Grading the Canucks’ 2018 Draft Class

The average hockey fan learns about draft eligible prospects in one of two ways. The first is by taking a look at the industry rankings and maybe watching highlights of the draft’s consensus top players. The second is by furiously googling a player’s name immediately after he’s been selected by your favourite team.

This applies to CanucksArmy at times, too. We finished our list of the top 100 prospects available in the 2018 draft in mid-June. That’s a longer list of players than many teams have, but it’s still woefully insufficient when it comes to assessing all 217 picks that were made. As a result, it takes a bit of time to become acquainted with each team’s new crop of prospects and to sufficiently assess a team’s selections.

Now that there’s been a bit of time to digest these picks and learn more about the players that were selected, it seems like a perfect time to take a deeper look at and make some judgement calls on the Canucks’ 2018 draft class.

7th Overall: Quinn Hughes

Scouting Report:

Offensively, Hughes has a high-end and diverse set of skills. He’s creative and dynamic with the puck, pulling off moves even most forwards couldn’t dream up, let alone execute. His two-step quickness and deceptiveness allow him to catch opponents flat-footed, and he has the hands to keep the puck moving as fast as his feet. His outlet passes are crisp and clean, which makes him a potent weapon on the breakout when paired with his ability to rush the puck on his own. His shot doesn’t have much pop, but he more than makes up for this by thinking the game two or three steps ahead of his peers.

-Jackson McDonald, CanucksArmy

Overview: The Canucks absolutely knocked it out of the park with their first round pick by picking not only the best player available, but also addressing the prospect pool’s need: a dynamic offensive talent on the back end. In Hughes, the Canucks got an excellent skater who is tremendously effective in transition and possesses high-end offensive creativity.

When viewed through the lens of pGPS, Hughes actually carries a slightly underwhelming expected success rate of 33.1%. Its important to note, however, that none of the players who met the similarity threshold to match with Hughes’ season scored as much as Hughes did. Players playing in the NCAA in their draft-eligible season is also relatively rare, and American hockey has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade or so. When comparing Hughes only to recent NCAA players who have graduated from the NHL, his season begins to jump off the page. Hughes put up more impressive numbers in his freshman year than Shayne Gostisbehere and Zach Werenski. Hughes looks every bit like he will continue the recent trend of impressive first-round defensemen drafted out of the NCAA that includes Werenski, Charlie McAvoy, and Noah Hanifin.

Grade: There really isn’t much to say about this one. You could argue they got a bit lucky here with Hughes falling to them, but many scouting services still had other players ahead of him, and in the end they took the hands-down best player available. A+

37th Overall: Jett Woo

Scouting Report:

Woo has an interesting skill set that indicates he could be a capable offensive defenceman, albeit a conservative one. He makes good passes that he can use from a standing position in the offensive zone or in a rush situation. He is mobile with the puck but generally isn’t someone who enters the zone, instead of moving the puck to his forwards to get in there. He doesn’t have a particularly strong slapshot and is more known to get the puck through with quick snapshots or wrist shots.

I’ve found Woo’s skating to be excellent with great agility on his feet. He uses his edges effectively to move around the ice with ease and constantly keeps his head up. He possesses above average acceleration and top speed.

-Ryan Biech

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When looking at Woo’s pGPS matches, we can see that he has an expected likelihood of success of 30.9%. That’s very good value at the 37th overall slot and roughly commensurate with what would be expected of a late first-round pick. Woo’s successful matches run the gamut from depth pieces to legitimate offensive top-pairing defenders. Given Woo’s role change towards the end of the season, there’s a chance he may have more to show offensively, which makes him an intriguing gamble for the Canucks in the second round.

Grade: While there were a few other players I might have preferred at this spot, Woo is still a legitimate prospect with a bit of upside who will help fill out the team’s prospect depth on the back end. CanucksArmy had Woo ranked as the 32nd best prospect in the draft, which indicates he was at the very least an above-average prospect relative to where he was selected and that’s really all you can hope for outside of the first round. B+

68th Overall: Tyler Madden

Scouting Report:

Keeping in mind that pGPS can create slightly skewed numbers for USHL players, the mid-season trade for Madden, and then the losing streak that Tri-City went on to close the season – the reason that Madden is ranked in the top 100 is because of his speed, the ability to control the puck at that speed, his agility and that he is committed to the NCAA next season.

If there was a similar player in the CHL, I might be a little more wary of his underlying numbers and projections but given those aforementioned disclaimers, he might be worth a late round flyer simply because of those skating abilities. He is able to keep the puck with him when he gets going and doesn’t shy away from taking charge.

Madden is also an ‘intangibles’ darling – known for his leadership qualities, willingness to do whatever it takes and laying it all out there. He also isn’t afraid to mix it up and get to the front of the net.

Without a doubt, he will need to add strength and weight to be successful in professional hockey. The combine is next week and we will have a better idea of what his measurements are but the public ones generally have him around 155 lbs on his 5’10” frame.

-Ryan Biech

Overview: With their third round pick, the Canucks turned yet again to the USHL to draft unheralded and undersized forward Tyler Madden. Madden put up just 20 points in 32 games, tied for seventh on his team in scoring. While his numbers were uninspiring, he’s earned the praise of some scouts for his determination and hockey sense. Much like the team’s previous mid-round picks out of the USHL, Madden’s biggest asset is his skating. He’s got speed to burn.

