Benning: picking a forward at 5 ‘Sounds realistic’

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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

If nothing changes between now and June 24th, the
Vancouver Canucks will use their fifth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to pick one of two forwards: Cape Breton’s Pierre Luc Dubois or
Matthew Tkachuk of the London Knights. Canucks general manager Jim Benning all
but confirmed that it’s a two horse race on a Monday morning appearance on TSN 1040.

Speaking
directly to Canucks fans for the first time since Saturday’s draft lottery,
Benning revealed his thoughts on the defensemen available at the top of this year’s
class and didn’t sound like a general manager prepared to use the fifth pick on
a blueliner.

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“Defense is so hard to come by
now in the league – if we felt there was a true number one and we could get him
at five, that’s where our focus would be,” Benning said. “But having said that with
Henrik Sedin getting older now, we have to look to the future, too. If we could
add a number one centre ice man, that’s attractive to us, too. 

“I don’t know if
there’s a true number one defenseman. If you look through the league right now,
there’s maybe eight or 10 number one defensemen in the whole league. This defense
group this year, I think they’re first pairing guys where they could be a good (number)
two. But with a number one defenseman, we’re talking about a guy with size and
strength, who can run a power play and can match up against the other teams’
top lines. I don’t know if there is a true number one defenseman in this year’s
draft.”

When pushed on whether that meant
the Canucks were placing more value on the forwards available after the consensus
‘Big 3’, Benning all but assured the Canucks would use the fifth pick on to
bolster the team’s forward ranks.

“That sounds more realistic to
me,” he said.

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As for
the draft lottery itself, Benning admitted he felt like he’d been punched in
the gut seeing the Canucks logo revealed earlier than he had hoped. Although
the probability had the Canucks finishing with the fifth pick despite the third
worst record in the NHL last season, Benning was hoping to beat the odds.

As we
now know, that didn’t happen.

“I’m
not going to lie, I was disappointed,” he said. “When you go through a season like we just had, you
kind of end up in that three hole for whatever reason you think well we’re not
going to pick any worse than three. So when that came up at five, I was disappointed.
But we’re going to get a real good player at five. We’re going to get a
foundational piece to our team that will be a piece of the puzzle moving
forward. 

“When the dust settles, it doesn’t sting as much, but I’ve got to say that
night it stung.”

Knowing
that he holds the fifth pick in the first round allows Benning to get down to the
business of preparing a plan of attack leading into the draft. With much work
still to do to get the Canucks back on track, Benning can leave no stone unturned
in an effort to improve the hockey club. To that end, he says he’ll make the
necessary phone calls to his fellow managers around the league to gauge
interest in cooking up a deal – either to move up (although moving into the top
three seems highly unlikely, leaving Edmonton in the four hole as his only
likely trading partner in that regard) or to move down.

“We’re going to look at all of
our possibilities,” he said. “Now, we know where we’re picking. I’m going to
talk to other teams about moving up if we can or if we feel we can move down
and add a piece to our team right now. If we think we can get a similar player
there as we get at five, we’re going to have those conversations and look at
that.”

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Regardless of
where the Canucks wind up selecting on June 24th, one thing is
clear: this is a pivotal pick for the hockey club and Benning must come away
from the podium with a player who can help the Canucks for years to come. 

Hired
for his ability to assess junior talent, Benning is now under the gun to ensure
the Canucks maximize the return on a terribly disappointing season. As much as
he loves the draft and the work that goes into it, Benning doesn’t want to be
in this position often.

“We understand we have work to do
around here,” he said when asked about the significance of a top five pick. “We
want to be competitive; we want to try to be a playoff team every year. Things
didn’t work out like that for us this year, so we pick high and we have to make
sure we pick the right player so going forward that player is a big part of our
future. 

“Having the fifth pick in the draft and we’re going to pick high in the
second round, so we’re going to add two more good, young players to this mix we’ve
got going now. So it’s going to be exciting for our fan base. We’re getting
depth in our prospect pool and that will be exciting because we’ll have all
these kids growing up together and competing for spots and it’s going to make
our team stronger moving forward.”

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As is
stands right now, the Canucks hold the fifth and 33rd picks in the
draft. But things can change. When asked if there was any chance the Canucks
would look to add a second pick later in the first round, Benning pulled back
the curtain slightly on his thoughts about the back half of the first round.

