The Fives: The Canucks' five best and worst draft picks of the new millennium

 

 
 
 
 
Just a little too good: Cory Schneider outplayed Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for a spell before being traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he continues to shine on a goal-starved team.
 

Just a little too good: Cory Schneider outplayed Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for a spell before being traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he continues to shine on a goal-starved team.

Photograph by: Chris Szagola, AP files

 Here’s a peek inside the NHL scouting fraternity.

Talk to any rink rat, any tabulator or talent who has been around when wooden sticks and no advertising on the boards were the norm, and there’s a consensus. If two of your picks in any draft have credible NHL careers, with your team or another one, that draft is considered a success.

The Vancouver Canucks have had their share of hits and misses. Here’s a look at what has transpired after Henrik and Daniel Sedin became the draft's second and third overall selections in 1999. In our new millennium assessment of what’s gone right and wrong, we’re bracketing the years from 2000 to 2012, because it’s too early in the development curve to properly critique the last three drafts.

THE BEST

1. CORY SCHNEIDER (26th overall, 2004)

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 26: Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2004 NHL Draft on June 26, 2004 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The hope: Brian Burke believed you could always trade for a goalie or get one in free agency. It took a startling second-round playoff exit in 2003 to change that flawed thinking.

The high-octane Canucks were punted to the sidelines in seven games by blowing a 3-1 series lead to Minnesota. Dan Cloutier struggled, and that June, the Canucks didn’t draft a goalie. They did in 2004. Schneider had three standout seasons at Boston College — including two Frozen Four appearances — but ranked behind Al Montoya, Devan Dubnyk and David Shantz at the draft.

But even before Schneider got to the AHL, Roberto Luongo had arrived in Vancouver and the long-range plan to have two capable stoppers had to first work through the Canucks' Jason LaBarbera, Curtis Sanford and Andrew Raycroft experiments. Luongo and Schneider would combine to win the NHL's Jennings Trophy in 2011 for fewest goals allowed, but their combined incomes would become a problem.

The reality: By 2011-12, Schneider was putting up better numbers than Luongo. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the demoted starter admitted “it’s Cory’s team” and expected to have the nine years left on his mammoth 12-year, $64-million-US contract moved in the summer. It proved unmovable.

Ownership didn’t want a combined $9.3-million cap hit in 2013-14, so, in a draft-day shocker, Schneider was traded to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick, which became current Canucks centre Bo Horvat. The amiable and accountable Schneider would prove to be the one who got away because he was younger, cheaper and had untapped potential.

He would emerge from the shadow of Devils legend Martin Brodeur and had a 2.15 goals-against average, .924 saves percentage and four shutouts for the league’s lowest-scoring team this season.

2. RYAN KESLER (23rd overall, 2003)

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 21: Ryan Kesler, a first round pick (#23 overall) of the Vancouver Canucks, stands for a portrait during the 2003 NHL Entry Draft on June 21, 2003 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images/NHLI)

The hope: After being fourth in Ohio State scoring as a rookie and already possessing a well-developed, two-way game, Kesler caught the Canucks’ attention for his skill and grit. Trevor Linden and Brendan Morrison were aging and there had to be a plan beyond Henrik Sedin for the potential of a scoring/shutdown centre.

Eric Staal (2), Jeff Carter (11), Zach Parise (17), Ryan Getzlaf (19) and Marc-Antoine Pouliot (22) were selected in a strong pool of centres, but Kesler would prove his worth as a 20-goal scorer and Selke Trophy candidate in 2008-09 when aligned with the late Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin. He had 26 goals, was named team MVP ahead of Roberto Luongo and the Sedins and was a Selke Trophy finalist.

The reality: Kesler became as polarizing as productive. From the Philadelphia offer sheet, a prickly relationship with the media, to jokingly stating “I hate Canada" before the 2010 Olympics, his loud-and-proud nature would rub many the wrong way because, in the end, he wanted out of a skill-challenged team. But he could play.

Kesler hit the 20-goal plateau seven times, and his 41-goal outburst and march to the 2011 Stanley Cup final and Selke Trophy would be his crowning achievements. He figured in 11 of the 14 goals the Canucks scored in a second-round win over Nashville that spring, then suffered a torn labrum against San Jose. Even then, he scored the tying goal with 13.2 seconds left in the series' deciding game. He would need cortisone shots to keep playing.