While the talent pool greatly diminishes by this point in the draft, the Canucks left some talent on the board to select Madden with the 64th pick. Most notably, high-scoring center Jake Wise of the USNTDP went to the Chicago Blackhawks with the following pick.

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Canucks’ Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett was acutely aware of the controversy that could arise by passing on Wise. The Canucks were drawn to Madden because he’s underdeveloped, and they believe his additional room to develop gives him a higher ceiling. It was quite the bet to make.

pGPS doesn’t paint the most flattering picture of Madden, whose expected likelihood of success sits at just 2.2%; however, as Ryan Biech alluded to in his profile of Madden, the USHL is another league that has begun to produce more NHLers in recent years. It’s also worth noting that of Madden’s four successful matches, three have gone on to have fairly impressive NHL careers. If Tyler Madden can be a Ryan Dzingel, Jason Zucker, or Patrick Sharp-calibre player at the NHL level, that will be a huge win in the third round.

Grade: While the Canucks have had some success in the past selecting low-scoring forwards out of the USHL with the emergence of Adam Gaudette, I’m still a bit skeptical about this pick. They’ve gone to this well before, with varying results. While Gaudette has already greatly surpassed expectations for a fifth-round pick, I’m far less sold on Will Lockwood, the other Canucks pick that fits this mold. This feels a bit like a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” situation. Some would say that Judd Brackett has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these type of selections, but that feels like a lot of trust to place in the infallibility of an organization that’s made their fair share of mistakes in the past. Sometimes teams can get a little too high on their own supply and this feels more like an example of that than it does like a smart bet on a player who has more to give. C

130th Overall: Toni Utunen

Scouting report:

Utunen spent the entire season playing against men. He played 11 games in Liiga and was held pointless. But he also played 28 games in Mestis and scored 12 points there. Utunen is an average-sized (5-11, 172) puck-moving defenseman, and he’s also pretty decent defensively. He just doesn’t have any real high-end tools which limits his upside. Utunen captained the Finnish team to gold at the U18 Worlds, and he played big minutes in all situations for that team. 

-Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects

Overview: Utunen gave a solid if unremarkable performance at the U18s, where he captained the Finnish team to a gold medal. Other than that, opportunities for fans to get a glimpse of Utunen have been severely limited.

Luckily, Liiga is ahead of most pro hockey leagues in terms of tracking stats and making them easily available. While I’d caution against reading too much into Utunen’s stats during his stint in Finland’s top pro league, they do provide some descriptive value. It would seem that Utunen was somewhat overmatched during his brief time with Tappara, as his team controlled just north of 34% of the shot attempts when he was on the ice and he averaged just 3:37 in TOI as he went pointless over 11 games. Utunen fared better in Mestis, Finland’s second best league, where he potted 12 points over 28 games.

Utunen’s uninspiring numbers with Tappara may not inspire confidence, but it’s important to remember that playing men’s hockey as a first-time draft eligible player is a good sign in and of itself. Only 14 players under the age of 18 suited up for a game in Liiga this season. That Utunen was one of them already indicates he’s worthy of selection.

This is evidenced by Utunen’s expected likelihood of success of 10.9%. Utunen’s two matches, Teppo Numinen and Kimmo Timonen, each had long and successful NHL careers.

Grade: Utunen adds to the team’s prospect depth on defense and looks like a fair bet to make in the fifth round. His upside appears limited, but teams have generally had decent success in later rounds by targeting unheralded young players who have made appearances in men’s professional leagues. The Canucks also get a player with leadership experience and winning pedigree, which is a nice bonus. B

186th Overall: Artyom Manukyan

Scouting Report:

Artyom Manukyan is a very curious story coming out of Russia. The Armenian-Russian forward is the first in the MHL’s history to break 100 points, and his 45% involvement put him 3rd behind Shvyryov for the lead in his age group. He improved his production by an amazing 77 points this year and seems primed for a KHL spot next season with Avangard Omsk. He is electrifyingly skilled and commands possession of the puck while he’s on the ice. He’s no slouch on defense, but doesn’t really rely on physical ability too much. He’s feisty, however and he needs to be when you realize that he stands at just 5’7″. Any player with his underlying metrics would be a surefire NHL pick, but his significant lack of size is a major question mark. To succeed at the next level, a player at that size needs to be able to skate through and around bodies and sticks at a high speed to create space, something a player like Johnny Gaudreau excels at. Manukyan is a curious case, and is likely worth a look in the late rounds if someone else doesn’t jump up and snag him as a swing for the fences, but his raw talent can’t be denied. He may need another season of viewing to ensure this isn’t just a career year for him, so he may appear on this same list in 2018 after a season in the VHL or KHL, but he is a record setting diminutive skilled forward who doesn’t look out of place dominating Russian junior games, and that is at least worth keeping an eye on.

-Will Scouch

Overview: There’s been a tendency in discourse on the draft to essentially write off any analysis at the time of a player’s selection. Every so often, someone will say something along the lines of “you can’t judge a draft pick until five years after it’s been made”, as if it’s some profound observation; as if throwing up your hands and saying you have nothing to offer is somehow taking the intellectual high ground. That’s nonsense. You can, and should, always make value judgments in the early aftermath of the draft. The selection of Artyom Manukyan, however, benefits from a bit of sober second thought and can serve as a cautionary tale against jumping to conclusions too quickly.