If the Canucks take a forward
with their first pick, it’s almost a certainty they’d address the blueline with
an additional first round selection. Although Benning didn’t name names, a pair
of BC Hockey League defensemen – Dante Fabbro and Dennis Cholowski – would
likely be available.

“We like some players in around
20 in the draft,” he said. “We’re going to talk to teams. If they would move
that pick, we’re going to make those calls and figure it out if we can.

On other topics:

Benning on North Dakota forward Drake Caggiula

“He did a 10 team tour. He went through and spent time with
10 teams and heard their pitches and go to know the different general managers and
coaches and organizations in the league. I thought we had a really good visit
with him. We have Troy Stecher and we have Brock Boeser who was his linemate this
year and they had really good chemistry together. When we asked him on a
timeline, he’s going to try to decide what he’s going to do by this weekend and
we hope he chooses us.”

Benning on signing Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig last
week

“He’s from Prince George. He’s a BC kid. When I talked to
him after we signed him, he was so excited to sign with the Canucks and be part
of our group going forward. He’s had a real good college career. He’s got good
size and covers a lot of net. Now, with Mike and Thatcher Demko, we have some
depth at the goal position and we have to concentrate on adding some good young
defensemen to our prospect pool.” 

Benning on the Canucks plans for unrestricted free agency
this summer

“If we can add a piece to our group that makes sense, we’re
going to be aggressive. It depends on the money. If it’s a big piece, the
player will cost a lot of money. If it’s a secondary piece, then we could add a
couple of pieces. But we have conversations internally still to have. We’d like
to add to make our team competitive again next season.”

Benning on where talks stand with pending UFA Dan Hamhuis

“We just finished meeting with our coaches last week. We
have our pro scouting meetings coming up in the next month. We’re going to go
through all of the free agents. In the meantime, we’re going to stay in contact
with Dan’s representative. When we figure out what makes sense for him and us,
we’re going to have those conversations to try to get him signed.”

Benning on Ryan Miller

“He’s part of our plans for next year. He’s going to be a
mentor to Jacob (Markstrom) again. I’m looking forward to hopefully strengthening
our team and having a good season next year and Ryan’s going to be a part of
that group.”



  • Andy

    Sure I think Brown,Dubois,Tkachuk all look good and have the kind of potential to make a real impact.

    Though Tkachuk is the winger in the group and the other 2 centers. I love Browns size,and Dubois has shown bigtime offensive skills.

    Benning better not trade down and add what he deems a valuable piece. Afterall his trades have not shown he is a master dealer so far.
    Pls Benning draft one of these 3 kids with the number5 pick and stop haing the delusional ideas that by trading down and adding another teams trash you can add a comparable player to the 5 pick!

    Your same delusions with the coach forced on you by Linden had you understanding we were not a playoff team months after the rest of civilisation.

  • Mcline

    We wouldn’t be proposing these scenarios whereby the Canucks land a 2nd 1st round pick if Benning didn’t have sand for brains at the trade deadline. That was the time to make moves but he did absolutely nothing. If he tried to be a bit creative and say packaged Shinkaruk, whom he apparently already knew wasn’t going to make the team that was 28th in scoring, with Hamhuis for the Stars 1st round pick that may have worked. Unfortunately, Hamhuis, Vrbata and Shinkaruk got us a smallish 4th line centre who can’t win face offs nor score.

  • pheenster

    i think the oilers will trade their pick or pick a dman. If traded it will be to a competitive team that will not need a specific position and will take nylander as the most skilled player available. so the canucks will likely have their choice if they do want dubois or tkachuk.

    the oilers have to be looking to trade. they have no room for any more high expectation forward prospects, especially centres, and no time to develop a dman. plus they badly need experienced top 4 dmen and capable forwards who carry lower expectations about their roles. If they are smart they will package this pick with one of their top forwards (not yakupov) and look to get a couple of core players.

    i also think anyone trading to get into the oilers pick would be a team needing to unload a valuable player maybe due to salary or a trade request. there’s no one left at #4 with the clear potential to be a game breaker worth the high price except maybe nylander.

    i don’t see the canucks being in the game for the oiler pick but maybe the canucks could put their pick on the market as well and see if they can make a market and get some excitement among gms then pick up a deal the oilers weren’t willing to make. the canucks ought to be more willing than the oilers to take a deal involving a young forward like drouin, for example.

  • Mcline

    Canucks should keep all picks instead of moving here or there and make some kind of offer to Columbus to get that second round pick this year … like Cassels or Grenier or a future fourth rounder.