Jeff Paterson: Canucks’ future still muddled as goal-scoring remains a glaring issue

 

 
 
 
 
BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Olli Juolevi gives an interview after being selected fifth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.
 

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Olli Juolevi gives an interview after being selected fifth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.

Photograph by: Jen Fuller, The Province

BUFFALO, N.Y. – It’s the elephant in the locker-room, and it’s growing larger by the day for the Vancouver Canucks.

Actually, it’s more like two elephants, because at some point the hockey club has to address the succession plan for that day that will inevitably arrive when Henrik and Daniel Sedin don’t play for the organization any more.

And that day could be as soon as two seasons away. Listen carefully and you can hear the clock ticking.

This weekend’s National Hockey League draft in Buffalo represented another opportunity for the Canucks to look to the future and secure a top-level scorer to build around for years to come. Instead, they used the fifth overall pick in the draft on Friday to add promising defenceman Olli Juolevi from the Memorial Cup champion London Knights.

By all accounts, Juolevi is a heck of a player and certainly addresses a need for the organization with the skills he possesses. To hear general manager Jim Benning tell it, Juolevi dazzled at the World Junior championship, helping the Finns strike gold on home ice.

Benning raved after the pick that, in all his years of scouting, he’d never seen a 17-year-old defenceman do the things Juolevi did in a tournament usually dominated by 19-year-olds.

So it’s high praise, to be sure, and the prospect of Juolevi patrolling the Canucks’ blueline for the next decade should excite the fan base.

In isolation, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the selection of Juolevi as a player who can help the Vancouver Canucks for years to come.

However, by choosing a defenceman with their first pick and another with their third selection (140th overall), the Canucks have yet again skirted the issue of pure production.

Juoelvi may be able to generate offence from defence, but someone has to finish. This is a team that needs goal-scorers, and somehow the franchise managed to leave Buffalo with just one forward in the first five rounds of the draft, and at that they went off the board to take Will Lockwood of the United States Development Team in the third round (64th overall).

Lockwood’s a speedster who projects as a middle-six forward in the mold of a Jannik Hansen or possibly Carl Hagelin. Both are nice NHLers, but neither is a guy you build a franchise around, and it would certainly seem the same is true of Lockwood.

The Canucks later added a few more forwards, including former Vancouver Giant Jacob Stukel in the sixth round, but let’s be honest — they’re not looking to guys taken where Stukel was drafted to carry an NHL team.

Obviously, there are high hopes for 2015 first-rounder Brock Boeser to become the scorer in the NHL that he has been at every other level of hockey. However, after a draft weekend like this one, there is also mounting pressure on the organization to ensure that happens.

And there is also incredible pressure on Benning now to make the right call in free agency next week. Against the wishes of the league, he’s on the record wanting to talk to just about every player who is headed for the open market and he has to find a way to land at least one of his high-profile free agent targets.

The Canucks plan to bring a few of the big fish in the free-agent pond to town over the next week to sell them on the city and the organization’s outlook. That will require some of the best work the Canucks do all year, because the players will get their money regardless where they go.

The Canucks will need more than bags of cash to convince players that Vancouver is the right spot for them at this stage of their careers.

As the Canucks’ front office leaves draft weekend in Buffalo, it heads west back to Vancouver. However, in the big picture of where the Canucks are going, this weekend did little to clear that up.

As such, the overall direction of the hockey club – particularly when it comes to adding elite skilled players — still seems so unclear.

 
 
 
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BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Olli Juolevi gives an interview after being selected fifth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.
 

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Olli Juolevi gives an interview after being selected fifth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.

Photograph by: Jen Fuller, The Province

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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