At first, selecting a small, 20-year old forward who put up uninspiring numbers in a season split between the MHL and KHL might seem a bit puzzling; but upon second glance, there’s definitely a sound thought process behind it. Manukyan put up a record-breaking season in the MHL in 2016-17, becoming the only player in league history to score over 100 points in a season, but was passed over because of his small stature. In 2017-18, he had a brief stint in the MHL but had proven he was simply too good for Russia’s top junior league. He got a brief audition in the KHL, but didn’t get much of an opportunity in a league that’s notoriously reliant on veteran players. Avangard Omsk was no exception, and Manukyan averaged just 5:54 in TOI per game.

Grade: Because Manukyan stands at just 5’7″, fans will likely compare this selection to the Petrus Palmu pick from last year’s draft, but they aren’t all that similar. The “short, not small” descriptor that’s been applied to Palmu’s fire hydrant-like physique doesn’t apply to Manukyan. At 140 pounds, Manukyan is certifiably tiny. The MHL also doesn’t have a history of producing NHLers the way the OHL does, which is reflected in the fact that Manukyan’s season doesn’t produce any pGPS matches. That doesn’t men the selection is without merit. The MHL is a relatively new league, and it’s traditionally been one of if not the lowest scoring junior hockey leagues in the world, which makes Manukyan’s 2016-17 season all the more impressive. He’s a long shot, but this is exactly the type of “swing for the fences” pick that a rebuilding team should be making in the later rounds. The Canucks could use scoring talent and they’re much better off selecting a shot-in-the-dark player with upside than someone they think has a decent chance at carving out a career as a depth player. B+


192nd Overall: Matthew Thiessen

Scouting Report:

Thiessen (6-2, 192), who is committed to the University of Maine in 2019-20, led the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in wins (28-3-1), was first with a 2.06 GAA and second with a .923 save percentage. He helped the Pistons to their first ANAVET Cup championship, going 4-2 with a 2.47 GAA and .903 save percentage in six games against Nipawin in the best-of-7 series.

-Mike G. Morreale

Overview: The Canucks were one of 15 teams to select a goalie in the seventh round, which serves to illustrate just how much of a crapshoot selecting a goalie is perceived to be at the moment. Thiessen was ranked as the draft’s fourth best North American goalie by Central scouting, and finished his season with the third-best save percentage in the MJHL and first among the league’s first-time draft-eligible goaltenders. Former Canucks goalie Alfie Michaud, now a coach at the University of Maine, praised Thiessen for his attitude, motivation, and calm under pressure. Thiessen’s a conservative goaltender who plays deep in his net, and Michaud identified learning when to move out and challenge attackers as an area that will need improvement at the next level.

Grade: We’ve officially reached the “throwing darts at a list of names” point of the draft. The hockey world appears to be short on Matthew Thiessen experts at the moment. Canadian Junior A doesn’t exactly have a great history of producing NHLers, but the goaltending position seems like an area where talent could be greatly underestimated. There was still a surprising amount of talent left on the board at this point in the draft (that Nathan Dunkley went completely unselected is a little baffling) but it’s hard to blame the Canucks for missing out on players the rest of the league passed on, too. Thiessen put up good numbers this season and gives them a bit of insurance at the goaltending position, which is notoriously volatile. C+


The Canucks had a fairly solid draft overall. Adding Quinn Hughes alone will be enough to make it a successful draft, and based on the bets they took there’s a decent shot the team gets another NHL player out of the five picks they made on day two. That would be a decent haul for a team that had just six picks to work with. That’s really the only valid complaint to be had: a team at the bottom of the standings needs to be making more than six selections. In the three seasons the team has spent in the NHL’s basement, they’ve made two less picks than they’ve been allotted. Looking ahead to 2019, the Canucks currently have an extra sixth round pick. Here’s hoping they acquire even more and give the hometown fans as many opportunities to cheer as possible. The team’s done a good job of bringing in talent through the draft. Now they just need more opportunities to continue to do so.

  • Jabs

    Regarding Jett Woo, if there are other players you would rather have taken at this spot then say who they are, other wise you are just blowing hot air.

    Interesting that Jackson McDonald and Ryen Beach are considered scouts by Canucks Army, is all it takes to be a scout is that you Google players names and read scouting reports? Real scouts interview players, coaches, parents, billets and watch hundreds or thousands of games and tape a year……does McDonald and Beach do that?

    One point of correction, Thiessen was not the 5th highest ranked NA goalie, he was 4th.

    Overall when reading this blog, I consider the misuse of credentials and obvious errors and lack of credible sources and rank this blog as a D.

  • Foximus

    Haven’t joined the discussion for awhile but here goes…
    I trust Benning’s drafting abilities. He has done a nice job building a stable of solid prospects with some real high end talent included. He’s getting prospects in the rounds after 1 and 2 while generally hitting on round 1 and 2 consistently.
    That all being said I have no confidence in his free agent signing or trades. No one bats a thousand but his averages aren’t good.
    So I’m all in for him having one last draft after the upcoming season. And then the Canucks cut him loose and bring in a GM better at handling the free agent game and trade scenarios.
    Not very loyal but it’s a business that is all about winning.

    • detox

      I get the sentiment regarding JB’s signings and trades. Less so with the signings than the trades where I remind myself, we are a bottom dwelling team, who really wants our wares?


    Benning blows and blew it with his first pick he should have picked Dobson or Bouchard and not one of the lollypop guild. Woo was a great pick Gilligans Island must have been on a commercial break so the Skipper (linden) could put in his two coconuts.

