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The Canucks prospect pool has eroded due to a variety of factors

As the season slowly comes to a conclusion here in Vancouver, the level of scrutiny on the organization has ramped up.

It could simply be that it’s the same story in March for another year or we’ve reached a point where fans are just too frustrated.  Either way, it seems that everything is being questioned as the Canucks finish out the 2018-19 season despite the arrival of Quinn Hughes.

Hughes’ arrival is actually one of the major talking points because after him, who else is coming?

The Canucks prospect pool was praised as being one of the best in the league but has seen that top prospect group and the perception about their potential quickly erode due to a variety of factors.

What got the wheels churning on this matter was former CanucksArmy managing editor, J.D. Burke, discussing the matter on TSN 1040 on Friday morning.

Mentioning J.D.’s name in these parts might cause many to automatically dismiss what he is trying to say but he does touch a few reasons why the Canucks pool has quickly dropped off. I figured I’d expand and add onto it here.

Rapid Graduation

Quinn Hughes is making his NHL debut during his draft plus one season after Elias Pettersson made his debut after his draft plus one year. Those two players headlined the prospect pool heading into this season and both will be effectively removed from the list.

Thatcher Demko and Adam Gaudette have made their move to the NHL this season and both won’t be seeing the AHL ever again. That’s two prospects that were regularly in the 3-6 range of the Canucks prospect pool.

Take four of the top six prospects, insert them into your NHL lineup and it will hurt the preception of the prospect pool immensely.  They are no longer coming but are here.

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Which is why the remark about how ‘who’s next?” is a valid question – with those four moving to the NHL, who is the next impact prospect to make the leap in the short term?

Loss of Prospects (and injuries)

Petrus Palmu returned to Finland, Jonathan Dahlen was traded to the San Jose Sharks, and Olli Juolevi lost most of the season to a knee injury.

Palmu and Juolevi will come back to the Comets next season, or maybe even the NHL for Juolevi, but it’s a lost season for each prospect. Juolevi was getting better with each passing game but only appeared in 18 games this season. He has appeared in 56 regular season games (Liiga in 2017-18 and AHL in 2018-19) and 11 Liiga playoff games in the past two seasons. That is a low number for any prospect and has to raise some concern for someone drafted where he was.

This isn’t to say that Juolevi can’t get back on track but at this very moment, you have to wonder where he can go from here with missing over 50% of the possible games available to him.

Palmu has essentially kept the same pace as he did last season with TPS but will be 22 years old entering this training camp.

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In a vacuum, Linus Karlsson is an okay prospect but the cost of Jonathan Dahlen doesn’t balance it out. That creates another hit to the prospect pool.

Each one of those will have varying degrees of impact to perception with Dahlen’s move being the biggest impact. You can debate the reason for each player leaving, and how much Juolevi’s injury will impact it, but it does add so many questions to it.


There was been much ink spilled and words said about the challenges going on in Utica. You can agree with the plan, oppose it, or be somewhere in the middle. But you can’t really argue with the fact that prospects like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich entered this season as legitimate prospects for the organization but haven’t seen their point totals reflect that hype.

Lind has been playing better over the last few weeks but still sits at three goals and eleven assists in forty-four AHL games. Gadjovich has eleven points in thirty-seven games after struggling to get into the lineup regularly.

Lukas Jasek burst onto the AHL scene last season but has seen similar issues with deployment and production.

Debating that side isn’t what the point is, just merely pointing out that the issues in Utica has resulted in the rookie prospects appearing to have taken a step back. Not every prospect is going to transition to the AHL and then the NHL but their struggles have rightfully raised questions on how the organization can do better once they are in their control.

Lack of added picks

Not all prospects will make it.

In reality, aside from the Pettersson’s and Hughes’ of the world, most prospects will ultimately fail. The best way to avoid this is to amass as many picks as possible and go for the quantity approach. If you refine your amateur drafting along the way, you can build a core of players that will make the organization take the next step forward. Then the lower round picks can fill in the depth pieces that are needed.

The main argument that Burke used in is radio hit was… “okay, the top guys are here, who is next?”

That’s a big problem.

Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Pettersson, Gaudette, Demko, and Hughes are here and will all be playing regularly but how does the organization add or support them. They don’t have tangible assets to acquire more picks and the players that could get moved won’t fetch a return that will help the group immensely.

So, they now rely on hoping that they hit a home run on multiple undervalued players in the market or have to rely on free agency, and if you are hoping to fix your problems through July 1, you’ll be in more trouble than before.

Had they acquired more picks over the years, the loss of someone like Dahlen wouldn’t have hurt as much or they could move a 2020 pick for something now.


We can’t all be negative, so here are some of the positives for the prospect pool over the last year.

  • Tyler Madden has played very well in his freshman NCAA season. He has quickly evolved from a long term project into someone who might consider leaving the NCAA after one year.
  • Jett Woo was placed in a more offensive role and has taken off. Last season was a roller coaster of deployment and roles for the Canucks 2018 2nd round pick but he has really taken control of his development this season.
  • Zack MacEwen continued his upward trend to earn his NHL debut. Going from an undrafted UFA to a legitimate possibility in the future.
  • Jack Rathbone was a bit of a forgotten prospect but has done well in his NCAA freshman season with Harvard.

The Canucks had a fantastic prospect pool to start the season but through the factors outlined above, the perception has changed.

Even with a good draft this year, they are just keeping the natural flow of players coming rather than building up a swell of talent.

The amateur scouting staff has done a fantastic job at the draft floor in terms of extracting talent from throughout the draft but so much happens after that day.

There is reason to be excited about that aforementioned core but leaves you with the question of ‘what’s next?’

  • Minivan

    “Who’s next” is why there is a draft every season and 1st round picks usually get put into the top 3 of every prospect pool. Development takes time and not high 1st round pick time. Why “rebuilds” take a lot longer than most people think they should.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      You should clarify that when you are using the word “rebuild” here, you are referring to a Jim Benning rebuild. Not exactly the epitome of a model rebuild, or even an average run of the mill rebuild similar in style to a typical rebuild.

      This is a rebuild led by a guy who has been incredibly unsuccessful at acquiring additional draft picks (whether he’s actually trying or not) and turning them into prospects/picks.

      5 years
      -2 net draft picks accumulated to date.
      Rebuild eh?

  • wojohowitz

    Ottawa used 12 rookies last year and 13 this year. Stanley Cup Champions Washington introduced 9 rookies last year. The Canucks; 5 and 5. Both Palmu and Dahlen might still be in Utica if only given a taste instead of discouragement and I don`t mean a week in the press box with nary a sniff.

    I wouldn`t be surprised if both Palmu and Juolevi are playing in the Liiga next season.

    Jasek deserves a look this season. His board work and passing are better than most. Lind is also a blue chip prospect who could challenge for a spot next training camp. Unfortunately that`s about it.

  • Don’t forget we have DiPietro who should qualify for Utica next season. If we assume that Benning sees Markstrom as our No.1 going forward, we could trade Demko in a few years and put DiPietro as his back-up. Either way, it’s an imperative that we draft the best goaltender available this year (Spencer Knight in the 2nd?) to keep the prospect pipeline full in this position.

      • Personally, I want to stick to the plan and have Demko as our No. 1. We can rent Markstrom at the TDL and have DiPietro come up in 2-3 years as back-up. In the meantime, we can find a cheap back-up for Demko via free agency.

        • canuckfan

          Markstrom is the number 1, Demko has a future but needs to learn more about the NHL game as it is much faster and the shooters are more talented. He will get there but not within the next two years. We need a couple more goalies who can play to bolster the Comets they need a number one and DiPietro can back up and learn the AHL game and perhaps even get another game at the NHL level.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    My expectations at the beginning of the season were: Play .500 hockey but more importantly develop 5 young players (playing 30-40 games with the Nucks) into regular NHLer’s.
    Those 5 players were: Elias Pettersen, Jake Virtanen, Nic Goldobin, Tyler Motte, and Adam Gaudette.
    I think we accomplished that goal.
    They next step: To improve the Defence and develop (Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi) playing 40+ games next season paired with veteran D-men.
    3rd Step: Have Thatcher Demko play 20+ NHL games next season.
    I like the progress the team has made.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      Nice revisionist goals you got there.

