Vancouver Canucks 2013 draft review

By Larenzo Jensen

Bo Horvat - Vancouver Canucks

Photo: The Canucks traded into the top-10 to select Bo Horvat with the ninth overall pick, the highest pick by Vancouver since the Sedins were drafted 2nd and 3rd overall in 1999 (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey would be the setting for the Vancouver Canucks to leave an indelible mark, not just in regards to their own draft and future, but to the host city and their hockey fortunes as well.

The arena was impatient and expectant, as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took to the podium to announce a trade. “I think you’re going to want to hear this,” he vocalized above the groans and cacophony of sounds from the large crowd. The New Jersey crowd unleashed another wave of astonishment as Bettman announced New Jersey had traded the ninth overall pick to Vancouver for goaltender Cory Schneider.

That announcement ushered in a new era and chapter for the Vancouver Canucks organization, and will have a profound effect immediately, and in the future. Naturally, the debate on whether the Canucks received enough in return for Schneider will reverberate for some time.

Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman addressed whether they could have gotten more in the Schneider trade with Hockey’s Future.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true,” Gilman said. “You ask for assets and we had a lot of interest in Cory, and spoke to multiple teams, and asked different teams for different pieces. At the end of the day, we felt this one was the best for us. We ran this gauntlet with both goaltenders, and knew it was a situation that couldn’t continue. And it’s fair to say the trade partners knew we had to make a deal. Whether we could have gotten something else, had we dealt with it at another time, we didn’t.”

Bo Horvat, C, London Knights (OHL)
1st Round, 9th Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 206

A strong, powerful center with a soft set of hands, Horvat oozes power forward potential. He was named MVP of the OHL playoffs with 16 goals and seven assists in 21 games. Hoisting the London Knights on his shoulders, he led the charge for back-to-back league championships.

Horvat spoke to Hockey’s Future about the type of player the Canucks can expect to see. “I’m a two-way centerman that you can put out there in any key situation –  a big draw at the end of the game, penalty kill, power play, I was sort of the ‘everything’ guy this year on the London Knights, and I hope to continue that.”

Horvat plays the game hard, and his defensive play and faceoff abilities are top notch. His leadership skills and ability were showcased both during the 2012 U18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where he scored two goals and two assists in five games as Canada captured a gold medal. He cemented his leader status during the OHL playoffs, and will be counted on down the road to provide the Canucks with more of the same.

He brings a lot of enthusiasm, as he revealed, “My dream came true today, and I’m really happy.” With everything Horvat brings to the table, Canucks fans that have coveted a two-way center will be really happy as well when he earns a spot in the lineup.

Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
1st Round, 24th Overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 175

Shinkaruk is a defenseman’s nightmare. He is quick, forechecks hard, and has excellent hand-eye coordination. What he lacks in size he more than compensates for with hard work and determination. Willing to take a hit to make a play, or fight to get to an open piece of ice, Shinkaruk blends a lot of hockey sense with pure offensive talent and drive. These are the qualities that earned him the captaincy for the Medicine Hat Tigers in his third season. Interestingly, the Calgary, Alberta native was passed over by the Calgary Flames, who used the 22nd overall pick to select QMJHL forward Emile Poirier, and the Canucks were very happy to snap up the speedy, tenacious winger at 24th overall.

“I’m an offensive player, but I love to compete,” Shinkaruk said. “I love to battle and win pucks all over the ice. That’s probably my favorite part about the game. Hopefully that will fit well; I can’t wait for camp to show them that they made the right choice.”

With the lack of left wing depth the Canucks have in the system, you can be certain management will be keeping close tabs on Shinkaruk’s development. Like many undersized players before him, his stature will be a question mark until he is able to prove he can take his game to the NHL level.

Cole Cassels, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
3rd Round, 85th Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 178

Son of former Canucks center, Andrew Cassels, Cole Cassels might be compared to the apple that does not fall too far from the tree. While Cole may not have the pure set-up wizardry (yet) that his father possessed, he has good two-way versatility, with perhaps more defensive acumen. Used often in penalty killing situations, Cole is defensively responsible, while diversified enough to contribute some offense as well. In his first season with Oshawa, Cole had three goals and 11 points in 64 OHL games. In his second season, he posted 15 goals, 43 points through 64 games for the Generals.

Cassels explained how the Generals prepared him for the draft by helping, “develop my two-way game. I think they did a good job of making me defensively responsible, a good penalty killer, and on faceoffs.”

Because his father left some large shoes to fill, Cole Cassels recognizes the need to continue to polish his game, as he divulged to Hockey’s Future shortly after being drafted that his plans include, “going back to juniors, being that first line, go-to guy, putting up some points, but to be responsible in my own end.”

The value of NHL bloodlines has been proven time and again, and it is a definite advantage for Cole to be able to consult his father, with over 1000 games of NHL experience behind him, for advice.

