Canucks have crested interest in grooming talent

 

Resources abound to aid in developing Vancouver’s NHL hopefuls

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks prospects listen intently to former NHLer and team scout Dave Babych on Friday during a morning practice at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks prospects listen intently to former NHLer and team scout Dave Babych on Friday during a morning practice at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

More on This Story

 

PENTICTON — They have a combined 76 years in the professional hockey business so Lorne Henning, Vancouver Canucks assistant general manager, and Stan Smyl, senior adviser, have seen a few things along the way.

As players, they learned to train themselves without the benefit of a support system.

“Basically, you did everything on your own,” Smyl, 55, said. “The game has changed a lot since then. Now, from the day players get drafted by us, they come into our environment right away. We take them and talk to them and get them in our training program.

“We see where they are physically. We bring them in to let them see the city. We talk to them about how to take care of their lifestyle, how to handle the media and all these things.”

—————

TOP 10 CANUCKS PROSPECT PHOTOS HERE, or if you're using a mobile app, tap the story image and swipe.

—————

In the salary-cap world of the National Hockey League, developing your own talent is paramount to having success. The Canucks spend countless hours scouting players, both for the entry draft and through free agency, and then they spend to ensure these players have the resources necessary to prepare for their seasons, whether they are still in junior, heading to the American League, or getting ready to challenge for a spot on the big club.

Henning, who broke into the NHL with the New York Islanders in 1972 (and has never left), noted that the ownership’s backing has enabled the hockey department to hire specialists for all manner of things, from positional coaches, to skating coaches, to nutrition experts and sleep doctors. If it helps turn one player into a game-breaker and leads to a Stanley Cup, then the mission has been accomplished.

“It’s the one thing our organization has always done,” Henning, 61, said. “We’ve always spent money to get better if it’s to the cap, or developing players or finding players. You want to build up your organization to where you have a foundation and you’re good year after year after year and you just have to tweak a little bit. That’s the way you want to go.”

The entry draft is the obvious way to bring fresh talent to the club. Free agency is another, especially from the U.S. college ranks where players have often fallen through the cracks. It’s how the Canucks discovered Chris Tanev, now a regular on their blue-line. But it wasn’t a fluke.

Among other things, Smyl is responsible for scouting the NCAA free agent market and he has no less than three scouts reporting to him. Their most recent catch, six-foot-six checking centre Kellan Lain, had 10 teams pursuing him. Lain signed last March after three years at Lake Superior State.

“The three guys who work underneath me — Jonathan Bates, Brett Henning and Neil Komadoski — identify players and then I’ll go in to see them,” Smyl explained.

“Let’s take Kellan Lain as an example. Every one of our pro scouts went in to watch him two or three times. Lorne went in to watch him. We interviewed him twice, I think.

“We believe if you can find one or two players to sign out of college, you can really fill some holes. It’s like you’re getting a free pick in the draft. In Kellan Lain, we needed someone with some size and some muscle and that’s what he is, a third or fourth-liner. I know from talking to agents, we’re probably one of the more aggressive teams in the U.S. college free-agent field. Now it’s getting a lot more competitive.”

Defenceman Frank Corrado has been a Canucks prospect since 2011 when he was selected in the fifth round. He’s been through three summers in their system and is a big believer in the resources made available to aid in his development. He is convinced it’s been a factor in his dramatic rise up the depth chart.

At age 20 still, he has already appeared in seven NHL games and has a solid chance to make the big club this season, or at least be a first call-up.

“The Canucks do so much for you,” Corrado said. “As soon as you’re drafted, you’re in their system right away and they care about you. You go from the draft to their development camp and you get a little more familiar with the culture around the Canucks. There is a certain way you have to carry yourself as a Canuck and they make you very aware of that right away.

“During your season, they’re calling you every so often and they come to watch you play and they’re there, not to rip apart your game, but just to tell you what your game is looking like and giving you pointers here and there.”

In the summer, the Canucks have consultants and specialists available to the players. Skating coach Ryan Lonsberry is based in Ancaster, Ont., so the Canucks prospects living in southern Ontario have a resource without having to fly halfway across the country. Corrado, who is from Toronto, has found Lonsberry to be extremely helpful in his development.

“A lot of the Ontario guys skate together with Ryan and he basically does drills that are tailored for our seasons and our positions, stuff the Canucks want to see,” Corrado said. “It’s a great resource to have on the other side of the country. Some teams might not want to do that and just leave it up to you.

“The Canucks basically give you all the tools. By the time you come to camp, you know what to expect and you know you’re prepared.

“I’m a big fan of what they do for us. Obviously my progression as a player shows that. If you buy in to what they’re preaching, I think you can get a lot out of it.”