  • truthseeker

    “Every so often, someone will say something along the lines of “you can’t judge a draft pick until five years after it’s been made”, as if it’s some profound observation; as if throwing up your hands and saying you have nothing to offer is somehow taking the intellectual high ground. That’s nonsense. You can, and should, always make value judgments in the early aftermath of the draft.”

    Nice strawman.

    It’s not nonsense at all. And it’s not the “value judgment” people are complaining about when they say you can’t judge a draft pick. It’s the saying a draft pick is a “bust” after a couple of seasons and or comparing said draft pick to someone else in the same draft year who happened to have a bit of NHL success faster. That is what is meant by that statement. Not the strawman nonsense you just wrote.

    Nobody anywhere ever said draft picks shouldn’t be analyzed and compared in terms of the selection process.

    • And lots of people regularly say you can’t judge a draft until several years out and push back at any assessment of the process. We see it in the comments here, we see it in the mainstream media – claiming otherwise is just wrong.

      • DJ_44

        Looking back at the stats; some players from 2008 may still be on the fence whether they qualify as NHLers. Some assumptions must be made. However, I do not disagree with the statement. Perhaps a more accurate statement is you cannot objectively evaluate a draft class for several years out.

        Jackson’s subjective, dance-fever type evaluation is rampant everywhere, including the comments.

    • Tedchinook

      You actually can’t judge a draft until a few years have gone by. In fact this article isn’t really making “judgement calls”, it’s just comparing where the Canucks drafted these players to where other people’s opinions indicated they should be drafted. There’s no right or wrong at this point, just differing opinions

        • Cageyvet

          FYI, it’s confident if you’re going to go there, Dissin’ Terry………and that’s not ironic in the least. Perhaps you’re not the one to act like an English professor, given your own use of the language.

      • TD

        The problem is that Jackson writes the article like his opinions are facts. The comments weren’t much different last year. 2017 has become an excellent draft year, but it didn’t necessarily look that way until all their players had great draft +1 seasons.

        • Dissin' Terry

          Your use of simile is misplaced. He writes the article as though he is confidant in his opinions, which he should be. It’s literally his job to do so. The fact you “critique” that shows more about your insecurities with yourself more than anything else. Go hug someone. You might like it.

          • TD

            Far from it DT. I understand that I don’t have all the answers and comment based on my opinion. Every draft pick made is based on the collective opinion of the team that selects the player. There was a consensus opinion on picks 1 and 2, after that everyone had a different opinion and drafted that way. In his articles, Jackson writes like his opinions on players are facts. They aren’t and it take a way from his credibility when he writes that way. He can have strong opinions, like JD had last year when he stated the Canucks should trade Horvat for Drouin. That was his opinion which he backed up in the article. He has since admitted his opinion was wrong. When Jackson states his opinion as a fact, he has no where to go if proven wrong.

    • You’re talking about two different things. You can judge the process and reasoning that went into making a pick – comparing it to the process and reasoning that went into making successful past picks, and you can judge the outcome.

      Given the amount of randomness and luck involved in drafting, it’s more important to follow a proven process than it is to simply judge outcomes.

      Compare it to playing Blackjack. If you’ve got 12, take a card. If you’ve got 17, don’t take a card. If you happen to get a 10 and bust on 12, that sucks, but it was still the right play. Likewise, if you get a 3 on 17, you don’t say “wow that was a really smart play”. No, it was a dumb play, you just got lucky – the odds were against you.

      The past two seasons Benning has made mostly really smart bets. Previous drafts, he did not make very smart bets. We can judge him on that.

      • DJ_44

        The past two seasons Benning has made mostly really smart bets. Previous drafts, he did not make very smart bets. We can judge him on that.

        The blackjack analogy is in appropriate. Is an element of luck involved in drafting; sure. But to suggest it is blackjack type luck is way off base.

        Far too much is ascribed to “luck” with out actually understanding what the term means. Better to look at the data. It appears that 5 players drafted by Vancouver in the 2014 draft will be NHLers (play 200 games, or 150 for goalies). That is exceptional. Look back at previous draft classes (2003-2013), only 1 team has 5 NHLers (Florida in 2010 with 13 picks); two teams if you include the 2012 Washington draft (specifically if Chandler Stephenson will play 70 more games).

        Moving to 2015, lets assume Boeser and Gaudette make it; with Briesbois and Jasek possible.
        2016 – Juolevi and Lockwood.
        2017 – Petterssson, Lind, DiPietro, Rathbone and Palmu; with Gadjovich possible.

        Granted, given how you the draft classes are, it is difficult to project. To call the last five Canucks draft classes “average”, ignores the drafting statistics from the previous decade and a half.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    The argument between Benning’s staunchest defenders and his critics has a strange twist to it as you allude to in your final paragraph. As a person who is generally critical of him, this and last year’s draft reinforce my biggest complaint: Benning’s strongest attribute is his drafting, so why can’t he put himself in a position to do more of it? He trades away picks, and does far too little to acquire more. Please Jim, prioritize acquisition of draft picks and stop trading yours away. I want to see you excel at the draft table, and believe that you can!

    • Freud

      Benning’s drafting was average until Brackett took over 2 seasons ago. Brackett was responsible for Boeser too. Let’s stop giving Benning credit where it’s not deserved and ask why the drafting process appears to have improved, but the process around all the other managerial stuff remains the same.

