September 10 2014 12:01PM
Well, here we are. After a month of counting down the Vancouver Canucks' top-20 prospects, we've finally arrived at our consensus choice for the top prospect in Vancouver's system. We've covered every type of player from towering European defenders to late developing scorers to history-making college kids to dynamic and exciting Western League scorers. The Canucks' pipeline of quality young talent is as full as it's been in years, and at the head of the class of the future is none other than Bo Horvat.
We've written extensively about Bo Horvat on this platform before, and for good reason: at the time of his selection, he was Vancouver's highest pick in the entry draft since the team selected Daniel and Henrik Sedin back-to-back in 2000, and unlike drafting Jake Virtanen, they had to give up arguably the best goaltender in the game today to get him. With Ryan Kesler now gone and returned in the form of Nick Bonino and Jared McCann (and the funeral pyre that is Luca Sbisa) leaving a gaping void at centre behind an aging Henrik Sedin, the pressure isn't just on Horvat to produce, but to produce as soon as possible on a team that hopes to compete in an increasingly more vicious and unforgiving Western conference.
So, yeah. No pressure, kid.
August 28 2014 11:43AM
As we move closer and closer to the top-5 prospects in the Vancouver Canucks' system, we start moving out of "we hope this guy can make the NHL" territory, and into the range of guys where we can reasonably expect them to make some sort of legitimate NHL impact.
Ben Hutton, our 8th ranked prospect, hasn't quite earned "surefire NHLer" status yet, but considering the season he had with the University of Maine Black Bears in the NCAA last year, he's knocking loudly on that door.
While a large majority of the guys we've profiled can say that they had a good 2013-2014 (except for one extremely notable guy we'll get to some time down the road), only Hutton can claim that his was all-time good. The big, mobile, and talented forward-turned-defender broke a University of Maine scoring record for defensemen, rippling the mesh behind notoriously stingy Hockey East goalies an astounding 15 times. But in case "Look! GOALS!" wasn't a strong enough selling point, Ben Hutton does all sorts of other things quite well, too, leaving us with many, many reasons to be hopeful that he'll find himself in the NHL sooner rather than later.
August 21 2014 10:58AM
Years down the road, when we're looking back on the 2014 NHL entry draft with the benefit of hindsight, the story of Thatcher Demko may not be so much the story of Demko himself, but of goalies and their unique relationship with the draft.
Indeed, all-star netminders have been selected in the first few picks of the draft, but for every Carey Price (5th overall, 2005), there is a Brian Finley (6th overall, 1999). For every Cory Schneider (26th overall, 2004), there are multiple Leland Irvings (26th overall, 2006). For every Jonathan Bernier (11th overall, 2006), there is a Brent Krahn (9th overall, 2000), and so on and so forth.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, I assume you're acquainted with our good friend Sham Sharron. If not, now is a fantastic time to get to know him if you've got an hour or six to kill. One of Sham's cardinal rules for drafting prospects was to avoid goalies at all costs since they're voodoo and, much like Sham's namesake, can't be trusted.
But why can't we trust goalies? Why should we avoid them? I'm glad you asked.
August 14 2014 11:39AM
When we go back and analyze previous NHL drafts, certain patterns and truisms emerge. For instance, the guys who become NHLers are the guys who score a lot of points, everyone is terrible at scouting goalies, guys who are in their draft+1 and draft+2 seasons don't have a lot of upside, defensive ability tends to be overvalued, and so on and so forth.
With this stuff in mind, there are three cardinal sins that a given NHL team should not do at the draft table:
- Don't draft a goalie in the first 3 rounds.
- Don't draft an over age player in the first 3 rounds.
- Don't draft a low-scoring defensive defenseman in the first 3 rounds.
A guy who fills just one of these criteria is a long shot to play in the league - CSS' top-3 rated goalies going into the draft have an ~80% bust rate between 2001 and 2010, and D drafted in rounds 1-3 that can't score at least 0.6 pts/GP at some point in their CHL careers miss the NHL nearly 90% of the time - so when a guy fulfills two of those criteria, you can, in most cases, just write that draft pick off as a wasted asset.
Fortunately for the Canucks, Nikita Tryamkin isn't your typical prospect.
August 12 2014 10:30AM
I'll let commenter JDM set us up:
I was just thinking, "these always start off in very sober fashion and are basically a downer for the first couple of entries". Which they are; I mean, it's basically a litany of reasons why prospect X is unlikely to ever be any good.
However, it then occurred to me that this is probably going to be the least depressing one of these lists ever compiled.
He is, for the most part, right. Vancouver's system is significantly deeper this season than it has been in previous years, but the unfortunate truth with top-20 prospect rankings like these is that a good number of the guys we rank and talk about likely won't play in the NHL for one reason or another. Some will get injured, some won't catch the breaks they need, and some just won't be good enough. For guys ranked around 10th or below, you're realistically looking at an outside shot of playing an NHL game at best.
So when Michael Zalewski is your 19th-best prospect and has already played in the NHL (and acquitted himself rather admirably I might add, even if it were just the 2 games we saw him in), that says good things about your system.