Top 20 at a Glance
1. (1) Luc Bourdon, D
2. (2) Cory Schneider, G
3. (6) Alexander Edler, D
4. (3) Michael Grabner, RW
5. (12) Kirill Koltsov, D
6. (9) Mason Raymond, LW
7. (11) Daniel Rahimi, D
8. (5) Jannik Hansen, RW
9. (13) Juraj Simek, RW
10. (17) Sergei Shirokov, LW
11. (NR) Drew MacIntyre, G
12. (16) Rick Rypien, C
13. (8) Julien Ellis, G
14. (18) Nathan McIver, D
15. (10) Alexandre Vincent, G
16. (NR) Colby Genoway, C
17. (14) Mike Brown, RW
18. (15) Matt Butcher, C
19. (19) Kris Fredheim, D
20. (NR) Patrick Coulombe, D
Bourdon remains the top prospect in the Vancouver Canucks system although the gap has significantly narrowed over the past half-season. Bourdon has struggled offensively since being dealt to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the players immediately beneath him have continued their rock-solid play. As a result of spending the first few weeks of the season in the NHL and playing in the World Junior Championships, Bourdon has appeared in just 31 QMJHL games this season, compiling 19 points. However, since the trade to Cape Breton from the Moncton Wildcats, he has posted just one goal and four assists in 18 appearances.
Bourdon is a very good all-around defender who has shown the ability to adapt to very different roles. When called up, he can be an offensive catalyst whose first pass can create scoring chances, or use his slap shot from the point to score himself. Conversely, as shown during his stints at the WJC and last year during Moncton’s run to the QMJHL championship, Bourdon can be the consummate shut-down defenseman who can be relied upon to stifle the opposition’s top offensive players. Bourdon is fast skater who confidently handles the puck through the neutral zone. He has decent hockey sense, although he still does take himself out of position from time to time trying to make a big hit. His backwards skating needs to improve if he’s going to develop into the No. 1 defenseman the organization expects him to become. Bourdon will be playing professional hockey next season, although whether that’s in the NHL or AHL will be heavily dependent on whether or not the Canucks re-sign pending unrestricted free agents Sami Salo and Brent Sopel this offseason.
When the Canucks selected Cory Schneider in the 2004 Entry Draft, goaltending was at the forefront of the organization’s mind with the mediocre current tandem of Dan Cloutier and Alex Auld. With the acquisition of Hart-contender Roberto Luongo, the Canucks are secure at the goaltending position for the foreseeable future. While this has bumped Schneider off the radar a bit, he has continued to dominate the NCAA ranks. Schneider has played all but 20 minutes for his team this season, spread over 36 games resulting in a stellar 24-11-1 record. He has a .922 save percentage and a 2.20 goals against average. Schneider has also posted five shutouts this year.
Schneider has proven over the past three seasons at Boston College that he is a tireless workhorse who wants to play every moment of every game. He is an extremely mature person, and that is reflected in his play on the ice. At 6’2, 200 lbs, Schneider has good size, uses it well and his positioning is top notch. While his reflexes aren’t upper echelon, he almost never is forced to rely on quickness to make a save because of his positioning and his remarkable calmness on the ice. Regardless of how wild a scramble may be just in front of his crease, Schneider remains composed and he refuses to let himself slide out of position. Schneider has the potential to be a solid No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. This season will likely be his final year in college since at this point there is nothing left for him to prove at that level. He will most likely share the load with surprising goaltender Drew MacIntyre in Manitoba next season.
Alex Edler will likely be forever remembered as that guy nobody had heard of who the Canucks picked in the third round of the 2004 Draft. Canucks Head European Scout Thomas Gradin ventured to northern Sweden to check out a 6’4 defenseman playing on an obscure junior team. With rumors on the floor that the Detroit Red Wings were eyeing Edler, Gradin convinced then-General Manager Brian Burke to trade to acquire the third-round pick that was used to select Edler. Edler came to North America the next season and played with the Kelowna Rockets, where he made significant strides with his defensive game. This year he spent most of his time with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (39 games played, five goals and 18 assists), although he did get into 18 NHL games, netting two points.