      • bobdaley44

        Well Benning did build Buffalo without Bracket so I’m sure he knows how to draft. Not to mention his time in Boston. Don’t have a problem with Bennings drafting with or without Brackett.

      • jaybird43

        Sometimes, people don’t understand that the GM is THE chief talent evaluator. That includes the scouting staff – who to hire, who gets to whisper in Jim’s ear the most and so on. So – Benning hired Beckett, and he, apparently, listens to him (notwithstanding his mostly good prior drafting records) … so how do you not think that Benning deserves credit? Puzzled …

      • Whatthe...

        No doubt it is a team effort but Benning put Brackett in place and established the evaluation system with which the group grades prospects…implementing a system such as this can take time so the argument can be made that we are just now seeing the solid results of Benning’s prospect evaluation system.

      • For the 2014 draft, Benning’s first draft, the first 5 players that he selected are, were or will likely be NHL roster players (Virtanen, McCann, Tryamkin, Demko, Forsling). That an unreal 71% hit rate that preceded Brackett. Moreover, Brackett didn’t just appoint himself, Benning gave the scouting department structure and appointed the staff. So he should be given credit as the architect. Everyone knows that a GM needs to rely on the input of his scouts and support staff but it’s ultimately his decision on who to draft.

        • Chris the Curmudgeon

          The enthusiasm for those players should probably be tempered a little bit by the fact that the forwards taken after the two first rounders, William Nylander and David Pastrnak, have vastly outperformed Benning’s choices.

          • Dirk22

            This just in – the 2014 draft was mainly conducted by a Gillis hired regime.

            The dumb-dumbs think it was Benning out there scouting Tryamkin and Forsling etc. Nope – he was just busy making the larger first round decisions.

          • Bud – that’s extremely disingenuous. Eichel came into the league as an 18-year-old, and Marner as a 19-year-old. Boeser was 20/21, and has played about 1/3 as many games as Marner and fewer than 1/3 as many games as Eichel.

            That’s taking nothing away from Boeser, who is a great player. But this is not a fair comparison.

            Regarding the 2014 draft: Benning hit on a lot of players, which is awesome. But all the players Benning hit on with the possible exception of Demko, who has yet to make an NHL impact, are depth players. I think we need to judge drafts in retrospect based on two factors: Number of NHLers, and amount of high-end talent. Benning passed up on a number of elite NHL players to make safe picks. He hit on a lot of those safe picks, but that makes the 2014 draft a mixed bag, I think.

          • Bud Poile

            That’s not surprising coming from a Benning curmudgeon.
            Wit the exception of McDavid,the entire 2015 draft class has less PPG than Boeser.
            Boeser-injured Boeser-.85 PPG
            Marner- .817 PPG 4th overall
            Eichel-.847 PPG 2nd overall

          • To a degree but that doesn’t change the fact that Benning still picked 5 roster players out of the 210 selections. Given the average probabilities of drafting a roster player by round, it’s fantastic. And your point goes the other way too, Benning grabbed Boeser at #23 the following year, which is a heckuva lot better than Boston’s #13, 14 and 15 picks that year.

    • Whatthe...

      The depth is finally at a point where the team can now start to focus on draft picks…when Benning took over there was a huge void of young players on the NHL squad, solid prospects on the AHL squad, and high end prospects in the jr ranks. Benning has corrected these issues and now has the flexibility to trade the 24 to 30-year-old players on the NHL squad…for draft picks if needed. The balance throughout the organization is finally starting to even out…this was in no way the case when he took over and I like that he took the long-term approach rather than bow to the screechy media/bloggers/etc.

      • Chris the Curmudgeon

        Explain to me why it’s important for a team to have players in every age group? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, it’s good to have 25 year old guys, but only if they’re actually good players. I’d rather have 19 or 20 year old good players than 25-28 year old plugs.

        • It’s not so much the age but the experience that comes with it. It would have been ridiculous to start the 2014 draft picks into the 2014/2015 season. By getting players in that 20-24 age group (or whatever Benning said), it was getting some guys who were a bit further ahead in development that could make the jump. And that’s because the majority of the team was in their late 20’s or early 30’s when Benning took over.

          Sure, I’d like to have 19-20 superstars that can make the jump but that’s rare. To acquire players that are in the 20-24 age group that are good would come at a ridiculous cost via trade. You can’t sign them unless it’s an offer sheet (which costs an arm and a leg and draws the scorn of other GM’s). You’re not getting them in free agency because they’re RFA. So unless you strike oil in the draft, how else are you supposed to find them? Benning rolled the dice on depth chart logjams and reclamation projects.

          • This makes no sense, and never has. The players Benning acquired to “fill in the gaps” were almost entirely mediocre players, 3rd and 4th liners or replacement level players, and virtually none of them stuck. The idea behind trading picks and prospects early in their development curve for players later in their curve is that you have a surer bet of landing an NHL player, and yet guys like Vey and Clendening are long gone.

            If the team was going to return to relevancy in the short term this strategy might have made sense, but we’re four years into the Canucks being a perennial bottom-5 organization, and Benning’s moves set the rebuild back, rather than moving it forward. Players like Gustav Forsling, Jared McCann, and the players the team might have drafted with the second they gave away to get Linden Vey or the fifth they gave away to unload Zack Kassian or the second they inexplicably gave to Pittsburgh in the Sutter trade or numerous other picks they’ve frittered away would now be solid NHL contributors to this team.