Jordan Subban, D, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
4th Round, 115th Overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 177

Although brothers P.K. and Malcolm helped younger brother Jordan via name recognition, most of what transpires now that he has been drafted will rest squarely on Jordan Subban’s shoulders. He certainly has shown personal growth over the past few years, particularly with the Belleville Bulls. In 2011-12, he played 56 games, scoring five goals, 15 assists, and adding a minus-23 rating with 31 penalty minutes during the OHL regular season. In 2012-13, Subban was part of the gold-medal winning Canadian Ivan Hlinka team and was also the leading scorer amongst defensemen for the Bulls. He scored 15 goals, 36 assists, and was plus-22 with 47 penalty minutes in all 68 games for Belleville.

For the second straight year, the Vancouver Canucks have drafted a Belleville Bulls product, and Subban spoke about fellow prospect and teammate, Brendan Gaunce. “He’s our captain, so I’m sure I’ll talk to him soon, just kind of pick his brain about what to expect coming to camp.”

Subban also acknowledged having ties to fellow draftees, Bo Horvat and Cole Cassels. “They’re two of my good friends. I’ve known Bo since we were playing peewee hockey, and Cole, I played U17 with him; a couple of familiar faces that will make it a lot easier for us going into camp.”

While Jordan Subban has some offensive upside to his game, including a good, heavy right-handed shot, and a solid skating stride, his height could prove problematic. In a position dominated by larger, physical frames, Subban will need to key in on the defensive aspects of his game to have any measure of success. His intelligent approach to the game may in fact help him overcome this hurdle; he was named to the OHL Scholastic Team this year. His numbers with the Bulls prove he has applied that intelligence aptly within his offensive game.

Hockey's Future shot video of Horvat, Cassels, and Subban at the NHL Draft. You can view the players extended remarks in this HF video.

Anton Cederholm, D, Rogle J20 (Sweden Jr.)
5th Round, 145th Overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 207

European scout Thomas Gradin no doubt had much input on the decision to draft the Helsingborg, Sweden native. A big, stay-at-home defenseman, Cederholm will rarely light the lamp but will give you everything he has, especially on the penalty kill. Despite the limitations offensively, he keeps it simple, and is willing to lay down the body to block a shot at a moment’s notice. He has a solid, cerebral understanding of the game, which helps compensate for his lack of foot speed. In addition to his 13 points in 36 games for Rogle’s J20 team, he appeared in 12 SHL games with Rogle Angelholm in 2012-13 and was scoreless with a minus-1 rating to go with six penalty minutes.

He has good endurance and can log a lot of minutes when called upon. Although the Canucks have a couple of potential shutdown defenders in the system, Cederholm’s size and shutdown mentality make him an intriguing draft choice. He still has a lot of development ahead of him but has the earmarks of a solid depth defenseman, who excels on the penalty kill. The Canucks have had an uncanny success rate drafting late-round defensemen over the past few years, and Cederholm has the tools and intrepid spirit that could further that success.

Mike Williamson, D, Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
6th Round, 175th Overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 187

The Canucks were looking to add some size to their blue line prospect pool, and Williamson definitely fits the bill. The 19-year-old defender spent the past two seasons playing in the AJHL for the Spruce Grove Saints, with a modest amount of success. In 2011-12, he played in 41 games, posting nine goals, 18 points, and 73 penalty minutes. He followed that up with one goal, 11 points, and 35 penalty minutes in 23 games in 2012-13. He missed a couple months due to a leg injury, and returned in time for the playoffs, where he had one goal, four points and 21 penalty minutes in 15 games for the Saints.

Out of all the players the Canucks drafted, Williamson appears to be their only real off-the-board selection. The Penn State bound defenseman is noted for having good skating skills and a hard slap shot. Though it could be some time before we see him in Kalamazoo playing for the Wings, or in Utica (New York) playing for the Comets, the Canucks are obviously ready to take Williamson on as a longer-term project. For now, he will wear the navy and white for Penn State University toiling in the NCAA.

Miles Liberati, D, London Knights (OHL)
7th Round, 205th Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 195

The Canucks would conclude their draft the same way they opened it – selecting a player from the London Knights. Miles Liberati was one of the best players for the Hill Academy in his home state of Pennsylvania before joining the Knights. He struggled early on a very deep Knights roster to earn ice time, and his confidence was diminished. But a fight-related suspension to one of his defensive teammates opened the door for Liberati, who worked hard and eventually earned a regular assignment. In 42 games he scored three goals, nine points with 25 penalty minutes and a plus-five rating. During the Knights playoff run, he recorded one assist in 10 games and also suited up for one Memorial Cup game.

Much like Williamson, Liberati appears to be another one of Vancouver’s long term projects. While he has some offensive upside to his game, and is a decent puck mover, his defensive zone coverage is inconsistent, and has been known to panic at times with the puck, a result of not properly calculating his time and space. He has received some praise, though, for hitting his teammates with a good first pass. It will be interesting to see if he receives increased responsibilities with the Knights in the upcoming season, and if he can strengthen his defensive zone coverage as well as his first skating stride.