4 Top 100 Prospects make Canucks ESPN’s 9th ranked system

Unfortunately, the nature of professional sports is that there tends to be an inverse relationship between the success of the NHL club and the relevance of (/stock put into) its farm system, as we’ve seen up close and personal lately. 

This is my 3rd year participating in the annual Canucks Army Top 20 Prospect Profile series, and suffice it to say, it’s shaping up to be easily the most uplifting of the bunch. We’re still a few weeks away from actually reaping the rewards of that though, seeing as we’ve just started counting down from 20 this week.

In lieu of that, ESPN’s (but most importantly friend of the blog, as he’d be the first to tell you) Corey Pronman released his Top 100 list, which you can read here. If you don’t have an Insider account you should look into it because the work himself, Frank Provenzano, and Craig Custance do there is top notch. With that being said, I’ve gone ahead and spliced some of the key takeaways for our purposes together. 

Four recent draft picks of the Canucks made the cut, with another being listed as an honourable mention. This was enough to land the pipeline as a whole a top-10 spot in the organizational rankings. 

  • Bo Horvat: 19th overall
  • Jake Virtanen: 26th overall
  • Hunter Shinkaruk: 31st overall
  • Jared McCann: 77th overall
  • Frank Corrado: “Just Missed”

After coming in at 28th in Pronman’s rankings last summer, Horvat obviously moved up a few notches after his largely successful season in London. In his little blurb, Pronman notes that “he’s not an overly flashy player, but Horvat has a lot of skill to go with a developed frame, advanced defensive play, and ace faceoff work. He’ll push for NHL time this season.” 

Of note is the fact that Virtanen’s ranking put him behind 5 players that were taken after the Canucks picked him 6th overall this summer, including the likes of Willie Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kevin Fiala, Haydn Fleury, and Kasperi Kapanen. Disconcerting, but unsurprising, considering Pronman had Virtanen ranked 11th in the lead-up to the draft, behind all of those aforementioned names. 

Shinkaruk dropped a few spots from last season, deservedly so after having missed the majority of the campaign with injury. Pronman still seems to be rather optimistic – as, spoiler alert: our staff that voted on our top 20 was as well – noting:

“Shinkaruk did not have a great season, seeing his performance dip and his season get derailed by injury. However, he has shown a lot prior to this season, so that’s why I’m willing to give him one year as a mulligan to see what he’s like when healthy. At the top of his game, Shinkaruk has fantastic puck skills, agile skating and a real craftiness to his game. Though he’s listed as a center, he likely projects to the wing at the NHL level.” 

And finally, here’s what Pronman had to say on McCann:

“McCann had a quality second OHL season, as he was leaned on in a significant manner as an all-situations forward, and had the game-winning goal in the CHL top prospects game. He has above-average puck skills and quickness, combined with a very good shot and understanding of the game. He isn’t the biggest, meanest or flashiest player, but he makes a lot of plays.”

UPDATE: A ranking of the individual prospect systems, from 1-30, was just recently published by Corey Pronman as a follow-up to his Top 100. In it he had the Canucks ranked 9th, giving them a noteworthy bump up from the 20th spot he had them in last Fall.

It’s once again behind an Insider paywall, but it stipulates the following regarding a pipeline that was sandwiched by the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens:

“This is a system that’s dramatically changed with four first-round picks in the past two seasons, including top-10 selections Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen. The pipeline’s quality doesn’t extend too far beyond Vancouver’s top prospects who were recently picked, but the core of this group is a very impressive one.”

Hopefully that was enough to quench your thirst for the time being. Keep checking back in here as we’ll have daily profiles going up in the lead-up to these 4 names, for which we’ll write in extensive detail about.

  • Canuck4Life20

    McCann is the prospect to really watch here as time goes on..alot of teams really missed the boat on him and was a steal for the Canucks..he’s the complete package…Virtanen will be basically a goal scorer, the question is will he be a perennial 20 goal guy or will he be a consistent 30-40 goal guy..All depends on who he plays with..Horvat will be a character solid 2 way player, probably a third line guy, but a really good 3rd line guy..Stanley Cup teams all have these guys….I see Shinkaruk as a Cliff Ronning type of player, nothing wrong with that though..Canucks still need to obtain 2 or 3 more impact prospects…here’s hoping for 2 more long seasons just like the Avs experienced a few years back…

    • Canuck4Life20

      I hope Horvat evolves into more than a third liner. Agree on the need for impact prospects. But tough to get them if you don’t pick high, which means sucking.

      • Canuck4Life20

        I hope that Vaughn Smith is correct, that Bo becomes Vancouver’s 3C. That would mean that we have two centres that are better than him. And if we have two centres better than Bo at 24-25, we should be squarely in the Contender category.

          • Canuck4Life20

            Make sure to read what you’re replying to before lowering both barrels, my friend. Let’s examine the scenarios that give us Horvat as either a #3C or #2C:

            Horvat’s skill set puts him, when approaching his prime (ie, at 24-25) ahead of Bonino and Vey, but behind the declining Hank. I do not expect the Sedins to go to a different team in search of a Cup. They may retire, but I do not expect them to request or approve a trade. Therefore, if Horvat is #3, that means that sometime in the next 4 years we will have a new, younger #1C, and that either Hank, or his replacement if he retires, is #2C.