  • Jim Benning had to serve three masters in the four years he’s been here. Maybe four masters, if you count Francesco’s money machine.
    1-It’s a business after all and it has to make money.
    2-The prospect cupboard was bare. Not no more.
    3-Lack of players in their early twenties. We have some now.
    4-An aging core with no trade clauses.

    Think about it. Jim Benning got a lot done.

  • neal

    Benning should be the chief scout, not the GM. What a waste of free agent signings. There is enough veteran presence on the team yet he commits to four-year contracts with geriatric players. The fans want to see youth even if they lose games.

  • Regarding Tyler Madden – if there’s one area (and it’s probably the *only* area) where Benning & Co. have unreservedly earned the benefit of the doubt, it’s drafting players out of US hockey.

    • DJ_44

      Leaving the “only” comment aside; they have absolutely earned the benefit of the doubt.

      Jackson is still bent out of shape over the Lockwood pick; because he felt Abramov was the better pick. This has not be proven out. Lockwood ripped it up when he got to Michigan prior to injury. He continued that as a sophmore, making a very strong US WJC team and playing very well before again being injured.

      It also ignores that fact that Brackett new and scouted Madden when he played New England prep hockey.

      US-based players selected during the Benning tenure: Demko, Boeser, Gaudette, Lockwood, Rathbone, Hughes, and Madden. In five years, that may turn out to be a Murderer’s Row.

      • Not sure why you take exception to ‘only’ – I completely agree, those players look great, that’s why I said Benning has earned the benefit of the doubt in drafting US players.

        Has he earned the benefit of the doubt with trades? No. Free agency signings? Hell no. Drafting from other leagues? It’s been decent, but there are hits and misses. The only area this management group has had unreserved success is drafting from the USHL and related leagues.

        • Bud Poile

          Russia-Tryamkin and Manukyan
          Goalies-drafted 3-and now operating an advanced goaltender program
          Dorsett for a third
          Lack to intentionally draft Brisebois
          Mallet for Pedan
          Baertschi for a 2nd
          Bieksa for a 2nd
          Holm /Leipsic
          Free agents:
          Miller ,Vrbata,Vanek, Roussel
          Free agents:
          Probably a few more but I’m going outside.
          The .org was a complete mess of a shell before Benning got here.

        • DJ_44

          He has made some excellent trades, and some meh, some poor. Free agent signings: I suggest he is better than given credit for.
          – Eriksson is not bearing out.

          – Vrbata; looked great year one, fell off the planet year 2.
          – Ryan Miller was an really good signing.

          – Del Zotto and Gagner are fillers, that hopefully can be flipped.
          – Schaller, Beagle and Rousell definitely make this team much better going into next season. Sure a year too long on term for Beagle, but that is not outlandish.
          – He has excelled at signing un-drafted FA’s. MacEwen, Stecher, Sautner etc.

          My point is this. He has been very good where a rebuilding management team must be very good: Identifying and signing young talent. He has built a pool of young talent, and prospect pipeline, that is sustainable and allows for moves to be made going forward.

          • Sedin33

            “My point is this. He has been very good where a rebuilding management team must be very good: Identifying and signing young talent. He has built a pool of young talent, and prospect pipeline, that is sustainable and allows for moves to be made going forward”

            LOL — Very good at rebuilding? They didn’t even use the word rebuilding until last year. Management is not just drafting or signing young players. That’s a big part, but not the only part.

          • Ser Jaime Lannister

            @sedin33 Youre upset because management didnt use the term rebuild lmao! You poor baby, DJ couldnt explain it any better, be excited at the youth thats on its way. The team will be trending up soon if you cant wait another 2-3 years, well….theres lots of other teams to watch.

          • DJ_44


            without going back too far:

            Burrows for Dahlen;
            Pedan and a 4th for Pouliot
            Hansen for a 4th and Goldobin
            Holm for Liepsic
            Vanek for Motte

            All were good value moves, with the Burrows trade being the best of the bunch.

        • Cageyvet

          Fair enough but I will take exception that the 5th rounder (your earlier comment) traded with Kassian would now be a solid contributor to the team. Very few 5th rounders ever make the league, so that’s a big assumption. Personally, I don’t like to see any picks wasted, I agree with you there, but picks after the 3rd round don’t concern me much. I wouldn’t trade a 3rd round pick for 2 4th rounders, that’s how dramatic the drop-off is, both in reality and perceived value around the league.

  • Giant-Nation

    Good points 4 years in I think you can start to see if the draft was a success. i just want to say I’m seeing a lot of people talk about all the veterans coming in and not letting the young kids play. This is a bit selfish because yeah we all want to see Dhalin and Hughes play this year. But it should be noted that burning ELC’s and making moves for us to move up in the Draft is really not the way to give us the highest chance of succeeding in a rebuild. I think this will be the last year we see the team slow cooking the prospects, but if we can add a top 5 pick next year I think you will see not only Dhalin and Hughes cracking the line up but Kole Lind, Demko, Juloevi and perhaps a Gadj or Palmu and dont forget about Jasek. They could possible draft a top forward next year that could step in right away. If any of these vets we signed this year are valuable at the trade deadline we can flip them for picks as well. One more year boys of the slow go, 2020 will be a fun year with a ton of prospects entering the big club, just be patient, and enjoy Pettersson this year along with the call ups.

    • I’m not sure if 2020 will be a fun year with Eriksson, Sutter, Beagle, Roussel, and Gudbranson still on the books for over $20 million, plus the team potentially on the hook for over $8 million of Luongo’s contract.

