The Vancouver Canucks have had success finding great players in the first and second rounds. Their success in the later rounds is just as impressive. The team has been able to find a franchise player in the later rounds of the NHL draft as well as an all-time great defenseman.
5) Kevin Bieksa
The Canucks selected Kevin Bieksa in the fifth round with the 151st pick in the 2001 NHL Draft. He’s remembered largely for being a shutdown defenseman who played with an edge, being involved in fights, and throwing a lot of hits. After four seasons in Bowling Green, he signed an amateur tryout with the American Hockey League (AHL) team the Manitoba Moose.
He earned his NHL contract after getting into an off-ice incident with Fedor Federov, younger brother of Hall of Famer Sergei Federov (from ‘Ben Kuzma: The Fives: The Canucks’ five best and worst draft picks of the new millennium The Province,’ 05/01/2016). In 2005-06, he played 39 games in his first of 10 seasons with the Canucks.
He was involved in many highlights during his time in Vancouver, including scoring in game five of the 2010-11 Western Conference Final to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. After 10 seasons with the team, they traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2016 second-round pick. After playing 13 seasons in the NHL, he is now retired and has become a media star.
4) Alexander Edler
The Canucks outmaneuvered the Detroit Red Wings to steal the Swedish defenseman in the third round. The Canucks selected Alexander Edler with the 91st-overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. The player who was discovered while playing in a glorified beer league as a teen has come a long way.
He leads all Canucks defensemen in franchise history in goals, assists, points, and games played. He’s spent a total of 14 seasons in Vancouver, scoring 99 goals, 302 assists, and 401 points in 873 games. He has one additional season remaining on his contract, so the lead he has on all the defenseman stats will continue to grow. By the end of his career, he will be one of the greatest defenders in franchise history and likely inducted into the Canuck’s ring of honor.
3) Patrik Sundström
Although Patrik Sundström played five seasons in Vancouver, he made quite an offensive impact totaling 342 points in 374 games. He was drafted in the ninth round with the 175th-overall pick in the 1980 NHL Draft. The quiet Swedish forward built quick chemistry with winger Toni Tanti, as the two played a big role in the team’s offense (from ‘J.J. Adams: Canucks at 50: ‘Sunny’ memories of one Swede center in Sundstrom for Tanti’ The Province,’ 12/22/2019). His 91-point season in 1983-84 was an all-time team high until Bure broke it in 1992-93.
He joined the record books when he had seven points against the Penguins, the most any Canuck has had in a single game. He had six assists that game as well, making him one of six players to record that many assists in a road game. After five seasons, the Canucks traded him to New Jersey Devils for Greg Adams and Kirk McLean. As a Devil, he scored eight points in a 1987-88 playoff game breaking the playoff single-game point record — a record he still holds tied with Mario Lemieux. Although the team would miss Sundström’s offensive presence, Adams and McLean were great returns and helped the team reach the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Final.
2) Stan Smyl
Stan Smyl is known as the first true Canuck because he is the first drafted player to play for the franchise for an extended period of time. The Canucks drafted Smyl in the third round with the 40th-overall pick in the 1978 NHL Draft. Although he wasn’t the most skilled player entering the league, his hard work and dedication helped him reach his career-high of 38 goals and 88 points in 1982-83.
He finished his career as the all-time leader in many statistical categories including goals, assists, points, and games played. He became the first captain to lead the franchise to the Stanley Cup Final in 1981-82. He solidified his status as the first true Canuck when he became the first player to have his jersey retired by the team in 1991. He now serves as the director player development in Vancouver.
1) Pavel Bure
The Canucks drafted Pavel Bure in the sixth round with the 113th-overall pick in the 1989 NHL draft, which makes him the biggest draft-day steal. He dropped to the sixth round due to uncertainty surrounding his NHL eligibility, which depended on the number of games he had played in the Soviet elite league.
The NHL’s records showed the Russian forward had skated in just five games as opposed to the 11 needed, but thanks to Russian sportswriter Igor Kuperman, the Canucks learned otherwise (from ‘Mike Beamish: Pavel Bure’s road to Canucks paved by Russian sportswriter,’ Vancouver Sun,’ 11/02/2013).
Nicknamed the Russian Rocket due to his unmatched speed, he dominated as a Canuck. He tied Ivan Hlinka’s rookie point record with 60 points in 61 games. The two held that record until Elias Pettersson broke it in 2018-19. The following two seasons would be Bure’s best with the Canucks. He had a pair of 60 goal seasons and passed the 100-point mark. He led the way to the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Final with 16 goals and 31 points in 24 games. Bure became the first player in franchise history to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Success for Canucks in Late Rounds
The Canucks have done a great job of finding great value in the later rounds of the NHL draft. Along with the five players mentioned, they have drafted quite a few others late-round steals including Igor Larionov, Jannik Hansen, and Doug Lidster. Two of the five players featured on this list have had their jerseys retired by the Canucks and the team is hoping to find more who can have the same honor.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.