      You can’t be serious trying to say that you didn’t expect Olie Juolevi to be playing at the NHL level by this past season?
      You can’t be serious also in not mentioning that you had higher expectations for this defence corps after the previous 3 abysmal seasons and 4 straight months of EVERY single reporter stating that this team simply cannot come back in 18/19 with the same defence.

      Having one sole expectation sounds really similar to how most of the fanbase feels about Jim Benning. 1 expectation at a time, no more. Slowest rebuild ever. Never accumulate draft picks. Never address defence until literally forced to do so. Never keep stocking the cupboard. Never be proactive (ex: 5 weeks of hibernation after failing to acquire that Phili goalie then doing nothing until all other goalies go down with injury thus forcing you to give up another pick for garbage that could have been acquired for free had he been proactive).

      I just want a GM that doesn’t do the bare minimum and operate slower than a slug. I don’t care that the team sucks, cause in a rebuild, watching the prospects is the fun part. It’s just sad that this GM makes no moves to expedite this rebuild (taking on bad contracts for picks, not allowing Utica to ruin players thru different goals, ect)

  • Kootenaydude

    Hughes and MacKewan hopefully start the season with the Canucks next fall. Juolevi comes up after he gets into hockey shape. Brisebois and Sautner are getting a taste of the NHL and will be depth players when the injuries come. Lind, Gadjovich, Jasek and hopefully Lockwood will show up at the end of next season. The gap in prospects is why we have Leivo, Pearson and Spooner. Top quality prospects don’t stay prospects for long. They become NHL players.

  • Smarttnet

    Yes, losing prospects looks bad. In particular to Dahlen and Palmu. But statistically, it’s about right. Experts say only 10% of all prospects will make the team. And that’s not to say they’re all superstars, by far. Some will end up as everyday 4th liners whom can easily be replaced by a veteran like Beagle or Sutter. The thing that concerns me the most is having our 4th line making Ericsson $6 mil plus Beagle $3 mil. 4th liner should be filled by three Mottes. If we do that, we’d have the best and most cost effective 4th line in the league. Credit to Motte and Benning to pick him up. Along with Leivo. Benning should be trading away vets, who have very little trade value. And acquire players to get low profile players. Not making big hockey trades like Sutter and Gurbranson. His best Hockey Trades are the minor trades which he acquired those guys who is hungry for every minute of ice time they’re given. And concentrate your efforts for high end draft picks and prospects to become top 6 players or top 4 defensive men. May the biggest change in management this year will be hiring an experienced President to overwatch Benning. President to make the big trades and leaving Benning with small trades and draft. I’m concerned about how Trent Cull is doing in Utica and not developing our prospects, maybe President can assess the situation there and make the appropriate changes to put Utica back on the develop prospects objective. Cull doesn’t have motivation to develop players, he maybe just trying to win as many games in minors to attract attention to himself. Kinda like Willie D. He knows Green is in Vancouver for the long haul so he has to just win games, don’t care about developing young prospects.

  • TheRealPB

    This seems unduly harsh and focused on Dahlen. I think it’s disappointing that he wanted out but I also think the narrative that Utica is being mismanaged is also ignoring the graduations we’ve had from the AHL to NHL. Gaudette, MacEwan and Demko are all clear successes. Juolevi was trending up before the injury. Lind has looked much better the second half of the season. Sautner and Jasek have been decent. The subtraction of Dahlen from the pool isn’t quite as big a loss as I think you’re making it out to be (and Karlsson from everything I’ve read has more upside than I think you’re acknowledging).

    Dahlen and Goldobin were also the equivalent of acquiring picks for vets, so I think that is also part of the “we need more picks” story.