Edler is a well-rounded defenseman who is constantly learning how to better use his 6’3, 220 lbs frame. Edler has always had good offensive instincts. His first pass out of his own zone is very good and he typically makes the right decision when deciding when to jump into the play to join the rush or pinch in to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He is a very good skater which coupled with his size almost guarantees him an NHL career. With his strong play in both leagues this season, Edler has demonstrated that he has tremendous potential and that he is likely ready for a role in the big show at this point. Edler has a good chance at making the Canucks’ opening day roster in 2007-08, although what his role will be on the team will be heavily dependent upon the team’s activity in free agency. Edler has proven to be one of the more astute selections in recent history for the team and shows signs of being a bona fide top pairing defender in a few years.
The 6’1, 183 lbs Austrian-native was the Canucks’ first pick, 14th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Grabner’s name drew a muted applause at the Garage, but his high-flying style may be bringing the Canucks faithful out of their seats for the next 10 years. The 2006-07 season has had its up and downs for the right winger, who missed several games due to a hip injury and has been criticized by his coach for refusing to compete during particularly physical games. In 55 games this season with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, Grabner has 39 goals and 16 assists for 55 points.
Grabner’s primary asset is his lightning-fast speed and acceleration. He handles the puck well at top speed and is deadly on the rush. His lean frame and apparent unwillingness to deal with intense physical play are two major items of concern. However, the value of his blazing speed in an era that the NHL is trying to open up the game to make it more exciting cannot be ignored and is almost certainly the reason the Canucks opted to go with Grabner. He is likely several years away from breaking into the NHL, but if he can continue to develop and become more accustomed to physical play, there is no reason to suggest that he doesn’t have the potential to be a 30-goal scorer in the future. Next season Grabner will most likely join the Moose for his first professional season, where some growing pains can be expected for most of the first half of the year, if not longer. It will take him time to adapt and find ways to use his speed in the bigger, faster and stronger league.
5. Kirill Koltsov, D
Acquired: Drafted 49th overall in 2002
2006-07 team: Omsk Avangard (Russian Super League)
Koltsov is one of the most enigmatic prospects in the world. After falling all the way to 49th overall in the 2002 NHL Draft after being considered a potential first-round pick, Koltsov spent a season in Omsk before coming to North America and playing the entire 2003-04 season with the Moose. During the year he showed flashes of offensive brilliance and very obvious defensive problems. He began the following season (the lockout year) with the Moose but left the team halfway through the year, claiming that he felt he’d develop better in the Russian Super League because of the improved quality of play in that league as a result of the influx of NHL talent. He then proceeded to stay in Russia for the 2005-06 season, citing a family illness as the reason he did not want to depart. During the most recent offseason, the Canucks reportedly offered him a contract, which was rejected.
Koltsov is a tremendous offensive defender. He has great skating and puck-handling abilities and great offensive instincts. He passes the puck with precision and carries the puck with confidence. At 5’11, 185 lbs, he’s small and lacks the upper-body strength to physically handle NHL-sized forwards. Defensively he is improving, but that remains a concern with his game. GM Dave Nonis once told HF that Koltsov creates a chance every time he’s on the ice, whether it’s for you or against you is the only question. Koltsov is, by all accounts, one of the premier defensemen in the RSL right now. On pure talent alone, Koltsov may be the top prospect in the organization, with the potential to become a Marek Zidlicky type of NHLer. However, the significant concerns about whether or not he’ll ever come to play in North America again plus his history casts a long shadow on him as an NHL prospect.
