Not too long ago, this topic would be a rather meaningless attempt as Canucks’ prospect pool was extremely shallow under Mike Gillis’ final years. It was partly a result of Canucks on-ice success, winning their division championship seven times in eleven straight seasons, landing a playoff berth eleven times in fourteen straight seasons, winning the President’s Trophy as the top team in regular season twice, and just one win away from the Stanley Cup.
Even the best managed franchise like the Detroit Red Wings faces huge challenges in prospect depletion after years of winning. That’s just part of life for professional sports nowadays.
A few years ago, the Canucks found themselves in a hole when their depth chart was split into two batches. On one side, there are the roster regulars like the Sedins, Burrows, Kesler, Salo, Bieksa and Luongo who were close to or above 30-yrs old, and the other side was filled with young teenager prospects with little to no NHL experience. A glaring gap in that all-important 22-27 age group.
That was the result of years of trading away picks for rentals, with the aim to win the Cup, compounded by low draft picks due to finishing high in the standings.
The best prospects for the Canucks three years ago was Jordan Schroeder, Nicklas Jensen and Brendan Gaunce. Yikes.
That all started to change two years ago when Gillis finally solved his Goaltender dilemma by trading away franchise goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils. This controversial move is perhaps what Gillis will be forever remembered for, be it good or bad.
The 2013 entry draft will be the first time Canucks draft twice in the first round, they will repeat this feat one year later when new boss Jim Benning shipped out Kesler to Anaheim for their 1st round pick.
These four first-rounders Bo Horvat (9 – 2013), Hunter Shinkaruk (24 – 2013), Jake Virtanen (6 – 2014) and Jared McCann (24 – 2014), marks the beginning of Canucks’ era of keeping most of their draft picks. Only time will tell, but 2013’s 3rd-rounder Cole Cassels, 4th-rounder Jordan Subban, 5th-rounder Anton Cederholm, and 2014’s 2nd-rounder Thatcher Demko, 7th-rounder Mackenzie Stewart are looking quite promising in terms of development.
This past June, the addition of Brock Boeser (23 – 2015) and Guillaume Brisebois (66 – 2015) looks to be future mainstay on a much younger Canucks roster in the near future.
Slowly and carefully, Linden and Benning is rebuilding Canuck’s rosters by “speeding up development” – as he described it. By trading away draft picks for young prospects, ie. 2nd-rounder of 2015 for Sven Baertschi (13 – 2011), the Canucks fast-tracked 4 years of development.
The addition of Sven (22-yr old), Luca Sbisa (25-yr old) and Brendan Sutter (26-yr old) – all previous 1st-rounders, Linden Vey (24-yr old) and Matt Bartkowski (27-yr) have successfully bridged the gap between the aging core and inexperienced prospects. This, basically is Benning’s plan of competing for the Cup while rebuilding the team for future.
Next time, we will start to look at the Top 5 Prospects within Canucks’ system, I’d like to clarify this list will only include players who have yet to play more than 10 regular season games with the big club. Players like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi have graduated from this list.