When Henrik and Daniel Sedin joined the Vancouver Canucks as special advisors to general manager Jim Benning, everyone was excited to see what their brilliant minds would bring to the team’s front office. After over 2000 games and 2000 points in the NHL, they will be doing their work behind the scenes rather than on the ice. Player development will be their initial focus as Abbotsford Centre and the Abbotsford Canucks will be their home for the foreseeable future.
It gives us an opportunity to go out there a lot. I think that’s also something we want to do, to work closely with (Abbotsford GM) Ryan Johnson and be a part of that team. So I think everything kind of just fell together. It was perfect timing.
Talk to the coaches, learn a little bit about what they see in players…We’ve always just been players; we never really looked at other players, like to evaluate them. I think that’s something we liked (in the last month), evaluating players and all that. I think it’ll be a fun thing when the season gets going, to go to Abbotsford and then watch those games and watch practice.Daniel Sedin (from ‘‘The most fun I’ve had in a long time’: Daniel Sedin relishing active role in Canucks management’, The Province, 8/24/21)
With Henrik and Daniel set to become very active in the Canucks’ day-to-day operations of their new American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, expect them to become fast experts on many of the prospects the Canucks have in their farm system. I’m sure they will start picking their favourites pretty fast. So before we get into who some of those could be, let’s take a glance at three possible things they will be looking for when they are scouting over there.
If you looked up the word character in the dictionary, you would find Henrik and Daniel’s names in the definition. Over the course of their careers, they were two of the classiest individuals in the NHL from the way they carried themselves to their involvement in the community. They also became two of the most respected people in the league, both on and off the ice.
They taught me not only on the ice but off the ice, how to be a true pro. They get involved, as much as any players I’ve seen throughout my career, in the community. They treat people the right way… especially their own teammates, coaches, staff, media. They’re just like the ultimate professionals.Former linemate Alex Burrows
So it would stand to reason that the Sedins would be looking for that trait in the players they scout and evaluate. In fact, it is probably number one on their list.
A close second to character will definitely be work ethic. The Sedins could have given up their NHL dream after their rookie season and returned to Sweden. But they didn’t and ended up becoming iconic Canucks and future Hall of Famers. All because of hard work and determination. Season after season they paced the team in fitness testing and dedicated their offseasons to getting better and stronger.
They were two of my heroes growing up. Seeing them every summer, working out with them and being on the ice with them, how professional they are, how they get their bodies ready for every season, is something I really admire and try to take after. They obviously have some unbelievable skill. But I think their work ethic is what separates them from most guys. Just being around them, you feel like you’re getting better.Former NHL goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
The Sedins’ work ethic and character are the reasons why so many players looked up to them in the dressing room. They were the example of what hard work can get you. Yes, they had unbelievable skill, but it was the work they put in that ultimately got them to where they are in the Canucks’ and NHL history books today.
I’m sure the Sedins will gravitate to the hard workers in the prospect pool and search intently for that trait when scouting for future drafts, trades, and free-agent signings.
The third and final piece of the Sedin puzzle is hockey IQ. Not only are they hard workers and character individuals, but they are also smart. Like Wayne Gretzky/Mario Lemieux smart. Henrik was one of the best playmakers in the NHL because of how he thought the game. The Sedins as a duo made the cycle game what it is today because of their hockey IQ (and insane chemistry, of course).
The only players that could play with them effectively were of the same makeup. Just look at Alex Burrows. He worked well with them because he understood the game and what they were doing on the ice. Not every player could be successful long-term with them. Only the ones with high hockey IQ. So, again, that attribute should be one of the things the Sedins will be looking for because that’s what made them so successful in the NHL.
So, now that we have their scouting template, let’s take a look at three players that should end up etched in their notebooks the minute they lay eyes on them in Abbotsford.
The first things you notice about William Lockwood are his speed, tenacity, and work ethic. Apart from the speed, these are all things the Sedins had in abundance when they were developing into NHLers. Like Nils Hoglander (who I’m sure is one of the Sedins’ favourites already), he is also a relentless puck retriever who doesn’t give up on the forecheck.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the first names out of the Sedins’ mouths when it comes to player comparisons is Jannik Hansen. I’ve compared Lockwood to him before, and he has a lot of the same attributes. In fact, if the Sedins were playing right now, he probably would be successful on a line with them.
Will is a hard-working, two-way winger with natural scoring ability…He plays with urgency and creates chances for himself and his teammates. We look forward to adding his speed and tenacity to our roster.Canucks general manager Jim Benning
Lockwood will become a fan favourite with both Canucks teams this season. With the way he plays, he likely will be one of the first call-ups when injuries strike the parent club. Until that happens, he will be playing in Abbotsford and impressing Canuck Nation and the wonder twins every time he’s on the ice.
From a young age, Jett Woo was taught the importance of hard work. His dad, Larry made it a priority to instill that important value in him. Without hard work, there would be no success.
Woo’s strong work ethic and willingness to do the dirty work is why he is in the American Hockey League (AHL) today and on the cusp of making his NHL debut. He also has leadership qualities and a strong presence in the dressing room, evidenced by being named captain of Team Canada at the very young age of 17. According to Abbotsford Canucks general manager Ryan Johnson, his character was what ultimately tipped the scales for them when they chose to select him 37th overall in 2018.
He’s a competitor…He faced some adversity this season with an injury, and kind of fell further down the (draft) board than maybe people had expected early. But this is a high, high character kid that I do feel is very raw in his approach to a lot of things about the game, which we get excited about because that’s where our resources come in from a development side.
Related: Canucks Prospect Spotlight: Jett Woo
Like Lockwood, Woo should be a fan favourite when he makes it to the NHL. He already was in Utica, so it shouldn’t take too long for him to do the same thing in Abbotsford this fall. I’m sure the Sedins will end up loving him as well.
Finally, there’s Carson Focht, someone I admittedly thought wasn’t an astute pick by the Canucks when they drafted him back in 2019. The former fifth-round pick has risen up the ranks not only in the prospect pool by in my books as well. He is now one of my favourites, mostly because of his competitive nature and work ethic.
Since his draft year, Focht has transformed himself into a strong two-way center armed with great faceoff skills. He faced adversity early in his career and overcame it with hard work and determination. He became someone the young players on the Calgary Hitmen looked up to, all because of his leadership and willingness to do the work to improve.
Like I said, you’re going to get a consistent effort from him every night. He’s a guy that does not like to lose and I think that that’s important…Even in practice, he has a competitive spirit too. I think that that rubs off on other guys.Calgary Hitmen assistant coach Trent Cassan (from ‘Calgary Hitmen player faces adversity in hopes of a career with the NHL’, Calgary Journal, 12/11/19)
There’s a lot about Focht that reminds me of the Sedins. He’s a consistent worker, never gives up when faced with adversity and he has leadership qualities in the dressing room. His hockey sense is also one of his strengths. Sounds like a player that will quickly get into the good books of the new members of the Canucks front office.
I think it goes without saying that Henrik and Daniel are going to impact the Canucks a lot by being behind the scenes on the player development side. Their experiences developing in the NHL and their vast knowledge of the game of hockey will be invaluable to one of the most important departments in the organization. They have already made a massive impact on the history and culture of the team, now it’s time to continue that by instilling their values into the next generation.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.