The five-team Young Stars prospects tourney, conceived by the Canucks, is another step along that path. It’s in its third year and Smyl swears by it. For some players, he noted, it’s a reality check, and for others a launching pad into main camp.

“You never want to take players’ dreams away from them,” Smyl said. “They always think they’re ready right away and this gives them the opportunity to see the reality of their situations. They realize where they’re at when they play competitive games against other organizations.

epap@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/elliottpap

—————

TOP 10 CANUCKS PROSPECT PHOTOS HERE, or if you're using a mobile app, tap the story image and swipe.

—————

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks prospects listen intently to former NHLer and team scout Dave Babych on Friday during a morning practice at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton.
 

Vancouver Canucks prospects listen intently to former NHLer and team scout Dave Babych on Friday during a morning practice at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

 
Vancouver Canucks prospects listen intently to former NHLer and team scout Dave Babych on Friday during a morning practice at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton.
Vancouver Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning is on his cellphone while watching the team’s prospects at morning practice on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton. FOR TOP 10 CANUCKS PROSPECTS, START CLICKING ON THE 'NEXT' BUTTON' ABOVE THIS PHOTO.
1 Frank Corrado, 20, D. The 2011 fifth-round pick is already ahead of the curve, having played seven games for the big club last season, including four in the playoffs. He’s a Chris Tanev-type — calm under pressure and makes a good first pass. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 90 per cent.
2 Niklas Jensen, 20, LW-RW. After playing against men in the Swedish Elite League last season, the 2011 first-rounder carried that into his first prospects game Thursday in Penticton and was a standout, both lugging the puck and shooting the puck. Might not start season with big club but should be high on call-up list. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 85 per cent.
3 Joacim Eriksson, 23, G. The southpaw netminder won a Swedish Elite League title last season and brought that form into his first prospects game, shaking off an early bad goal to finish with 38 saves. Will likely start on the farm in Utica but if Eddie Lack falters, could wind up as Roberto Luongo’s backup for a spell. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 75 per cent. (Chance of starting a game: 10 per cent.)
4 Bo Horvat, 18, C. At 206 pounds, Horvat has the size to play now. He also has the skating ability and the offensive instincts. Play without the puck and faceoff prowess might be an issue at the NHL level. Pre-season will determine where he starts, either with the big club or back in junior with the London Knights (OHL). Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 50 per cent.
5 Brendan Gaunce, 19, C. Could be the next Manny Malhotra, but will have to improve his foot speed and faceoff work. Good size at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds but still at junior age so it’s either the big club or back to the Belleville Bulls (OHL). World junior coach Brent Sutter doesn’t think this 2012 first-rounder is ready for prime time and Gaunce’s first prospects game Thursday wasn’t stellar. He’ll get a better look in pre-season and, presumably, skate with better players. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 25 per cent.
6 Hunter Shinkaruk, 18, LW. A dynamic skater and offensive player, his age and the Canucks’ depth chart conspire against him. Not afraid to take chances in the offensive zone — tried a between the legs goalmouth pass Thursday — and excellent on forecheck. Was impressive in first prospects outing. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: 10 per cent.
7 Peter Andersson, 22, D. A fifth-round pick in 2009, Andersson finally came over from Sweden last season and appeared in 42 AHL games with the Chicago Wolves. He’s a steady, reliable blue-liner who moves the puck well. Might need a rash of injuries to get sniff with big club. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: two per cent.
8 Henrik Tommernes, 23, D. New to the North American game, the Swede has two-plus seasons of Swedish Elite League experience. Was a little helter-skelter in first prospects game on Thursday, once doing a 360 in front of his net while looking for an outlet pass. Like Andersson, Tommernes will need a ton of injuries to get the call. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: one per cent.
9 Jordan Subban, 18, D. He doesn’t have the build of big brother P.K. but he does have some of the skill. Jordan moves the puck, seems very at home on the point on the power play and can give a hit as well as take one. Not ready for prime time, though, and will almost certainly be sent back to junior. Chance of being in a Canuck jersey this season: zero per cent.
10 Cole Cassels, 18, C. Tall and slim like dad Andrew, Cole is a 200-foot player with good awareness in all zones and good poise with the puck. At a listed six feet and 178 pounds, he’ll need to get a bit stronger before he’s ready to challenge for an NHL spot. A return to junior beckons. Chance of being in a Canucks jersey this season: zero per cent.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice
Did the Oilers make the right move firing Eakins?
 
Yes, he was over his head.
No, the problem is much bigger.
Fire MacT. That is all.
Who the heck knows?