In 2004, the Vancouver Canucks had one of the best drafts in team history. It was Dave Nonis’ first draft as an NHL general manager (GM) and he did not disappoint. Fans in Vancouver are hoping recent drafts and the upcoming one lead to similar results. The 2004 draft had nine rounds in total, two more than the current draft. Although not all rounds led to future NHLers, the quality of picks is impressive.
First Round: Cory Schnieder
With the 26th pick in the 2004 draft, the Canucks selected Cory Schneider. The goaltender spent four seasons playing in Vancouver before being traded to the New Jersey Devils.
He played for Boston College for three seasons before spending time with the Manitoba Moose after being drafted. Schneider spent the next three seasons in Manitoba and had a few opportunities to play with the Canucks. In 2010-11, he spent the entire season backing up Roberto Luongo, playing in 25 games.
Since the two goalies combined had the fewest goals against in the NHL that season, they won the William M. Jennings Trophy. His workload increased a bit during the following season — he started 33 games, winning 20, and posting a .937 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.96 goals against average (GAA).
In the 2011-12 playoffs, he replaced Luongo in the first round after the team went down 2-0 to the L.A. Kings. The Canucks won one game before being eliminated in Game 5. Schneider became the starter the following season over Luongo, starting 30 of the 48 games they played that season. He had a .927 SV% and a 2.11 GAA while having a career-high five shutouts.
His first season as the Canucks starter was his last, as then-GM Mike Gillis traded the 26-year-old goaltender to the Devils for the ninth-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, which the team used to select current captain Bo Horvat. With the Devils, he’s played 311 games, but has struggled to stay healthy and remain the starter during the past three seasons.
Second Round: Traded to Penguins
The Canucks traded away their second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for goaltender Johan Hedberg, who spent one season in Vancouver. The Penguins used the 61st pick to select Alex Goligoski. He spent four seasons in Pittsburgh before the team traded him to the Dallas Stars for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Trading away the second-round pick for a backup goalie seems like a big mistake by the Canucks as they missed out on an opportunity to select an offensive defenseman, who has 407 points in 868 games throughout his NHL career.
Third Round: Alex Edler
Although the Canucks missed out on Goligoski, they hit their third-round pick out of the park. They traded up in the draft with the Dallas Stars to make the 91st pick of the draft, selecting Alex Edler. The Swedish defenseman has the most points all-time for a Canucks defenseman with 401 points. He has spent his entire 14-year NHL career with the team.
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During the 2005-06 season, he played with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League (WHL) before splitting the following season between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL). At 21, he became a staple on the team’s defense, playing in 75 games in 2007-08. In 2011-12, he had a career-high 11 goals and 49 points, which he was rewarded for by being sent to the NHL All-Star game.
Since then, Edler has been the team’s top defenseman, but the addition of Quinn Hughes has taken some of the pressure off of him. He is now on the second defensive pair for the team and has quietly put together a good season. After signing a two-year, $12 million contract last summer, he has 33 points in 59 games. He will go down as one of the best defensemen in team history, largely due to having the most points for defenders and the time he has spent with the team.
Fourth to Eighth Round: Filled with Misses
From the fourth to the eight rounds, Nonis struggled to pick a long-term NHLer. Out of the five picks, only one player managed to stick around, while the rest didn’t play a single game in the NHL. With 159th pick, the Canucks selected Mike Brown.
Brown played two seasons with the Canucks — a total of 39 games. They traded him to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenceman Nathan McIver, who spent the rest of his career in the AHL. Besides the two seasons in Vancouver, he played 407 NHL games, finishing his career with 778 penalty minutes. The last season he played was 2015-16 with the Montreal Canadians.
Ninth Round: Jannik Hansen
The Canucks selected Jannik Hansen with the 287th pick. Hansen played in Vancouver for 10 seasons, scoring 105 goals and 235 points in 565 games. He played an important role in the team’s success in the late 2000s and the early 2010s. The Danish forward was a staple on the team’s third line early in his career.
As the team aged, he earned more minutes for himself, earning an opportunity to play with the Sedins. His combination of speed and skill combined with how hard he forechecked allowed him to play for as long as he did. In 2015-16, Hansen had his best season, recording 22 goals and 38 points in 67 games.
The following season was the last in his contract and he struggled with injuries. After 10 seasons with Vancouver, the team traded him to the San Jose Sharks for Nikolay Goldobin before the trade deadline. He played one full season with the Sharks before playing one season in the KHL for CSKA Moscow. In April 2019, Hansen decided to retire from hockey and be a full-time dad.
Canucks Fans Hoping for the Team to Replicate
Fans are hoping the Canucks had the same success in the past few drafts as they did in 2004, but it is still too soon to see the full picture. Being able to draft four long-term NHLers is huge and having three of them play for your franchise for multiple seasons is important. Schneider was a great first-round pick as he started for the team and supported Luongo as a backup. Although his situation was handled poorly by the team, it resulted in drafting Horvat.
Edler holds the most points on the team for a defenseman and is a mentor to younger defenders like Hughes. Hansen played a key role in the bottom six when the team was at its best and then hit career highs when the team was rebuilding. The 2004 draft was the best that Canucks fans have seen, but with the success of Elias Pettersson and Hughes in the NHL, there is a chance that the 2017 and 2018 draft class for the Canucks may be better.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.