Canucks Army Draft Preview: Rumour Roundup and Inventory

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is now upon us. The NHL Entry Draft starts at 4pm in Buffalo, New York and the Vancouver Canucks are set to pick fifth overall. With a little luck, they’ll land a franchise player to build around for the foreseeable future.

Then again, with all the trade talk circulating it’s entirely possible they’re picking somewhere else. Or not even at all. It’s the silliest part of silly season and at some point the swarm of moving parts settles. For the Canucks, who are adamant about their desire to compete for the playoffs next season, that might involve trading their fifth overall selection for immediate help.

I wouldn’t rule out the Canucks moving out the odd contract to build on their dwindling draft stock. For Canucks General Manager Jim Benning, a master scout by trade, that could go a long way in meeting their goal of drafting and developing throughout their rebuild on the fly. 

Hell, just about anything could happen. Let’s try and make sense of it, on the other side of the jump.

Fifth Overall

Piecing together the Canucks comments and everything I’ve heard, I think this is a two-horse race. It’s either going to be Pierre-Luc Dubois or Olli Juolevi. I could live with either selection, though I have to admit, I will be all kinds of disappointed if the Canucks take Juolevi ahead of Dubois.

It’s not so much that Juolevi is necessarily a reach at fifth overall. His talent is absolutely worthy of the distinction. It’s just that Dubois is that much better. Not to mention, picking Dubois addresses a long-term need that the Canucks have had for the last five-plus years. I’m talking of course of a succession plan to Henrik Sedin.

There has been a lot of digital ink spilt on Dubois’ account. Mostly by Ryan Biech. Here’s his take on Dubois from the Nations Network Prospect Profile Series:

At first glance, there isn’t really a flaw in his game – he has elite skating, shooting and hockey IQ. He uses his all of those and his size to protect the puck and create offence. He also has the explosive first couple of strides to separate himself from defenders. If it’s in a down low situation, Dubois isn’t afraid to get in there and muck it up. At this moment, there really isn’t a flaw to his game and it’s no wonder why teams would be tripping over themselves to select him.  

And Jeremy Davis on Juolevi:

Juolevi is a smooth skating, puck moving defenceman with offensive flair and a penchant for creativity. Though his defensive side is still a bit of a work in progress (and it has improved greatly over the course of the season), his ability to move the puck up the ice, and ,in particular, distribute it in his own zone, in a highly sought after skill set in the NHL.

Shuffling Draft Picks

I don’t necessarily think it’s likely that the Canucks change their position at the draft, but anything’s possible. Benning has gone on record as saying that the top three players are foundational pieces that can enter the Canucks lineup as soon as next season. Does he pull the trigger on a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets to make it happen? Based on these comments, it’s doubtful.

Similarly, I can’t foresee a scenario where the Canucks move down. They need to stockpile top of the lineup talent and that’s increasingly difficult as you move further down the draft. That said, they don’t have a wealth of mid-round picks. If they get overwhelmed with an offer that’s rich in the second and third-rounds, maybe they cave.

[Ryan Biech’s article on trading up to third overall]

[Ryan Biech’s article on trading down]

Tampering?

Jim Benning has likely landed himself in hot water with his comments yesterday regarding Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban and Milan Lucic. Though conventional wisdom would suggest that publicly discussing players by name that are still under contract would warrant three separate charges, it appears as though Benning is just under investigation for Subban and Stamkos related comments. 

The reason that the Canucks aren’t being investigated for Lucic is simple. Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi has granted Lucic and his agent permission to speak with 29 other teams leaguewide. Hence, no tampering charges. 

Here’s Nations Overlord Thomas Drance with more on the unfolding situation…

The relevant precedent to consider here is Ron Wilson, who was dinged for “inappropriate public comments” back in 2009, when he hinted that his club planned to pursue the Sedin twins were they to hit unrestricted free agency. It was actually the organization that was fined at the time, rather than Wilson personally.

“You’re hearing right now — and this sounds very contradictory — but there is a real possibility I would think that we would be going after the Sedins. Let’s just speculate there,” Wilson said in a Fan 590 appearance before the opening of free agency in June of 2009, via CBC.

The league investigated and determined that Wilson had violated an “inappropriate public comments” provision of bylaw 15 (the bylaws are sealed, so we can’t get too much into it). He was fined and indisclosed amount, with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly offering this statement at the time:

About Those Players

The Canucks just aren’t ready to rebuild yet. If the Erik Gudbranson trade didn’t send that message home, the Canucks reported interest in almost anyone noteworthy should. As we’ve already outlined, the Canucks appear to have interest in pursuing Lucic and Stamkos in free agency, and Subban via trade. 

I can’t envision a scenario where Stamkos signs for any less than $9.5-million, which accounts for almost all of Vancouver’s cap space. Similarly, Lucic will cost anywhere in the neighbourhood of $6-million-plus on a long-term deal. As for Subban, he’s locked into his contract for the next six seasons.