            Of course, it also means that we have likely sucked for at least one more year in the interim in order to acquire said prime asset (and possibly for more than one year if we have also replaced Hank).

            If Horvat is #2, that means that we are either still using Hank as the #1 or, alternately, that the twins have retired and someone else is the #1. In either case, we would be at best a pretender along the lines of NYR this year, where we would need several lucky breaks to earn the right to get beaten up by a better team late in the playoffs. More likely we would either miss outright or lose in the first round.

            Where precisely in these scenarios is the delusion?

          • Canuck4Life20

            The delusion is here

            “if we have two centres better than Bo at 24-25, we should be squarely in the Contender category.”

            He could be a 3LC in the Malhotra mold and it would have nothing to do with whether or not the Canucks are contenders.

            Or he could be nothing…

          • Canuck4Life20

            Yes, he could end up as a Manny Malholtra-type player. So let’s look at Manny’s career.

            From age 24ish (2005), Malholtra was taking second-line minutes (around 18 min/game) with Columbus. They were not a good team. Then he went to San Jose, where he got 3rd line minutes (15 min/game). 111 points and 15 playoff games suggest that they were a contender. Then he went to the Canucks, where he got 3rd line minutes (16 min/game) before nearly losing his eye. You would have to admit that the Canucks were a Contender that year.

            It’s actually slightly delusional to assume he would be nothing, by the way. A first rounder has a far, far greater likelihood of being an NHLer than not, based on prior performance of draft picks.

            He has almost twice the likelihood of being a second-liner or better (about 60.5%) than he does of being a short-lived player or an outright bust (39.5%). (These numbers are for the first round as a whole; for a top-10 pick, I would expect the failure rate to be lower than that).

            Here’s the link to Jason Gregor’s article on the issue: http://oilersnation.com/2011/2/25/value-in-acquiring-draft-picks

          • Canuck4Life20

            Manny is just one (anecdotal) example.

            “It’s actually slightly delusional to assume he would be nothing, by the way”

            It’s entirely delusional to suggest that I have done this.

            Both contending and basement teams necessarily have 3rd line centres.

            Horvat becoming a 3LC has nothing to do with whether or not this team will be a contender…

          • Canuck4Life20

            Because he happened to be Vancouver’s 3LC not long ago.

            I could have just as easily suggested Boyd Gordon if I wanted to pick a 3LC on a bad team.

            Neil is making a pretty blatant non sequitur since it’s entirely possible that Horvat ends up as the 3LC on a non-contending Canucks team…

          • Canuck4Life20

            It’s not a non sequitur. At worst it’s a straw-man argument. 🙂

            And I agree; it’s possible that Horvat tops out as a 3C on a bad Canucks squad. About 39% likely, I believe I said earlier. It’s just more likely that he has a better career arc than that.

          • Canuck4Life20

            “if we have two centres better than Bo at 24-25, we should be squarely in the Contender category.”

            IF the Canucks have two centres better than Bo Horvat during his 24/25 season(s), THEN the Canucks should be squarely in the contender category.

            It. Does. Not. Follow.

            As for the linked article, you are making a pretty big logical leap based on a single, highly subjective study.

            Even if history repeates itself perfectly, it would be more accurate to simply consider previous #9 overall picks as opposed to conveniently categorizing Horvat as a “top 10 pick” for the sake of a round number.

            Thus concludes basic logic 101 for the delusional…

          • Canuck4Life20

            I just think your basic premise that if Horvat ends up as our 3C means necessarily that we have skilled 1Cs and 2Cs above him is problematic. What if we just have a bunch of crappy centers and he’s one of them? As much as I love Henrik, it is also highly unlikely that in five years at age 38 he is going to be a quality 2C. Perhaps, but unlikely. I also don’t think Horvat’s ceiling is as low as some have suggested but your scenario (at least what you initially presented) was overly optimistic.

  • argoleas

    All this back and forth over ceiling for prospects is moot. They are prospects for a reason, they have played very little or no Pro hockey. You can never be sure about players until they actually suit up for pro teams.

    The Canucks have many more players that have a very good chance to play in the NHL and that is a positive. Will Hovat, Jake V or Shinkaruk be stars? Who knows, but they all should contribute for the big club unlike many of our previous picks going back to the Twins in ’99.

    McCann could be Kessler, Shinkaruk Luc Robatille, Horvat Mike Richards or they may just be good NHL players. That’s why having quality scouting staff that makes good choices is so important. Benning is the guy to head the system because of his experience and track record. Gillis had no back ground in scouting and it showed.

    The Canucks are on the right path to having a real system to replenish the big club and all Canucks fan should be happy about that.

  • Canuck4Life20

    I respectfully disagree with Pronman on this one. The Canucks have no good prospects and one of the worst farm systems in the league. Their player development system is a joke and they have no good young players to replace the aging core. Gillis was fired (rightly so!) for what he did to the Canucks previously excellent farm system. The Canucks have no prospect of contending for the Stanley Cup in the near future and Pronman should realize this. Pronman needs to stop his homerism and realize the Canucks are well on their way to becoming the Flames.

  • argoleas

    As always, it will be up to the farm system to develop them. The dearth of a clear #1 center option in the system at this time does not preclude trades down the road if Vancouver can develop what it has into tradeable assets.