      Burning ELCs is only a concern for the team given the dreadful cap crunch they’ve set themselves up for with repeated overpays to marginal talent.

      Not sure why people keep pointing to the trade deadline as the cure-all for these problematic contracts, either. First, players on multi-year deals are rarely traded at the deadline, so we’re talking about trading these players several years out (how appealing do you think 36-year-old Jay Beagle or 36-year-old Loui Eriksson are going to be at the trade deadline?), but more importantly, Benning is dropped the ball at the trade deadline every year he’s run this team except 2017. Expecting him to work some magic and solve all the team’s problems through savvy deadline deals just doesn’t seem realistic at all.

      • KGR

        While i can understand people being unhappy with the signing of Beagle and Roussel, I find the whole “hands are tied” thing, a bit to much. Unless the Canucks sign a couple of big free agents in the next few years, a cap issue is at least 6 or 7 years out. Only a couple of the young guys are going to be Looking at bridge deals in 4 years and maybe EP a big deal. Cap is still going up, other contracts are coming off the books, etc.
        I do hope they load up on draft picks. Like the way they been drafting the last few years; And, I do agree trading and the deadline have been Benning’s weakness.
        I look forward to following Utica this season

      • Ser Jaime Lannister

        lmao Goon wtf are you talking about?

        2020 could be a fun year if prospects are ready to make the jump and this team is being competitive and winning games. Hopefully we can see the team trending upwards and playoffs shortly after!

        Dont worry about those players salaries lmao. Beagle and Roussel havent even played a game and we are trading them already hahah!

      • Giant-Nation

        he sky is falling, why have we signed these guys!! The following players may or may not all be Canucks at some point but this is the core JB is building right now. Most of them are in the 24-25 age once the current 4 year contracts expire. ELC and controlling the development pipeline in terms of improving the players and having them over ripen in the system as Detroit perfected years ago is a key strategic move.

        Age of players once the current 4 year contracts expire:

        Jett Woo – 22
        Quinn Hughes – 23
        Jack Rathbone – 23
        Dipietro – 23

        Kole Lind – 24
        Elias Pettersson – 24
        Jonathan Dahlen 24
        Jonah Gadjovich – 24
        Olli Juolevi – 24

        Adam Guadette – 25

        Brock Boeser 26
        Thatcher Demo – 26
        Nikolay Goldoben 26

        Bo Horvat 27
        Nikita Tryamkin 27

        Sven Bartschi – 29

        This is a slow cook, development model JB&TL should have adopted years ago, but here we are drafting in the top 10, piling up a good core and developing them to have a very competitive team come 2022. There’s no speeding this up our core is young it’s going to take time, but fun to watch these top 10 talents play for Van City.

      • truthseeker

        I’m still waiting for you to respond to all those “No Movement Clauses” you claim Benning has handed out. Which ones?

        You tucked tail and ran on that one….

        Not sure anyone should take your opinions on contract seriously when you don’t even know he hasn’t given out a single NMC contract.

        • El Kabong

          I still think we’ll pick Loungo up again. Better to have him on the team (and not playing), pay him the 1 million rather than be hit with an 8 Million CAP hit.

          • argoleas

            Luongo does not need to officially retire, and I don’t think it’s Van that needs to pick him up. Plenty of other teams can use his contract to reach cap floor, or get a prospect from Fla (like Ari did w/ Datsyuk). This is why I’m not worried about it at all.

  • Is it possible to modify data in the Cohort Map to project theoretical XLS%? Specifically, I’d want to know what Woo’s XLS% would be if he maintained his 1.0 PPG pace before he got injured. If he had 44 points instead of 25 points in 44 games, how would that number increase? It would give more assurance about how well Woo will fare now that he’s healthy.

  • wojohowitz

    – In pursuit of perfection CA predictors should attempt to improve their collective performance year over year by analysis of past drafts in which 7 to 9 first round picks drop to the second round or lower and as many as 30 of the top 100 picks do not get selected at all, although in fairness CA choices are typically no better or worst than other so called experts.

    – The anomaly that no one noticed until after the fact was that the consensus top two centers were both outside of the top ten. As to whether Montreal and Arizona blundered badly by going against consensus will take a couple of years to find out. It reminds me a bit of Boston picking three in a row and some observers saying; `How could they screw that up so badly`.

    – Benning has been called a serious `rink rat` in that it is estimated he attends more than 100 non-NHL games a year – born to scout.

    – Benning finally got his Juolevi-type solid all around defenceman and that would be; Jett Woo.

      • wojohowitz

        I absolutely agree with you that Juolevi will be a solid D man for the Canucks, but that will be after playing next season in Finland and the year after in Utica – oh how painful when reality finally replaces the wishful dreaming of the deluded.

        • Bud Poile

          When Trevor Linden was named Canuck President of Hockey Operations on April 9, 2014 the team had four players under the age of 25 that potentially could be considered part of a new core; Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev, and Jacob Markstrom.

          Considering Hutton and Markstrom are NHL tweeners and Gillis lost Schneider for Horvat ,throw in a dozen NTC’s they had to work through and only Gaunce (another tweener) and Shinkaruk as the entire prospect pool the haters look pretty silly on this board.

          • So this is still not Benning’s team and all of its failings are still Gillis’s fault?

            We’re entering Benning’s fifth season at the helm. Five. Will it still be Gillis’s fault when this team is bad in seven? Nine? Do we need a full Oilers decade of darkness?