He had 21 goals with Anaheim this season and led the Ducks with four playoff goals and was 56.4-per-cent on face-offs, and is a $6.8-million cap hit the next four years. Too rich for this market, but not Disneyland.

  

3. KEVIN BIEKSA (151st overall, 2001)

Ken Gigliotti / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / Nov 5 2004- LAWLESS STORY- Manitoba Moose player Kevin Bieksa in practice with cut on his eyebrow one of many banged up Moose players at the Wpg Arena practice , and stikll smiling -kg [PNG Merlin Archive]

The hope: In the fifth round, you never quite know what you’re getting. Bieksa showed some bite and offensive potential at Bowling Green and, after four seasons, signed an amateur tryout with the AHL Manitoba Moose in March 2004. It was there that the infamous off-ice, one-punch dropping of Fedor Fedorov after a spilled-beer incident — Bieksa did the deed, apologized and offered up another suds, but Fedorov wanted to fight outside the watering hole — impressed Brian Burke.

In his first NHL game, Bieksa took a roughing penalty 10 seconds into his first shift. He would hit and fight and his breakout 42-point season in 2006-07 paved the way for him to become a mainstay, a growing presence in the room and a fan favourite.

The reality: A number of injuries — including a calf laceration, torn ankle tendons, fractured foot, knee and groin ailments — would affect Bieksa's mobility and battle level, but not his longing to contribute. In Game 4, as the Canucks were being swept by San Jose in 2013, he could barely move because an earlier groin injury had morphed into a full-blown core concern.

Yet he still accused the Sharks of embellishment to try and rally his club. It’s what he did best. Anything to gain an edge. He would also score to propel the Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

In the end, Bieksa “wanted to go down with the ship” here, but quickly looked for alternatives when not part of the plan. First San Jose, then ultimately Anaheim. It didn’t take long because he always felt he could play as long as he wanted to. He played 597 games here, 15th in franchise history.

 

4. ALEX EDLER (91st overall, 2004)

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 26: Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2004 NHL Draft on June 26, 2004 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The hope: Unranked by NHL Central Scouting the entire season, the Canucks were convinced by European scout Thomas Gradin that there was a diamond in the rough lurking in northern Sweden. They traded up to beat Detroit to the punch and landed a big but raw prospect. His transition to the North American game was aided first by playing in Kelowna (WHL) and then Manitoba (AHL).

Fellow Swede Matthias Ohlund would prove his NHL mentor and Edler went from simply clearing the puck out of his zone to compiling a career-high 11 goals and 49 points in 2011-12 to cement his offensive potential. He also would add a physical presence in the 2012 playoffs.

The reality: Edler’s emerging confidence was shattered in a shocking 2013-14 season under John Tortorella. He was suspended early, sidelined 16 games by a knee injury and never got his game under him with just 22 points and a eye-popping, league-worst minus-39 rating.

In trying to digest a new zone-defence system — placing a premium on positioning as opposed to initiating contact — he was as lost as his teammates. He chased players, rushed back when his partner was caught on a pinch and second-guessed himself. Edler did rebound and was having a decent 2015-16 until his season ended with a Feb. 9 leg fracture.

 

 

5. JANNIK HANSEN (287th overall, 2004)

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 26: Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2004 NHL Draft on June 26, 2004 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The hope: He wasn’t big, Denmark wasn’t a hockey hotbed and being a ninth-round pick suggested some curiosity about a player who skated well and had some sneaky skill. Acclimating to the North American game with a 24-goal season with Portland (WHL) in 2005-06 got him on the fast track to the AHL the following season. His NHL transition would be more methodical because he was just as valuable defensively.

The reality: Speed kills and Hansen has lots of it. It made him a breakaway threat on the penalty kill and an even-strength concern.