    I think it’s graduation (of EP and Hughes in particular) that weakens the pool, not the loss of Dahlen. But then that’s what you hope if you have good picks. The idea that we have a “weak prospect pool because of trading away picks” is laughable. Especially if you’ve watched the Canucks for 20+ years and remember 2010 and 2007 when we didn’t draft a player who played even one NHL game, or 77-86 when we drafted in the top ten every year and were…well, you know…

    I know it’s also a completely different era than a decade or two ago. And that’s why you can’t simply judge a prospect pool by the number of draft picks you have but other ways of acquiring young players. Benning’s method of trying to jumpstart the rebuild by going after young players he thinks will flourish has been middling (Granlund, Baertschi and Leivo have worked, Vey, Clendening, Etem, Gudbranson not so much). But where he has been relatively successful is in supplementing the prospect pool with good NCAA and CHL overage signings (Stecher, McEneny, Chatfield, Carcone, Sautner and even Kulbakov). Stecher is easily the equivalent of a 3rd or maybe even a 2nd round pick and the others are as good as 4th or 5th rounders. In fact, I’m often surprised by the Canucks’ eye for this kind of talent — I’m assuming it’s not the same pro scouts that the use to evaluate NHL players to target for FA.

  • North Van Halen

    While I agree I wish the Canucks made more of an effort to acquire picks, if LA got a 6th for MDZ, Pouliot is worth at least that but the angst over the loss of Dahlen is getting to borderline ridiculous.
    In fact, it sounds identical to the whimpering all the crystal ball owning bloggers that gave us dozens of articles on Frankie Corrado and double that on Hunter Shinkaruk.
    To this point one of the few areas management has been fairly astute is judging players in this age range. If they decided Linus Karlsson is equal to Jonathan Dahlen, I beleve it waaaaay more than I trust the word of bloggers that haven’t carefully studied both players. If the Canucks thought Dahlen was part of the solution, he’d still be here, .Instead they cut bait. I’m

    • Freud

      Something happened once, so it’ll happen again, trust me? Your myopic hot take on Dahlen being the next Shinkaruk, just because you want it to be so is one thing.

      But to suggest Benning can evaluate “players in this age range” while ignoring Doug Wilson’s record is laughable.

      Looking at Doug Wilson’s track record, vs Jim Benning’s, I waaaaay more trust the Sharks got it right over Vancouver. I’ll trust the drastically divergent results the two GMs than an angry, jealous apologist who hates to hear the ugly truth.

    • Kootenaydude

      Look at the play these days. Defencemen always join the rush. Forwards always have to cover for these defenders. If Dahlen can’t play defence. He can’t be successful on the Canucks. Benning and the staff seen this and now he’s gone.

  • Defenceman Factory

    “Each one of those will have varying degrees of impact to perception with Dahlen’s move being the biggest impact. You can debate the reason for each player leaving, and how much Juolevi’s injury will impact it, but it does add so many questions to it.”

    This is not the best paragraph you ever wrote Ryan. I read it 3 times and still don’t know what it means.

    With Hughes moving into the NHL it is true there is no sure top 6 forward or top4 Dman in the prospect pool. Looking at the situation at this exact point in time can be concerning. Clearly the Canucks decided rightly or wrongly Dahlen wasn’t going to make it in their organization. Eight months from now the situation will be considerably different. Gadjovich, Lind, Jasek, Brisebois, Joulevi and Palmu are all still here. At least one will have a breakout year next year. MacEwan and Sautner are right there. Lockwood, Woo, DePietro, Madden and Rathbone are on their way. I’m confident the Canucks will put 2 or 3 more very promising names on the list this summer.

    Almost everyone wishes the Canucks had gotten a few more picks but the situation is not dire. I expect the Canucks will move out vets from Utica for next year. We’ll see by Christmas if the slow roast approach in Utica this year was really a problem or were the expectations of 1st year pros by Burke and his ilk of whiny know it alls just not realistic. Let’s not forget JD Burke has absolutely zero experience developing young professional players and no direct knowledge of anything happening in Utica.

    • Braindead Benning

      And it must have been utterly painful as a “true” Canuck fan that you are to have whitnessed such a debacle on the teams performance during the seasons of 09,10,11 and 12 but your right about the fact we should still blame MG for the last 5 seasons especially this season don’t ya think

  • Kanuckhotep

    We had good prospects but the good news is those prospects have cracked the Canucks line up. That’s positive. (40, 88, 35 and soon 43 QH) To me though going over this whole Dahlen thing is pointless. He’s gone and a dead issue much like Tryamkin now. There’s another draft soon and maybe more FAs coming I’m sure so Benning will just have to do his job and fill up the cupboards again. Its been slow but there has been some progress.