Raymond was a somewhat surprising selection at 51st overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was playing in the relatively-unheralded AJHL at the time and was destined for Minnesota-Duluth. Furthermore, as an ’85-born player whose birthday fell just after the Sept. 15 cut-off, he was nearly two full years older than some of the other players selected in the class of ’05. Raymond was a sophomore for the Bulldogs this season and had a true breakout year, scoring 14 goals, 32 points and 46 points in 39 games en route to being one of the top-20 scorers in all of collegiate hockey – ahead of more highly-touted (and younger) second-year players like T.J. Oshie (STL) and Jonathan Toews (CHI). Now listed at 6’0, 185 lbs, Raymond appears to have put on significant weight since being drafted at a reported 160 lbs, although one always has to be skeptical of players’ sizes as reported by their teams.
Raymond is another forward in the Canucks system who has tremendous skating ability. He has developed into more of a playmaking winger during his two years in college, although his speed will always result in created chances such as breakaways and odd-man rushes where he is dangerous. Raymond signed a professional contract with the Canucks in mid-March and is expected to join the Manitoba Moose shortly. There is no doubt that he will be in the team’s lineup next season, when he will continue to his hone his offensive game and rounding out his defensive play. Raymond has second-line upside although he could potentially be a good fit as a linemate for Grabner down the road.
The selection of Rahimi was almost a carbon copy of two years earlier when the Canucks made the decision to select Edler: a completely unknown Swedish defenseman hardly drew a rousing ovation from the restless Vancouver audience. In fact, Rahimi was not listed in any of the draft materials provided to the media by the NHL. Rahimi came to North America for the Canucks rookie camp and it was speculated that he’d join the Moose. However, he ultimately returned to Sweden where he spent most of the season playing for Bjorkloven in the Allsvenskan (he also played eight games for the club’s junior team) where he had two assists and an astounding 104 penalty minutes. Rahimi also participated in the WJCs, where he had 18 PIMs in seven games.
At this point, Rahimi appears to be a very astute selection. The 6’3, 216 lbs 19-year-old is the epitome of a rough-and-tumble blueliner whose game is all about punishing the opposition. There have been many questions raised about his discipline, but the general consensus indicates that issue can be resolved over time with strong coaching. Offensively he is a complete non-factor, but this should not be cause for concern considering his size, strength and abilities in his own zone. Stylistically, he plays a game similar to that of a Colin White and is the type of asset that every team would like to have during the last few weeks of the season or for a long playoff series because of his ability to wear down the opposition. Rahimi is expected to join the Moose once his season in Sweden ends. Bjorkloven is currently playing in a playoff round to try to earn a spot in the SEL next season and Rahimi should be available in early April. Rahimi has top-four potential and could be a truly imposing presence on the Canucks blueline for many years to come.
Hansen was the ultimate shot in the dark. With the 2004 Draft winding down, the Canucks went all the way to Rodovre, Denmark to make the 287th overall selection. He opted to remain in Europe the following year, but played for the Portland Winter Hawks during the 2005-06 season. The Canucks signed him during the offseason, and Hansen played his first professional season with the Manitoba Moose, scoring nine goals and 18 assists in 60 games so far while compiling 34 penalty minutes. At 6’0, 176 lbs, he remains on the slight side, which is one of the impediments standing between him and a spot on the Canucks.
Hansen has primarily been an offensive player throughout his career, although he has had some difficulties adjusting to the AHL game this year. Hansen is a skill forward with solid all-around offensive skills. He has above-average skating and an underappreciated feistiness in his game. He is willing to grind it out in the corners and mix it up during frays. While playing major junior he dropped his gloves on at least one occasion and consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to allow himself to be bullied. Hansen’s skill set could develop into a lower-tier second-line player, but if his offensive game doesn’t round out as anticipated, Hansen has a very good chance at finding a role on the third line. Hansen will likely see spot duty with the Canucks next season.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2006 Draft, Juraj Simek has had a solid rookie season with the Wheat Kings, scoring 28 goals and 29 assists for 57 points in 58 games. The Slovakian-born Swiss winger had spent the past few seasons with Kloten of the Swiss-A league before opting to move to North America and take the next major step in his career. He has also played in the World Juniors the past two seasons, which is where he initially caught the eye of the Canucks scouting staff in 2006 in Vancouver with his strong play with the puck. He finished the 2007 tournament with four goals and one assist in six games and a -3.
