Lack of prospects heightens’ Canucks draft needs
of the 30 NHL teams, only three franchises have fewer prospects expected to play in the league
NEW YORK — Trading a goaltender is of immediate concern to the Vancouver Canucks.
However, with a genuine lack of prospect depth at forward and defence, the club should be concerned about being ranked 27th by Hockey’s Future in an assessment of picks projected to play in the NHL.
The Canucks didn’t even have a player rated in the top 50. Part of that is picking late in five years with general manager Mike Gillis at the hockey operations helm — 26th, 29th, 115th, 22nd and 10th — and part of it is bad drafting.
The best year in the last 10 was 2004, in which Cory Schneider (26th), Alex Edler (91st), Mike Brown (159th) and Jannik Hansen (287th) were selected. With an annual pledge to pick the best player when the Sunday selection process begins in Newark, N.J., it should also come a real need to fill a roster void with picks at Nos. 24, 85, 115, 145, 175 and 205.
The Canucks could lean toward a history of picking by position because they’ve taken 11 defencemen and seven centres the last five drafts. With Derek Roy not back and Maxim Lapierre an unrestricted free agent, they may shore up the middle.
Then again, there’s a lack of organization depth at left wing with Mason Raymond expected to also test unrestricted free agency. The Canucks don’t have a second-round choice, having surrendered it along with Kevin Connauton at the trade deadline.
With new coach John Tortorella looking for more bite and the Canucks drafting bigger centres in Brendan Gaunce, Alexandre Mallet and Joseph Labate, they could use the same amount of size and sandpaper on the left side with their 24th pick — if they don’t move up by swapping selections or in a possible Cory Schneider trade.
“We’ve talked to some teams about that possibility and you would always like to,” said Gillis. “You don’t know who’s available at No. 24 until you get into it. You have your list and you’re asking me questions I can’t answer.”
A trio of left wingers could provide that answer.
Kerby Rychel of the Windsor Spitfires in coming off successive 40-goal OHL seasons and Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts had a 72-point QMJHL campaign. The 6-foot-1, 205 pound Rychel is the son of former NHL forward Warren Rychel, and the Canucks are attracted by the hockey lineage and the fact the Spitfires winger plays a hard, physical game and goes to the net to battle and fight for rebounds and deflections. Skating is said to be an issue, but the Los Angeles native had 87 points (40-47) last season and 94 penalty minutes.
“A typical power forward with a big, booming shot,” said NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr. “He was used a lot on the point on the power pay and is good down low. He protects the puck well coming out of the corner.”
The 6-foot-1, 210 pound Erne has that certain snarl and nastiness that Tortorella would also favour. He’s not only able to drive the net, the New Haven, Conn., native has a good scoring touch and soft hands to bring an added dimension to the left side. A banger and a crasher, he won’t hesitate to hit and agitate. Another consideration is Valentin Zykov of Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL. The 6-foot, 210 pound native of St. Petersburg, Russia had 40 goals and 75 points in 67 games.
If the Canucks are looking at defensive depth, 6-foot-1, 211 pound Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Ryan Pulock should be of interest. The Grandview, Man., native had 14 goals and 45 points in 61 games.
“He’s probably a little underrated but he has one of the best shots,” said Marr. “He can move the puck and has all the ingredients to be a potential all-star in the league.”
OF NOTE — Gillis will interview former New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan to possibly team with Torotrella behind the Canucks bench. Scott Arniel is being considered as an assistant.
© Copyright (c) The Province