The Canucks have loaded up a promising group of prospects with first round picks since 2011, with the likes of Niklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, and most recently Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. It’s an intriguing thought just how much the Canucks can get out of their recent first rounders, and could be a sharp improvement from their last decade of drafting. Of Vancouver’s nine first round draft picks from 2000-09, none of these players remain on their roster. Here’s a look at the Canucks class of ’00 first round picks and where they are now.
2000: Nathan Smith (23rd Overall)
Nathan who? Smith totaled 212 points over four years in of junior, which unfortunately didn’t translate into any NHL success. In a career riddled with injuries, Smith has no career points and has suited up for 26 NHL games with the Canucks, Penguins and Wild. With Vancouver, Smith played only four regular season games and four playoff games.
Clearly picking Smith didn’t work out for the Canucks and then-GM Brian Burke, and other players selected later in that first round included Brad Boyes (24th), Justin Williams (28th) and Niklas Kronwall (29th), enough to make Canucks fans cringe. After pulling some strings to draft the Sedin twins 2nd and 3rd overall a year earlier, most Canucks fans can probably forgive Burke for the pick of Smith.
2001: R.J. Umberger (16th Overall)
Umberger has gone on to a respectable NHL career, none of which being with Vancouver. The forward sat out the entire 2003-04 season when he and the Canucks couldn’t agree to terms on a contract, which led him being shipped out of Vancouver. In 10 NHL seasons with the Flyers and Blue Jackets, Umberger has 178 goals and 381 points, and has been a 20 goal-scorer six times. He also has 14 goals in 30 career playoff games.
Despite only having 7 goals and 11 points in 24 career games against the team that drafted him, one intangible is that Umberger always seems to get under the skin of the Canucks and their fans. It’s common knowledge in Vancouver when Umberger was drafted, which is almost as common as the city’s angst about it.
2003: Ryan Kesler (23rd Overall)
In what has come to be known as possibly the best draft class ever, the Canucks landed a gem in Kesler. He played 10 seasons with Vancouver, peaking with 41 goals in 2010-11, the same year which he won the Frank Selke trophy and the Canucks appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks won six division titles and two President’s Trophy’s during Kesler’s time in Vancouver. He may have been the focal point of the Canucks success – as a “second line” center who could play the powerplay, penalty kill, elevate his teammate’s game and let the Sedin twins work their magic by making matchups harder for other teams.
However, Kesler fell out with the Canucks. It was clear he was on his way out long before being traded and his demands were well documented, prior to being sent to the Anaheim Ducks in 2014. Kesler had 20 goals, 47 points and a minus-5 rating with the Ducks this year, as well as 13 points in 16 playoff games before his Ducks bowed out to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.
2004: Cory Schneider (26th Overall)
Schneider posted an impressive 55-26-8 record and a 2.20 goals against average and a .927 save percentage with the Canucks, along with nine shutouts. He won the Williams M. Jennings Trophy with Roberto Luongo in his first full season in 2010-11, and the following season set Canucks records for save percentage and goals against average. The question if Schneider or Luongo was the Canucks starter was an ongoing controversy. That was until Gillis traded him at the 2013 draft for the ninth overall pick, which turned into a fine young player named Bo Horvat. Schneider has yet to appear in the playoffs with the Devils in two seasons, despite his 2.14 goals against average and .924 save percentage with the team.
2005: Luc Bourdon (10th Overall)
Bourdon was a promising Canucks prospect and looked well on his way to breaking in on Vancouver’s blue line, before a tragic accident near his home in Shippigan, New Brunswick in the offseason in 2008, which led to his death. Bourdon was 21 years old at the time. The former Canucks prospect helped Team Canada to consecutive World Junior Championships in 2006 and 2007, and recorded two goals in 36 career NHL games with Vancouver. Bourdon looked to have great potential with Vancouver before having his career dreadfully cut short.
2006: Michael Grabner (14th Overall)
Grabner played in only 20 games with Vancouver before being traded to the Florida Panthers in 2010. After the Panthers put him on waivers, Grabner was picked up by the New York Islanders. He shocked many by breaking out in his first full NHL season in 2010-11, when he tallied 34 goals in 76 games and was a Calder Trophy finalist for rookie of the year. The Austrian forward hasn’t yet matched his rookie season numbers with the Islanders; he has 56 goals over 221 games in his four seasons since then.
While inconsistent in his career so far, Grabner possesses worldly speed and great skating and goal-scoring ability. His top five goals with the Isles essentially show how he works when at his best, and thumbs up to the commentating as well.
2007: Patrick White (25th Overall)
We’ll call this a year the the Canucks threw away their first round draft pick. It’s hard to say what the Canucks saw in the American center who they drafted out of the USHL. White played four years of college hockey after being drafted and is now playing in a second tier German hockey league. The Canucks could’ve had dozens of players who developed more than White from this draft, including David Perron (26th) and P.K. Subban (43rd), to name a couple of guys picked after him. We’ll leave it at that to stop the hurting.
2008: Cody Hodgson (10th Overall)
Hodgson was a highly touted prospect up-and-coming for the Canucks after an impressive junior career in the OHL. He looked very promising in his rookie season with Vancouver and was making his mark as a fan-favorite, but was traded at the deadline in 2012 to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian, and it’s hard to say if that trade has worked out for either teams.
Hodgson assumed first line center duties on a rebuilding Sabres squad but dropped off dramatically this year. He was second on the team in scoring with 38 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and led the team the year after with 44 points. However, this year Hodgson amassed just 13 points in 78 games, with a minus-28 rating. Now with 99 points and a minus-65 rating in 218 games with the Sabres, Canucks fan’s hearts have more or less mended in regards to the loss of Hodgson.
2009: Jordan Schroeder (22nd Overall)
Schroeder was ranked in the top five for North American skaters before the 2009 draft. He looked promising based on impressive World Junior Championship appearances and in his two years at the University of Minnesota (where he outscored teammate and fellow Canucks first round failure Patrick White), but Schroeder never lived up to this hype with the Canucks. He battled several injuries and posted 15 points in 56 NHL games with Vancouver before they let him go in free agency. Schroeder was picked up last summer by his home-state team, the Minnesota Wild.
It’s interesting to see how Canucks’ first round picks have turned out from the last decade, and how each have parted way with Vancouver. In fact, of all the players the Canucks drafted from 2000-09 (78), only three remain on their roster – Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen. With a number of recent prospects who will be vying for roster spots in the coming future, perhaps Vancouver will successfully combine good drafting with the ability to retain more homegrown talent in their organization.