Canucks 2005 draft preview

By Matt MacInnis

Canucks Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Kesler, C
2. Jason King, RW
3. Alexander Auld, G
4. Kirill Koltsov, D
5. Cory Schneider, G
6. Ilya Krikunov, C
7. Brett Skinner, D
8. Evgeni Gladskikh, LW
9. Marc-Andre Bernier, RW
10. Tomas Mojzis, D

Team Needs

The most pressing need the Canucks face is scoring. At all levels the organization is short on players who will be able to put the puck in the net at the NHL level in the future. The Canucks currently lack a single player in their prospect pool that can be reliably counted on to be a goal scorer in the future. The lack of elite level goal scorers coupled with the constant threat of an early retirement from Markus Naslund and concerns over Todd Bertuzzi’s reported willingness to stay in Vancouver, is a formidable issue that the organization must overcome.

Organizational Strengths

Going into the 2004 Entry Draft, it was clear that goaltending was a major area of concern for the team. However, one year after using their first round pick on collegiate prospect Cory Schneider, and then selecting Julien Ellis on the second day of the draft, the team now looks at its goaltending stable as its strongest position. After strong seasons from both 2004 goaltenders, the Canucks depth at goal likely puts the team in the top five in the league in the category.

The team also has a healthy number of two-way defensemen who appear to be able to contribute at both ends of the ice. Brett Skinner is coming off a fantastic season in the NCAA, while Tomas Mojzis and Alexander Edler continue to develop at a steady rate. Although none of these three will challenge for a roster spot in 2005-06, both Skinner and Mojzis could see time with the Canucks two seasons from now. Because of this healthy stock of multi-talented blue-liners, when selecting defensemen the Canucks can afford to choose a player for a specific role, whether it be an exciting puck-carrying power-play quarterback with weak defensive skills or a physically imposing defender with few puck skills.

Organizational Weaknesses

The greatest need is a top-level sniper who plays wing. In reality the Canucks truly need a number of players who have the potential to score 30 goals in an NHL season. At this point, it is doubtful the Canucks scouting staff is completely confident any of their prospects will be able to do that on a consistent basis.

The team suffers from a large number of prospects who are major question marks for the organization. However, very few of these players were first day selections, so their longshot draft picks remain longshot prospects, and this is not surprising.

The most notable weakness of the Canucks prospect as a whole is their lack of high-profile “star caliber” prospects. Ryan Kesler, the Canucks best prospect is truly the type of player that every successful team needs in order to go deep in the playoffs, but he is not going to lead the team in scoring, nor is he going to be an attraction that fans pack GM Place to see. The organization lacks a big name prospect for fans to get excited over, either offensively, defensively, or even between the pipes.

The Canucks have two physical defensemen with the ability to make the NHL in Nathan McIver and Kevin Bieksa. However, neither of these two are locks to be top four defensemen, furthermore have probable potential to be top pairing players. This is a hole that the team needs to fill with one of its first two picks in the next Entry Draft.

Draft Tendencies

It is difficult to look at the Canucks previous draft history and try to make any predictions over a direction they might take this season considering the change in General Managers last season from Brian Burke to Dave Nonis. However, Ron Delorme has been the team’s Chief Scout since 2001, and continues to hold that position.

From 2001 to 2003, 27 percent of the Canucks draft picks came from the collegiate ranks. Russians represented 23 percent of the players selected by the Canucks. However, only 12 percent of the team’s picks went to players from the nearby Western Hockey League, and, despite the favorable reputation of European scout Thomas Gradin, only 4 percent came from Sweden or Finland.

These tendencies remained fairly consistent for the 2004 Draft, when the Canucks used three of their seven selections of players playing in, or bound for, the NCAA. There was a boost in the number of Scandinavians taken as two of the seven prospects came from that section of Europe, while the team selected one player respectively from each of the WHL and QMJHL.

Over the past five years the Canucks have often elected to use their first round picks on players deemed to be safer selections rather than those with tremendous potential. The Canucks have eight picks this year, all but their third, which was moved at the 2004 Entry Draft for the pick that was used to select Edler.

The Canucks pick 10th overall thanks to some favorable luck at the Draft Lottery. If he is still available, most feel the Canucks will almost certainly take Jack Skille. In the past few years the Canucks have used all of their first round picks to select Americans who were in the NCAA or college-bound such as RJ Umberger (PHI), Kesler, and Schneider. If Skille goes before the Canucks get on the clock, expect them to most likely turn towards a high-skilled forward or someone with good offensive upside. Examples of players like this who are likely to be around at 10th overall are Guillaume Latendresse and Niklas Bergfors.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Guillaume Latendresse, RW. Latendresse is a big-body player who has goal-scoring ability. Skating is a concern with Latendresse, but his lack of footspeed may make him a good future linemate for the Sedins.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.