If the Canucks are serious about their interest in acquiring Subban, now is the time to do it. At the beginning of the next league year, Subban’s contract has a full no-trade clause. The only problem is that they lack the capital to make such a move happen. Especially compared to what the Edmonton Oilers can offer.

Here’s Thomas Drance on the unfolding Subban-to-Vancouver rumours…

If Subban is actually on the market it’s hard to imagine that the Canucks would have the asset war chest required to outbid teams like the Edmonton Oilers – who have been explicit about their interest in acquiring a stud right-handed shooting blue liner. For Vancouver to even get in the game you’d have to start with the fifth-overall pick, and probably add Chris Tanev, and then add Bo Horvat and even then you’re still not going to be able to compete with a team like Edmonton once players like Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enter the equation.

Can the Canucks Acquire More Picks?

The Canucks have exactly two selections in the first 120 picks of the draft. That’s less than ideal. Especially for a franchise with so strong a scouting acumen as the Canucks have shown since Benning took over as General Manager.

They have the pieces to land more draft picks, though. Perhaps not first or second round picks, but fourth and fifth round selections seem entirely conceivable. Perhaps they move Andrey Pedan, who is waiver eligible next season and at the wrong end of a defensive logjam on the left side. Or the rights to Dan Hamhuis, a pending unrestricted free agent. If they really want to shake things up, perhaps the Canucks ship out Jannik Hansen — talk about selling high.

I wrote about three methods for the Canucks to acquire more picks here…

The list of teams that the Vancouver Canucks have been bested by at the draft since Jim Benning took the job as General Manager is a short one. That’s the advantage to having a master scout running the show.

That’s why Canucks fans get frustrated when the club they cheer for surrenders draft picks in trades, much like they did when they acquired Erik Gudbranson. In the wake of that trade, Vancouver has but two selections in the first hundred picks. That’s less than ideal for a club that should probably be rebuilding and just finished their season in third-last place.

I wouldn’t write off the Canucks addressing this in the coming week, though. There are a few different ways they could bolster their position in the top half of the draft and I’ll try and touch on three such options on the other side of the jump.

  • detox

    CanucksArmy @CanucksArmy · 11m .
    RT @JDylanBurke: Tickets for the @CanucksArmy Draft Party are now only $5.00! Join us at The Pint at 3:30. https://t.co/TRtYTskSl6

    does this include a burger and a beer?

    sorry, forgot about the proceeds going to MindCheck and the free t-shirt, sounds like a great deal.

      • detox

        lol, I don’t know how this gets a “trash it” except the hate flows strong on this site from our divisional rivals…

        a t-shirt and money going to charity for a $5 ticket to a draft party… damn reasonable.

          • Cageyvet

            Probably true, but narrow-minded. I’ve ripped you more than once, but thumbs-upped this initiative and praised your recent neutral zone analysis. Those who preach patience with JB learning on the job should apply the same philosophy to the CA staff.

            If you don’t give credit where credit is due, your own takes become subject to criticism due to the same bias we have attacked CA staff for displaying.

            Thankfully, most of your readers seem to display some common sense, and are willing to judge both the Canucks and CA on a case by case basis, which is as it should be.

  • Vanoxy

    i think benning likes only one of dubois and tkachuk. the other one is ranked behind juolevi.

    so if he doesn’t get the one he wants, he takes juolevi. i can’t figure another reasons for him to mention six players and put a defenceman in the mix.

    i also think the decision is on “character” not talent.

    he was in a similar situation in 2010 when the bruins took seguin. then he later supported trading seguin for character issues even though he was obviously a phenominal talent. then he traded for the guy right behind seguin in the draft who they passed on. and who is a character guy.

    so i think he’s drafting on character.

    he has been vocal about liking tkachuk’s combine interview.

    otoh, dubois said “i think i can be a first line centre in the nhl”. which tends to be not what a character guy says.

    so i think he takes either tkachuk or juolevi (or maybe puljujarvi if the rumours are true).

    happy to be wrong.

  • J.D. Burke

    Not that I am opposed to picking Dubois at all, but references to him replacing Henrik Sedin are premature. He is a Left Winger, converted to Centre this year. That hardly screams “First Line NHL Centre”. I like him. I will be happy if we pick him, but he’s not a lock to be an NHL centre iceman.

  • Chowderhead

    Really good article. I’m personally hoping for Juolevi as I disagree that Pierre-Luc Dubois is superior.

    A defenseman that can control the game, run power play and make whole team better whenever he’s on the ice who will play 24 minutes a game and has chance to be a Norris caliber defenseman is something we’ve never had and I’m hoping we go for it.

    That being said Dubois or Tckachuk would be fine too, I would not be upset. Part of me hoping CBJ feels that players 3-6 are equal enough to flip picks with us for a roster player or pick or prospect along with taking Hartnell contract. Then we’d get Puljujarvi who I’ve been blown away by.

    Hope everyone has fun watching draft and we are happy after regardless.