Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Bright Future

For what seems like an eternity, the Vancouver Canucks have been dubbed as an organization with the inability to bring in young talent through the entry draft. The Canucks’ scouting staff has been the subject of continuous criticism from not only the media, but also the so-called die-hard fans here in Vancouver. I think this criticism has been completely unwarranted and unfair to chief scout Ron Delorme and the rest of his staff. In light of Juraj Simek’s signing yesterday, I thought I might analyze what Canuck fans have to look forward to possibly as early as next season with the arrival of a splendid new crop of talented prospects unearthed by Vancouver’s unappreciated yet accomplished scouting staff.

Two prospects from the draft class of 2004 headline the list of Vancouver’s prospects who are essentially ready to perform on the National Hockey League stage. Alexander Edler, Vancouver’s second round pick in 04, excelled as Manitoba’s number one defenceman last season in the American Hockey League and was heavily relied upon in all situations with the team. The native of Ostersund, Sweden also looked very impressive when filling in with the big club on more than one occasion last season. I would be shocked if Alexander Edler wasn’t on Vancouver’s opening night roster come October. Jannik Hansen, Vancouver’s ninth round pick in 04, has the potential to become one of the finest late round steals in not only the history of the Canucks, but also that of the entire National Hockey League. Hansen burst onto the radar of many Canuck fans during Vancouver’s playoff run last season. He gave the impression of being a seasoned veteran in only his first few games in the NHL. Many believe that his performance in the playoffs all but guaranteed his spot on the club this season. It surely won’t be long before the native of Herlev, Denmark will be featured on one of the Canucks’ top two lines.

Goaltender Cory Schneider and defenceman Luc Bourdon are regularly looked at as Vancouver’s top two prospects and in the case of both of these young men, the sky is the limit on their uncapped potential. Many consider Schneider to be the best goaltender outside of the National Hockey League, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to live up to all the hype. The recent graduate of Boston College will share goaltending duties with Drew MacIntyre for the Manitoba Moose this season and will to further establish his game against professional skaters for the first time in his career. Bourdon, Vancouver’s famous first round pick in what is now being referred to as the “Sidney Crosby draft,” is another prospect who will get his opportunity to make the big club this season. In Bourdon’s first professional training camp, he impressed the Canucks brass so much that he basically set himself up for disappointment in his second kick at the can. Bourdon is continually making big strides to become a regular player at the NHL level, and will undoubtedly join Vancouver’s reputable defensive core in the near future.

Like many other Vancouver Canucks fans, when I first heard the name of these following prospects, I will admit that I didn’t know very much about them and consequently wasn’t a huge fan of the selections. But now, they deservingly headline the list of Vancouver’s top forward prospects. Michael Grabner, Mason Raymond and Patrick White all have the raw talent to make the next step in their careers. For Grabner and Raymond, that next step will likely be valuable members of the Manitoba Moose. They both certainly have world class speed along with pure goal scoring instincts, but need to bulk up in order to eventually crack the Canucks’ roster. White’s next step in his career will be with the University of Minnesota Gophers, where he too will be a valuable member of the club. White is definitely a work-in-progress and shouldn’t be expected to crack the Canucks roster any time soon but if his development continues as it has in the past, the native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota will certainly make his dream to play in the NHL a reality.

With several other talented prospects in the system such as Juraj Simek, Sergei Shirokov, Daniel Rahimi and Taylor Ellington, the future undeniably looks bright for the Vancouver Canucks. This upcoming season will be a very important year for the development and growth of several Canuck prospects but from what they’ve shown in the past, they will certainly rise to the occasion. The Canucks’ scouting staff is only now beginning to receive the credit they truly deserve and hopefully this will continue and ameliorate into the future.

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