            It was Benning’s team after Season 2. The team’s failing are on his shoulders.

          • Bud Poile

            So are the successes:drafting,player development ,goaltender programs -all commendable.
            If you think restocking two pro teams with prospects has been as simple as signing NTC’s and a few vets you’re wasted.
            You give little to no credit but you whine constantly.

    • Juolevi can still be an all-round Top 4 defenceman (I’m skeptical about top pairing ability though). Might take a little longer. Aside from physicality levels, I think Juolevi and Woo have the same, solid, potential.

  • Kanucked

    I had a chance to speak to Benning at Dice & Ice this year for about 5-10 minutes. He’s really an approachable and likeable person.

    We discussed Boesser and he went into great detail about his shot and the mechanics.

    Understanding that he is limited in some of the things he can discuss, he seemed genuinely uninterested in issues related to managing (i.e. salary cap, expansion…).

    While nobody’s perfect, I think he’s earned the benefit of the doubt for his drafting. I don’t that’s the case for other aspects of the job. Being excellent at one part of your job doesn’t mean you are good at other aspects of the position. Linden should have already recognize these gaps and had others to fill them.

    As a Canucks fan, I would love some of the drafting acumen AND some shrewd trades/ FA signings. It would have been great if Benning had made the Hoffman deal from Ottawa and then to Florida. Do we deserve both?

    I look forward to the onslaught of trashes.

    • KGR

      It’s not a negative for recognizing a person’s strengths and weaknesses. And it is trevor’s job to mitigate them. For me – I love how the Canuck’s have been drafting…I’ll keep Benning for that alone.

    • Giant-Nation

      Benning is so approachable and easy guy to chat with, I talked to him for about 20 minutes at a kids function this year…he could talk prospects all day his eyes light up if you have any idea of what is in the pipline or what is out there and up and coming. He is so laid back you don’t feel like your chatting with a guy running the biggest sport franchise in Van. Not to many GM’s can make you feel like that. So the fact he would give any average fan the time of day, I can do him a solid and back him up as he puts his plan in place.

  • Killer Marmot

    I give this assessment a solid B.

    Where did it fall short? To pick the fourth highest-ranked goalie in the seventh round deserves a solid A, not a C+. Any seventh-round pick that has even a 10% chance of having an NHL career is very well done, and I think Thiessen easily qualifies.

  • Sonja


    I think Tappara had best defense in the league on last season. It was difficult to get a roster spot at the age of 17. It’s not easy to take a roster spot next season either. I think the defense is;

    33 Veli-Matti Vittasmäki – 52 Otso Rantakari
    18 Tuukka Mäntylä – 13 Valtteri Kemiläinen
    23 Aleksi Elorinne – 56 Juho Rautanen
    15 Toni Utunen

    But one injury and Utunen gets at least a place to play. If that doesn’t come right away, then Utunen goes 20km away to Leki (Mestis) to play for the first pair. I think at if he play in another team on Liiga, roster spot would already have come. On the other hand, in my opinion, they’re doing the best job in player development here. Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov look example.

    I think Utunen has talents to develop Canucks future 3-5 defenseman, but naturally he need some time for that. No major weakness. He have excellent transition sense and good offensive upside, great attitude, character kid.

  • Killer Marmot

    McDonald gives the Madden pick a C, but according to Kuzma at The Province, Tyler’s been turning heads at the Development Camp. To quote:

    “All week he has been impressive,” said Johnson, who doubles as general manager of the Utica Comets. “It’s his attention to detail and he has a feistiness to him. There’s a real skill set there that maybe I wasn’t expecting — it’s high end. The way he skates, his process is going to be quick because of a natural competitiveness.”

    • Ser Jaime Lannister

      There has been a lot of buzz regarding Madden and rightfully so, great pickup by Benning and Co!

      Amateur hour at its finest! Jacksons articles are always good for a laugh…nothing more 🙂

      • Killer Marmot

        Madden is headed to Northeastern University this fall, where, if Gaudette is any indication, sound fundamentals are a priority. The Canucks could have a valuable asset on their hands in a year or two.

  • rediiis

    You can’t do graphics in different junior leagues. Their is an eye chart and scouting. I am more interesting in speed, skating and skill. Is his head up and can he make the pass. Some interesting picks, but JB was handcuffed with need at D. I really wanted a center, shoot, I would always draft a center first. Just me. I never screamed at my monitor or threw a hissy fit. I was surprised Hughes was available and well done. Woo is a class act. Madden, I deferred to a friend in Boston that covers the USDL. He said the kid is a pest. Utuken and Mankukyan I know zero about. Thiessen is a solid pick.

  • NoPainNoGain

    The Canucks scouting staff have done a great job of drafting quality players, and by quality I refer to these kids character as people. And by that I refer to their mind set, their ability to think and react in a certain way under pressure, and how they treat their peers and people in their communities. The stats are a part, but not the whole reason these kids are drafted. Benning and Linden are looking for guys that will be mentally tough and skilled, guys that are mindful and respectful of one another and their coaches, as well as their community. These are the types of guys that you win with, I would trade a team full of Kessels for a team of Horvats any day. I want a can do, and willing attitude with skill, not skill with a crappy attitude, and unfortunately for all those stat guys out there, there is not stat for attitude is there? Nor is there a stat for character. It would be nice for some of these so called professional stat people to factor in attitude and character once in a while, then maybe we would get some more realistic stats.