  • 51Geezer

    I can’t find any useful information in this passage:
    “Debating that side isn’t what the point is, just merely pointing out that the issues in Utica has resulted in the rookie prospects appearing to have taken a step back. Not every prospect is going to transition to the AHL and then the NHL but their struggles have rightfully raised questions on how the organization can do better once they are in their control.”

    We all want to know why Lind and Gadjovich have not succeeded. What are the issues in Utica? What questions have been rightfully raised?

  • Dirk22

    The predictable repercussions of not accumulating picks from 2015-2018 is starting to show – thankfully its mitigated a bit because the team has been so bad that they’ve been able to draft in the top 10 for what will be most likely 6 of the last 7 years, meaning that they could obtain some elite talent at the top of their roster.

    Not being able to accumulate picks during that time and building up a huge base of prospects has other effects that aren’t always mentioned. Obviously there is the direct effect of having these potential picks turn into good players for you but there are a couple of other ways not getting those picks hurts the team.
    1 – it forces the team into this cycle where lack of depth causes them to prioritize re-signing players like Edler and Tanev instead of trading them for even more young talent or picks.
    2 – Trade chips – this is probably the biggest one. With an overflowing prospect pool a team can afford to dip into it to obtain something of significance. Wouldn’t that be a nice option to seek help for Horvat up front or look for that right-shot defencemen.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      Your suggestions are good, but you’re forgetting that those points would only be obvious to a PROACTIVE GM. A guy who assesses himself and reevaluates based on long term goals. There has been no evidence over 5 yrs to suggest this current GM has any ability to self assess and evaluate his own performance. The only thing he has proven has been that he can draft slightly better than most GMs (perfect for a head scout no?) and that he will constantly wait and wait and then wait some more when his back is against the wall, before finally forcing a move which more often than not, fails him and costs him draft picks.

    • Bud Poile

      The franchise had nothing in the prospect pipeline,brother.
      Gotta ice a team and your Gillis fairy dust doesn’t cut it.
      “…the team has been so bad that they’ve been able to draft in the top 10 for what will be most likely 6 of the last 7 years” Dirk
      Back to reality,Dirk.
      Four Benning picks in the top ten-all between 5 and 7.
      Benning’s overall record:
      139 W 142L 37 T/O/TL
      318 GP 315 Points

  • I am Ted

    It’s stupid articles like this that make me happy Butthole Burke is gone. Sadly, I see his stupidity has plagued others at CA. It’s way too soon to place judgement on the prospects but I guess people have to write about something here…

  • Burnabybob

    Despite all the frothing at the mouth, I bet that in two or three years nobody will be talking about the Dahlen trade. Kind of like how nobody talks about Corrado, Hodgson, Shinkaruk, or even Tryamkin anymore.

  • Fred-65

    I’m afraid when it comes to developing players some one needs to explain to me why Ericksson is playing and why Schaller, yes Schaller played against NJ, while MacEwen is down in Utica or why is Grandlund is taking a spot from Gaunce or Jasek. Utica is out of the play-offs, Vcr is out of the play – offs and yet Green is wasting valuable opportunities for players that are just filling out the roster. How about finding a spot for Chatfield …. hello what’s happening earth to Jim. When does Teve get acquainted with the roster. No fans are content with manana manana, be patient, wait until next season. Vcr is currently in the place to try out youngster/prospect before JB goes on another signing spree come 1 st July

    • Braindead Benning

      Excellent points, both schaller and Ericksson would be great to mentor and lead the vomits. They both clearly lack the desire to play in the NHL and there lack of points and salaries clearly indicate they prefer the paycheck. Jasek & the Gonche man will be trying every shift to try to keep Thier NHL dream alive and I am sure both players would contribute better in all areas of the game then the 2 overpaid slugs

  • Killer Marmot

    So much of what goes on is hidden from view. We can only speculate.

    Dahlen played a few games in the AHL in 2017, and it was hugely demoralizing for him. Only by returning to Sweden did he get his feet back under him.

    Did this mean Dahlen is sensitive — even high maintenance — or just that he was a young kid a long way from home? Recent events suggest the latter, but I don’t know. I do know that the Canucks organization puts a lot of weight on personality, willing to invest in those that have it and to rid themselves of those who don’t.