Getting Younger, Bigger, and Stronger (Part II)

Jeff Angus
May 31 2012 09:11AM

This week, we've been focussing on "Canucks Team Needs." While the team is probably in need of a top-four defenseman, a third line center and a top-six winger, they're also in need of more youth, size and strength this offseason. Last week, we profiled three potential targets – Kyle Beach, Nikolai Kulemin, and Zac Dalpe.

This week, three more players were profiled. Unrealistic targets were not considered, so don’t expect to be reading about Corey Perry or James Neal. Some of the players profiled would be easier to acquire than others, and some of them are further along in their development than others.

Read on past the jump.

Brett Connolly – Tampa Bay Lightning

Connolly is an obvious trade target of the Canucks if they choose to discuss a Roberto Luongo- to-Tampa Bay trade. Connolly is a highly-skilled right wing who was born in Campbell River and played his junior hockey in Prince George. He was the first 16-year-old since Patrick Marleau in 1995-96 to score 30 goals in the WHL, and in his final season with the Cougars he scored 46 goals in only 59 games.

Connolly battled chronic hip issues during his time with the Cougars, and this may have affected his draft stock a bit (he ended up going 6th overall to the Lightning in 2010). In terms of pure skill, many had Connolly up with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin:

“The Prince George Cougars right winger might be the most skilled player in this year’s draft. ‘Might’ being the operative word because he played just 16 games this season with hip flexor problems. He originally tweaked his hip at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament last summer and came back too soon. It wasn’t long before he injured his other hip because he was overcompensating for the original injury.”

He suited up for 68 games with the Lightning in 2011-12, scoring four goals and adding 11 assists. He played an average of 11:28 per game, and he only fired 94 shots on goal. Connolly’s offensive numbers were underwhelming considering the bulk of his limited minutes were spent with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Why would the Canucks want him?

Connolly is big (6-2, close to 200 pounds), and highly skilled. He has earned some comparisons to Rick Nash for how he uses his size to protect the puck, and for how well he skates for a big man. He plays the right wing, a position the Canucks have been thin at for quite some time (Todd Bertuzzi was moved from left to right wing, and the same goes for Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins). The only natural right wingers on Vancouver’s roster at the moment are Jannik Hansen, Dale Weise, and Zack Kassian. He could be put on a line with David Booth and Ryan Kesler, two veterans who could do the bulk of the heavy lifting defensively. As previously mentioned, Connolly’s offensive upside is tremendous.

Why would Tampa Bay get rid of him?

The Lightning wouldn’t necessarily want to get rid of Connolly, but he is one of their best trade chips if they want to add a goaltender without disrupting the roster too much. He struggled mightily during December and January, recording zero points in 14 games. They also have some intriguing prospects on the farm that may have leapfrogged Connolly on the depth chart, including Alex Killorn (who played at Harvard with Canucks prospect Patrick McNally), Richard Panik, and Cory Conacher.

Peter Holland – Anaheim Ducks

Holland had a very solid rookie season in the AHL with Syracuse in 2011-12, scoring 23 goals and adding 37 assists in 71 games. He scored 95 goals over his final three OHL seasons in Guelph, and the Ducks used their first pick in 2009 (15th overall) on him. He won AHL Rookie of the Month honors for March, recording 18 points and a plus-12 rating.

Why would the Canucks want him?

Holland is big, but he has been criticized in the past for not using his size enough. He projects as a very good playmaking center, but it is questionable whether or not his defensive game is good enough for him to play in the NHL right now. The Canucks don’t have any big young centers in the organization.

Why would Anaheim get rid of him?

Holland is being groomed as the second line center of the future behind Ryan Getzlaf, but he will also have to compete for that spot with Nick Bonino and Brandon McMillan. Anaheim brought back Saku Koivu for one more season, recognizing that none of their young centers are ready for top six responsibilities. The Ducks have other needs (on the back end and at wing) that the Canucks could fill in a potential win-win trade.

Eric Tangradi – Pittsburgh Penguins

Tangradi has been the power forward of the future for almost five years now in Pittsburgh. He has been given a few shots to stick around with the big club, but he has come up short each time. He is very skilled for a 6-4, 221 pound forward, and he has proven about all he can at the AHL level. In his last 79 AHL games, Tangradi has 33 goals and 64 points. In 2011-12, he spent the bulk of his time with Pittsburgh’s depth forwards.

Why would the Canucks want him?

Tangradi would be a reclamation project for the Canucks. He hasn’t become the scoring winger the Penguins were hoping for, and a fresh start may do him good. He would add some size and offensive upside to the Vancouver roster, much like Zack Kassian (although Tangradi doesn’t have Kassian’s mean streak).

Why would Pittsburgh get rid of him?

For so long Pittsburgh has been hoping for Tangradi to develop into a net presence that they could plug in on the power play and on the wing with either Crosby or Malkin. That didn’t happen, but they did fill that need with the acquisition of James Neal from Dallas. Pittsburgh’s patience with Tangradi may be running thin.

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Jeff shares his Canuck-related thoughts with the Army a few times per week. His work can also be found over at DobberHockey.com, as well as his personal blog, AngusCertified.com. Give him a follow on Twitter @anguscertified.
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