A pair of 16-goal seasons and then a career-high 22 goals this season spoke of his value to play any role and play it well. It has provided the Canucks with a versatile 30-year-old player, who’s a financial fit and would draw a lot of interest if the club continues on a path to re-tooling the club this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORST

1. PATRICK WHITE (25th overall, 2007)

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 22: 25th overall pick Patrick White of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portraits the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 22, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The hope: In 2004, the Canucks didn’t draft a centre, but in 2005, they took two: Matt Butcher in the fifth round and Mario Bliznak in the seventh. In 2006, it was Evan Fuller in the seventh round. Only Bliznak actually played an NHL game — six in total — so the Canucks needed to fill a growing concern down the middle.

They ignored David Perron, who had just put on a show at the Memorial Cup at the Pacific Coliseum. Instead, they saw 18 high-school goals and eight in the USHL as rationale to select White ahead of Perron, who went to St. Louis with the next pick. White would collect just 27 goals in four seasons at the University of Minnesota.

The reality: White never played an NHL game. The best part of the first-round miss was a salary dump by San Jose. White was shipped to the Sharks in August 2009, along with Daniel Rahimi for Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich.

Ehrhoff would hit the magic 50-point plateau in 2010-11 and bolt for big bucks in Buffalo. White would play in Germany, Slovakia, KHL, Austria and Sweden.

 

2. TAYLOR ELLINGTON (33rd overall, 2007)

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 23: 33rd overall pick Taylor Ellington of the Vancouver Canucks poses for a portrait during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 23, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The hope: The big kid from Victoria expressed surprise at the draft that he was selected that high. He was a menace with Everett (WHL) and piled up 130 penalty minutes to go with 32 points (6-26). He was also a minus-20, which should have been a red flag, because mobility would be a major concern in the pro ranks.

The reality: Ellington never played an NHL game. He played more games in the ECHL than the AHL and would eventually wind up in Denmark. In 2012, he was part of a desperate trade-deadline deal for Sammy Pahlsson in which the Canucks also coughed up two fourth-round picks to Columbus.

3. NATHAN SMITH (23rd overall, 2000)

The hope: After four seasons with Swift Current (WHL), including 28-goal and 90-point seasons, the 6-foot-2 centre looked like he would be part of the future. He wasn’t. The Edmonton native was often injured and played but four games for the Canucks. A knee injury in his third season almost ended his career.

The reality: Smith wasn’t re-signed and took a free-agent deal with Pittsburgh and didn’t scored in 13 games. A one-year deal with Colorado ended with another knee injury and a one-year deal with Minnesota resulted in nine scoreless games. He would also play in Germany.

 

 

 

4. CODY HODGSON (10th overall, 2008)

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 20: Tenth overall pick, Cody Hodgson of the Vancouver Canucks is interviewed after being selected during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 20, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

The hope: Widely regarded as one of the smartest and hardest-working players in the OHL, the Canucks were confident that a 92-point season would translate into NHL effectiveness, even though there was concern about the centre’s skating, because as a projected third-liner, he would need to be strong in transition.

The reality: In the 2009 camp, Hodgson struggled through six of seven pre-season games with a misdiagnosed back injury. Alain Vigneault framed it as the player using the injury as an excuse for a poor camp. Hodgson had 16 goals in 61 games, but was dealt for Zack Kassian.

 

 

 

 

 


5. JORDAN SCHROEDER (22nd overall, 2009)

MONTREAL , QC - JUNE 26: Jordan Schroeder poses for a portrait after being selected 22nd overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The hope: That a dozen teams who passed on the diminutive centre — he was ranked ninth in one poll — made a mistake. Schroeder’s size would be a burden as he was a third-liner who suffered a shoulder injury and an ankle fracture prior to the 2013-14 season. 

The reality: Schroeder couldn’t stay healthy and was pigeon-holed behind Henrik Sedin and Kesler. He scored just six goals in in 56 games over two seasons. He signed as a free agent with Minnesota and played 26 games with the Wild this season and 40 in the AHL.

Jason Botchford and Ben Kuzma team up to deliver The Fives, a weekly Canucks-focused series that runs until the end of June. Check back next Sunday for the second instalment!

 
 
 
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Just a little too good: Cory Schneider outplayed Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for a spell before being traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he continues to shine on a goal-starved team.
 

Just a little too good: Cory Schneider outplayed Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for a spell before being traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he continues to shine on a goal-starved team.

Photograph by: Chris Szagola, AP files

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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