckeyes
scoring. Kesler, this year’s first round draft pick, had 11 goals and 31
points in his freshman year at Ohio State. Kesler
is a strong, hard checking winger and he will challenge for a spot in the line-up when ready.

6. Lekas Mensator, 19 (this month), Goaltender

Following Auld, Lekus Mensator gives the Canucks another goaltending
prospect for the future. Mensator was drafted out of his native Czech Republic
by the Canucks and played this year with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario
Hockey League. The 2002 third round pick had an outstanding 26-8-5 record
with the 67’s in his rookie junior season. He is still a few years
away from challenging for the job in Vancouver/Manitoba and will play out
his junior career in Ottawa.

7. Jesse Schultz, Right Wing

Schultz has an amazing year with the Rockets this year, in which he
lead the Rockets to the Memorial Cup and won the WHL Playoff MVP. Schultz
is another talented player that will start in Winnipeg this year. Schultz
was signed as a rookie UFA this year and was never previously drafted. This year was Schultz first 50+ goal season (53) and 70+ point
year (104) in junior. He needs a breakout year in the AHL this year to
prove himself.

8. Fedor Fedorov, Right Wing

Fedorov is a good hockey player but has some holes in his game. Fedorov, younger brother of Sergei, is a strong skater, a
finisher and has a nice shot but things like his defense have his chance of making it into the NHL slowly disappearing. He still remains a solid prospect, however. Fedorov had 23 points in 50 games with
the Moose this year and an assist in seven games in Vancouver.

9. Evgeny Gladskikh, Left Wing

Gladskikh is a good hockey player and has good talent. He has been playing
better offensively, has great skating ability and unlike Fedorov, his defensive
side is developing. Gladskikh had 11 points in his 4th season with Magnitogorsk
Metallurg. If the Canucks convince the 6’0″ forward to come play in
North America, the Canucks would have another good prospect waiting for
an opportunity.

10. Jason King, Left Wing

A key player on the Moose roster, King scored 20 goals and had 20
assists in 67 games in Winnipeg. King also played in eight games with Vancouver,
recording 2 assists. King, a excellent skater, has improved his game rapidly
ever since he was drafted as a 20-year-old out of Halifax, where he was
teammates of no. 3 prospect Brandon Reid. King is known as a hard worker and
doesn’t have many holes in his game. He is just one of many guys in the
Winnipeg waiting for an opportunity.

11. Denis Grot, Defense

Grot has the potential to become one of Vancouver’s Top 7 defenseman
down the road. Grot played this year with HK Lipetsk where he had 8 points
in 27 games. Grot is a good defenseman with lots of offensive upside. Grot
can also play on the powerplay, which he has in the past with the Russia
National teams and Super League teams. If the Canucks develop him correctly,
Grot will do well for them years down the road.

12. Kevin Bieska, Defense

Bieska will enter his fourth and final year with Bowling Green. As his stats show, Bieska is a very physical type defenseman.
In three years he has recorded 90, 68 and 92 PIM respectively. At the beginning
of last year, he was awarded with a “A” on his jersey. Kevin responded
putting up his best numbers yet with the Falcons, scoring 8 goals and had
25 points in 34 games. Bieska could work on his skating but he can get
away with that for now. If he lives up to full potential, he could be a
fifth or sixth defenseman.

13. Marc-Andre Bernier, 18, Right Wing

Bernier came off a horrible junior start, which saw him record just
six assists in 40 games. This year, Bernier avoided another bad year and
scored 29 goals and had 58 points in 67 games, which earned him a selection
by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round this year. Bernier is a “power
forward” and is not known as a forward with spectacular moves but known
as keeping it plain and simple.

14. Brandon Nolan, 20, Center

Nolan put up good numbers with Oshawa this year, scoring 36 goals on
88 points. It wasn’t enough to earn him a contract with New
Jersey and he reentered the draft and was chosen in the fourth round this
year. Nolan has continually improved his numbers and is turning into an
offensive powerhouse. Nolan’s defense needs lots of work and so do many
other parts of his game. He will play his overage year in Oshawa this year
and then the Canucks will decide his future.

15. Mikko Jokela, 22, Defense

Although his numbers didn’t show it, Jokela was a key member of the
Moose blueline in 2002-03. Jokela was drafted by the New Jersey Devils
in the fifth round of the 1998 daft. After two season with the Albany River
Rats, he was traded to Vancouver for Steve Kariya. Jokela had 4 points
in only 13 games. Jokela also played in a games with Vancouver and was
held of the scoresheet. Jokela’s chances are fading away now with guys
like Koltsov, Grot and Bieska stepping in, it’s now or never for the 22-year-old.

16. Rene Vydarney, Defense

Vydarney has struggled a bit since coming to North America which has
seen his numbers fall (his best season was 12 points in 2001-02) and his
rank as a prospect on the Canucks depth has fallen as well. The native
of Slovakia had 2 goals and 10 points in 71 games this year. Vydarney is
a good skater and has a hard shot from the point but lots of thing defensively
have kept him from becoming a key player on the Moose.

17. Brett Skinner, Defense

Skinner has played for his third team in three years. When drafted by the
Canucks, the Brandon, Manitoba native was playing with the Trail Smoke
Eaters of the BCHL. In his next season, he played in the USHL with the
Des Moines Buccaneers and then chose the University of Denver as his stop
for the next couple years. This season, Skinner had 4 goals and 17 points
in 37 games with the Pioneers. He has good talent but chances are slim
he’ll ever get a chance to compete for a roster spot.

18. Nathan Smith, Center

Smith had a few great year in junior hockey with the Swift Current
Broncos of the WHL. In 2000-01, his draft year, he had 90 points in 67
games but many scouts still considered it to be a “gamble” to pick him in
the first round. Still, the Canucks chose him and he rewarded the Canucks
with 60 points in only 47 games the next year. He had 9 goals and 17 points
in 53 games with the Moose. Smith’s hard work may pay off as a reward to
play a bit of hockey in the NHL.

19. Justin Morrison, Right Wing

Morrison spent four years with Colorado College before playing with
both Manitoba and Columbia this year. Morrison had 20 goals with 55 points
in 40 games with Columbia and with Manitoba in 30 games he had 10 goals
and six assists. Morrison’s future will be decided by the Canucks in a few
years in the next few years, but for now, he will be bouncing back and
forth between Columbia and Manitoba.

20. Ty Morris, 19, Left Wing

Morris spent his last two years with the St. Albert Saints in the Alberta
Junior Hockey League. Morris had his best year last year, scoring 82 points
and racking up 226 PIM in 58 games with the Saints. He was expected to
join Brett Skinner in the University of Denver, but forfeited his scholarship
because of academic deficiencies. Instead, Morris will play in the building
that boasted Canucks prospects Nathan and Tim Smith in Swift Current.

Discuss the Vancouver Canucks on the Hockey’s Future Message Boards.