Simek has tremendous stickhandling skill which he uses to maintain possession and control of the puck in traffic. The winger is equally adept at scoring and playmaking, using his puckhandling skills to get into open space to either finish the play himself with his quick wrist shot or to flip the puck across the ice for a teammate. Simek will turn 20 in September and it is not official whether he will return to junior for another season or if he will make the jump to the Moose. Simek has the raw talent to become a second-line NHLer, but unlike other prospects in the system like Hansen, he is not likely to adapt to a checking role at any point in his career. He is going to be a scoring-line player at any level he plays, which may ultimately keep him in a lower league if he doesn’t develop over the next few years.
10. Sergei Shirokov, LW
Acquired: Drafted 163rd overall in 2006
2006-07 team: CSKA Moscow (Russian Super League)
Shirokov was the Canucks other sixth-round selection in the 2006 Draft and also appears to be a strong prospect considering his draft positioning. He was also several years older than most of the players selected that year as he is an ’86 birthdate who was passed over the previous two years, at least in part due to concerns about his size (5’10, 175 lbs). Shirokov has had a tremendous year playing for CSKA Moscow this season, scoring 16 goals and 18 assists in 52 games putting him second in team scoring.
Interestingly enough, when the Canucks scouting staff was asked by media at the draft last year about Shirokov, they indicated that they did not believe that he is a scorer, but rather that they thought they could turn him into a role player in the future. They also made the decision to select the Russian because he told them that he would be willing to come to North America – even if it meant playing in the minors for a while before he got a shot at the big club. Shirokov is water bug-type player who Canucks Head Scout Ron Delorme described as not being a fast skater, but a “strong skater,” meaning that he’s extremely tough to knock off balance. It’s difficult to forecast his upside in the future because the offensive outburst this season has probably altered expectations for him. There is a good chance that he will make his North America pro debut next season, although you can be sure that CSKA will do whatever possible to convince him to remain with them.
MacIntyre was a training camp acquisition from thewho was thought at the time to have been brought in to be the starter for the Moose as veteran Wade Flaherty was penciled in as Luongo’s backup. But when the organization picked up Dany Sabourin off waivers, it left MacIntyre to fight for minutes with the incumbent starter. Ultimately MacIntyre has been able to split the job with Flaherty, getting into 33 games and posting some very good numbers: 2.16 GAA, .925 save percentage, two shutouts and a 20-8-2 record.
MacIntyre will turn 24 later this year, so the clock is ticking for him to make a move and prove that he deserves to be in the NHL. Unfortunately for him, with Luongo signed for the next few years and Schneider likely on the verge of jumping to the professional ranks, his window of opportunity is about to slam shut. MacIntyre may have a shot at capturing the backup job if the Canucks opt to not re-sign Sabourin – but that is a decision that won’t be made until later in the offseason. The unfortunate thing for MacIntyre is that he likely possesses the talent to serve as a backup goaltender next season, but the situation he is in will not allow him more than a few games a season to showcase his skills even if he does land the backup gig next season.
There should be absolutely no confusion about what type of player Rypien is and how high his upside is. Rypien is purely an undersized energy player with little to no offensive upside at the NHL level. In fact, the 5’11, 170 lbs has only broken the 20-goal mark once in the past six years – going back to his final major junior season with the Regina Pats. Due to injuries, Rypien has appeared in just 16 games in the NHL this season, including two games with the Canucks. Rypien is a fourth-liner who brings a kamikaze style to the rink every night, which has resulted in major injuries each of the past two seasons. He’s a relentless and speedy forechecker, who is limited in his effectiveness due to his size. He is a character player who will have a tough time cracking into the line-up of a top team on a day-to-day basis, but should be able to find a job on lower-level teams simply because of his determination. He is a fringe prospect talent-wise, but he is essentially ready right now to step into the show in the role that he is able to fill.
