Canucks Must Keep An Eye On Local Talent

There can’t be a better feeling than slapping on the jersey of your hometown team.

Well, except maybe winning the Stanley Cup, but let’s lower the bar a bit here.

The Canucks have brought in local players such as Dan Hamhuis and the departed Jason Garrison through free agency. The organization however has slacked when it comes to drafting B.C. born or WHL talent.

Cue Scouter Jim.

Benning broke down the barrier at the draft last year by selecting Jake Virtanen of Abbotsford, B.C. at sixth overall.

There were questions about whether he selected the best player available at the draft, with dazzling prospects such as William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers still available at the sixth spot. Despite the controversy, the Canucks general manager brought in some high-end B.C. talent into the organization, something that has been lacking for quite some time.

West Coast Bias

During the Gillis administration, the Canucks steered clear of drafting any B.C. born players or even WHL players for that matter. While he was with the Canucks from 2008-2014, they drafted only two B.C. born players, and none higher than the fifth round.

Prab Rai was a fifth-round selection in Gillis’ first draft in 2008. He flashed NHL potential while playing with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, but his career was tragically cut short by a car accident during 2009. The only other B.C. born player the Canucks selected was Wesley Myron, taken in the sixth round in 2012.

Gillis only drafted two other players from the WHL during his six years with the Canucks, the notable one being Hunter Shinkaruk.

Vancouver's prospect pool slowly dwindled during the Gillis' administration, where the emphasis was on the present rather than the future. (CalvinChanPhoto/Flickr)
Vancouver’s prospect pool slowly dwindled during the Gillis’ administration, where the emphasis was on the present rather than the future. (CalvinChanPhoto/Flickr)

On average, 33 WHL players were selected in each draft while Gillis was in charge of the Canucks. That’s approximately 16 percent of all draftees in that time span.

Gillis only drafted three WHL players in the 37 picks he had while in power. That accounts for 8 percent of his draft picks with the organization.

It’s no secret that drafting was an afterthought for the Gillis administration. The roster was assembled for a Stanley Cup run, which left a huge hole in the Canucks prospect system.

If the Canucks weren’t investing as much time and money into scouting during those years, wouldn’t it have made sense to put your scouting efforts into local talent? Of course it’s important to have scouts everywhere, but it seems a little strange that Gillis drafted such little local talent when the prospects close by would have been the easiest to scout.

What Could Have Been

It’s hard to put a lot of blame on the Gillis administration for missing out on some local draft picks, because drafting does require some degree of luck. However, these local players were passed on by the Canucks during Gillis’ tenure.

They had the chance to draft Victoria, B.C. native and Kelowna Rocket Tyson Barrie in the 2009 draft, where he was taken at 64th overall by the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks selected a bust with Anton Rodin at 53rd overall in that draft. Rodin never got his game going in the AHL, and is now playing for Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Hockey League (where he is playing on the same team as former Canuck Bill Sweatt).

Tyson Barrie was passed over by the Canucks in the 2009 draft. He is now a staple on the Avalanche blueline. (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)
Tyson Barrie was passed over by the Canucks in the 2009 draft. He is now a staple on the Avalanche blueline. (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Like many other teams, the Canucks passed on Vancouver Giant Brendan Gallagher, who wasn’t selected until 147th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. The Canucks drafted defenceman Adam Polasek just two picks before Montreal took Gallagher. Polasek left the organization last season to play in his home country, the Czech Republic.

It might be too early to tell with some of the more recent drafts, but even in 2012, the Canucks selected Alexandre Mallet with the 57th overall pick. Mallet is already having trouble producing in the ECHL, but 58th overall pick Jordan Martinook (Arizona) and 60th overall pick Damon Severson (New Jersey Devils) are showing loads more potential. Martinook was a former Vancouver Giant, while Severson was a former Kelowna Rocket.

While the Canucks under Gillis didn’t put an emphasis on drafting, they could have sweetened their track record with a few other local picks.

By selecting Virtanen, Benning showed that he won’t shy away from local prospects. It’s unlikely but not impossible that the Canucks could draft locally again with their 23rd pick. However, if the Canucks do acquire those second and third round picks that they desire, then they might have a good shot at drafting more local talent again this year.