Vancouver Canucks 2013 draft preview

By Larenzo Jensen

Brendan Gaunce - Belleville Bulls

Photo: Belleville Bulls center Brendan Gaunce, the Canucks 26th overall pick last summer, was the first of four forwards taken by Vancouver with their five picks in 2012 (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

After another quick exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, it is no secret that the winds of change are blowing in Vancouver. General Manager Mike Gillis has frequently used the term “reset” to describe the focus of this off-season for the Vancouver Canucks. In truth, anything short of fulfilling that term would be disastrous for Gillis, with local media already quoting the new phraseology. In addition, a restless fan base has voiced their opinion and made it clear that they will not be satisfied with the status quo.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Nicklas Jensen, RW
2. Eddie Lack, G
3. Jordan Schroeder, C
4. Brendan Gaunce, C
5. Frank Corrado, D
6. Anton Rodin, RW
7. Alexandre Grenier, RW
8. Patrick McNally, D
9. Alexandre Mallet, C
10. Joseph Labate, C

Team Needs

During his tenure as General Manager, no off-season has presented as many challenges for Mike Gillis as this one. Currently sitting as the second highest cap hit in the NHL, there is very little wiggle room financially for the team. It is bad timing to have this sort of a dilemma, and while the obvious play is to move Roberto Luongo and his large contract, as time has proven, this is not a simple task. Some have also pointed to using the new CBA clause to buyout David Booth’s contract, but his ankle injury could mean that the Canucks will not be able to use one of their two compliance buy-outs on him.

Further complicating things is Vancouver’s draft position, which in years past has been near the end of each round, which is where they will select from again in the 2013 NHL Draft. Realistically, none of the players drafted this year will be able to step into a starting role, so the Canucks will be looking to add to their top-nine forwards. With Derek Roy, Manny Malhotra, Mason Raymond, and Steve Pinizzotto all becoming unrestricted free agents, the top-nine forward group should look noticeably different than was iced during the first round of the playoffs.

So much of what Gillis has to work with revolves around not only if Roberto Luongo is moved, but also the timing of such. His $5,333,333 cap hit is on the books through 2021, but with the amount of distraction the goaltending controversy provided, particularly at the trade deadline, it is incumbent upon Gillis to finally resolve the issue. Some hockey prognosticators suggest that if Gillis has not facilitated a trade come summer's end, that Luongo could force his hand by not reporting to training camp.

Organizational Strengths

Even with the graduation of Zack Kassian from prospect status, the Canucks have good depth on the right wing, with Nicklas Jensen highlighting that group. Though it seems Anton Rodin is having trouble adjusting to the North American style of play, Alexandre Grenier has shown he has potential, and could still be the late bloomer they hoped for when they selected him 90th overall in 2011.

For most organizations, the thought of losing a goaltender of Roberto Luongo’s caliber would be unbearable. But with the emergence of Cory Schneider, and the development of both Eddie Lack and Joe Cannata, that notion is far more palatable. Even with Lack missing a sizable chunk of last season after going under the knife (hip surgery), the large, 6’4 Swedish free agent signing seems to be their back-up of the future. Cannata had a great first year as a pro, and should only improve with Roland Melanson as his tutor.

Organizational Weaknesses

While the Canucks may have considerable depth at center and left wing, they are considered thin where it pertains to players with top-six upside. Jordan Schroeder proved he could acquit himself nicely at the NHL level, and Joseph Labate had a strong season in the NCAA. Still, Labate is realistically a couple of years away, and Schroeder still needs experience at the NHL level before he can challenge for a top-six role.

Part of the challenge for players such as Schroeder to cement a role with the team is that the Canucks have been perceived as a “'soft” team lacking true grit and role players. Many perceive this shortcoming as the main reason they fell one game shy of a Stanley Cup in 2011. During their 2013 series with the Sharks, it became evident that they are indeed lacking power forwards that can handle the elevated level of play and physicality prevalent in the playoffs. True, they have grinders such as Darren Archibald and Alex Friesen in the system, and Alexandre Mallet has the earmarks of a future checking line mainstay. But for all intents and purposes, the Canucks need to stay the course they set last year, trending towards larger, skilled forwards with some muscle and grit.

Draft Tendencies

It is almost certain that Gillis will maintain his position of selecting the best player available with the 24th pick of the draft. Regular season success has taken its toll on the team's drafting position, so a safe selection like 2012 pick Brendan Gaunce is probable once more.

If searching for a drafting pattern over the past three seasons, it would be that they have used one-third of their draft picks on defensemen. Of their 18 picks in the last three years, six of them were blueliners. Half of these were selected in the 2010 draft, though, and last year, they focused on their forward group, with two centers and two left wingers, with only one defenseman taken.

Interestingly enough, though there is a distinct Swedish element present in their NHL lineup, the Canucks selected four Canadians and one American in the 2012 draft. Also of note, the Canucks have avoided selecting players from the WHL, as their last four players from that league have been busts. The last time they selected from that league was in 2008, when they chose Prab Rai and Morgan Clark in later rounds. The QMJHL and OHL have been recent favorites for Vancouver; it is likely they will reap a few more from these two leagues again this season.

The Canucks have six picks in the 2013 draft. They own the 24th, 85th, 115th, 145th, 175th, and 205th draft picks.

Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:

Adam Erne, LW/RW, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Adam Erne is exactly what the Vancouver Canucks organization needs at this time – a budding power forward that has some wheels. He loves to hit and has demonstrated from a young age that he is very successful playing that style. There is little denying that his multifaceted, all-around game with some physical flare is just what the doctor ordered for Vancouver. If he continues to grow his game as he has every step of the way in his career thus far, Erne could be a top-six fixture for the Canucks for a long time.