Ellis has had a very rough last two seasons after winning the QMJHL’s top goaltender award in 2004-05 ahead of older talents like Corey Crawford (CHI). He struggled with consistency in his final junior year, which ended with a horrific knee injury that was initially thought to threaten his ability to play competitive hockey. Fortunately for both him and the Canucks, who used the 189th overall pick in 2004 to choose Ellis, he was able to come back from the injury this year. Ellis has six starts in the AHL this season (all losses), but has spent most of the year in Victoria, where he has compiled a solid 18-14-2 record (.901 save percentage and 3.31 GAA) en route to putting the Salmon Kings in position to possibly make the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs for the first time in their brief history. The young Quebecer was recalled to the Moose on March 19 to replace the injured Flaherty. Ellis is a small goalie listed at 6’0, 170 lbs, who relies on his quickness and reflexes. His rebound control needs significant improvement, although he has steadily improved during his stint in the ECHL. Ellis has a shot at becoming a backup goaltender but has a big mountain to climb with a number of other goaltenders ahead of him in the system.
14. Nathan McIver, D
Acquired: Drafted 254th overall in 2003
2006-07 team: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
McIver is a steady stay-at-home defender who has shown moderate signs of improvement each of his two years playing professional hockey. Although his offensive abilities are severely lacking, McIver plays much bigger than his 6’2, 195 lbs frame would indicate. He’s amassed more than 250 penalty minutes in less than 120 AHL games and also racked up seven PIM in the lone NHL appearance of his career to date. The Summerside, PEI native has proved at every level that he is willing to do whatever it takes to defend his teammates which could make him a valuable third-pairing defenseman in another two seasons if he can continue to improve his skating and perhaps add a bit more size. Next season should play out almost identical to this year for the former eighth-round pick. He will spend his time with the Manitoba Moose unless the Canucks are hit with a rash of injuries to their blue line.
Alexandre Vincent is another one of the Canucks’ mid-tier goaltenders who appears to have limited upside at the NHL level. Once considered to be a potential steal as the 114th overall pick in the 2005 Draft, Vincent is now facing an uphill battle to fulfill his NHL aspirations. He began this season with Val-d’Or, appearing in 20 games and earning an 8-10 record. His statistics were sub par, including a .878 save percentage and a 3.62 goals against average. When the team acquired Jeremy Duchesne (PHI) to take over as starting goalie, the Canucks decided to move Vincent to play with their ECHL affiliate in Victoria, BC. After playing in two games, Vincent was injured and hasn’t played in roughly a month now. The 6’5, 208 lbs netminder is a solid positional goaltender with decent reflexes who needs to improve his rebound control. Once thought to have starting potential, it’s evident that Vincent’s peak potential is more likely that of a starting AHL goalie or mid-tier NHL backup.
16. Colby Genoway, C
Acquired: Trade with Anaheim
2006-07 team: Manitoba Moose and Portland Pirates (AHL)
Acquired in a trade for Joe Rullier, Colby Genoway is a small upgrade as a potential NHL player, but the reality of the matter is that he is a long shot. In 62 AHL games this season split between Manitoba and Portland, the 6’1, 201 lbs winger nine goals and 30 assists plus 40 penalty minutes, a steep drop from the 26 goals he netted during the 2005-06 campaign. Genoway is a decent offensive talent with finishing skills who the organization must be hoping is mired in the middle of his professional sophomore jinx because otherwise the decline in production is a major concern. His one goal in 21 games with the Moose is particularly disconcerting. He has often been completely invisible for the team and has done little to contribute. Genoway is stuck in an awkward situation where he is clearly best suited as an offensive player for the most part, but has stopped producing. There has been little indication that he will be able to adapt to a checking role, which means he either needs to step it up or risk becoming a career AHL player.
17. Mike Brown, RW
Acquired: Drafted 159th overall in 2004
2006-07 team: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
Brown was a fifth-round pick in the 2004 Draft out of the University of Michigan, which he left after his sophomore season to join the Manitoba Moose. Brown is currently nearing the end of his second pro season which has shown a significant regression in his offensive production. Brown has never been expected to produce more than a token amount of points, but with just two goals and no assists in 53 games, he’s just not contributing anything to the score sheet outside of his 172 penalty minutes. The Northbrook, Illinois native has good size at 6’0, 200 lbs and is a fast north-south skater, but seems to have taken to the role of middleweight enforcer more so than the grinding and punishing checking forward he was originally forecast to be. At this point Brown appears to be destined for a minor-league career unless he can get back to using his speed to generate more offense and become more of a threat. Fourth-line grinders aren’t expected to be big scorers, but it’s almost impossible to break into the big show with two goals a season in the American league.
Matt Butcher had a statistically disastrous freshman season with the Northern Michigan Wildcats with just four assists in 40 games, a monstrous drop from the 101 points he put up the previous season with Chilliwack in the BCHL. One positive sign is that he did play in almost every game the Wildcats have played thus far, although he typically sees limited ice time. It was a real season of transition for the son of former Canucks defenseman Garth Butcher. At 6’2, 205 lbs, Butcher was much larger than the average BCHL player and used his size extremely effectively against the smaller competition. Now playing as a 20-year-old in the NCAA ranks, Butcher is much closer to average size and there is going to be a significant adjustment period as he learns how to use his talents effectively against larger and stronger competition. The BCHL is a junior ‘A’ league, but it still takes a good amount of skill to put up the kind of stats Butcher did last year. Butcher remains the prospect he was labeled when selected in 2005. He will almost certainly spend at least the next two seasons at Northern Michigan barring a major breakout year and could be a four-year player. Butcher needs to improve his skating, particularly his first step, but if he does so he could develop into a third-line checker with the ability to consistently chip in 10-12 goals a season in three to five years.
Fredheim appeared in only 23 of the Colorado College Tigers’ 39 games this season, scoring one goal and three assists. His only goal came against St. Cloud State in February, which was also his last point. The 6’2, 180 lbs Campbell River native should have the opportunity to play a much greater role with the team next season with three senior defensemen not returning. The Canucks will allow Fredheim to develop in the collegiate ranks for the next few seasons and hope that he is able to steadily progress each season. At this point Fredheim seems to be a long-shot to develop into a depth defender, but a lot can happen between now and the end of his eligibility.
Coulombe’s 2006-07 season began with complete uncertainty. Signed to an Amateur Tryout Contract with the Moose in April 2006 following the elimination of his QMJHL team from the playoffs, there was no guarantee that he’d find a role with the team this year. Invited to the Canucks’ Rookie Camp, Coulombe impressed enough to earn a spot in Canucks training camp, where he continued to shine. Coulombe was one of the last cuts, but was ultimately sent to the AHL to further hone his game. When injuries mounted for the team, Coulombe spent some time with the big club – a total of seven games registering one assist. He went back to the Manitoba Moose where he compiled nine points in 43 games. His offensive production and overall play were not good enough and he was eventually demoted to the ECHL where he played three games with the Salmon Kings. Coulombe is a very talented defender with tremendous puck-moving skills and strong skating, who will forever be plagued by the fact that he is 5’9, 160 lbs. During his stint in the NHL, it was very apparent that he simply lacks the size and physical strength to compete with NHL-caliber and size forwards. Coulombe’s best chance at becoming a full-time NHL player likely lie in a role as a power-play specialist down the road.
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