The Nation Network continues its look at the seven Canadian franchises’ all-time roster of drafted players. How good were the scouts on draft day? While unrestricted free agency gets more focus each summer, the draft is much more important to an organization’s long-term success.
Today we focus on the Vancouver Canucks.
1. The player had to be drafted by the organization. Jarome Iginla was drafted by Dallas, so he won’t be on the Flames roster.
2. Players need to be slotted in the position they played the most. Mark Messier started at left wing, but he played centre the majority of his career.
3. We are picking the best possible lineup, similar to the Olympic rosters. Players who had best career, even if the majority wasn’t organization who drafted them.
4. For organizations like the Flames, who were in two different cities, their all-time roster includes players drafted by Atlanta and Calgary.
5. We only went with 18 skaters and two goalies.
The Canucks have had 50 drafts dating back to their first in 1970. They joined the league with the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL used a numbered spinning wheel to determine who would pick first in the NHL draft. Vancouver had even numbers and Buffalo got odd numbers. The wheel landed on 11, and the Sabres won and selected Gilbert Perreault. The Canucks took defenceman Dale Tallon. Tallon had a very good first season, setting a new rookie record for most assists, 42, by an NHL defenceman, breaking Bobby Orr’s record of 28 that he set four years earlier. Tallon finished with 56 points, the second best offensive season of his career. He only played three seasons with the Canucks before they traded him to Chicago for Jerry Korab and Gary Smith.
Tallon had a decent NHL career, but he wasn’t close to Perreault, and the Canucks would spend many drafts trying to find another elite centre.
For this project we are only focusing on the NHL Amateur Draft (1963-1978) and the NHL Entry Draft (1979-present).
Canucks Forwards (Draft number and year)
Daniel Sedin (2nd, 1999) – Henrik Sedin (3rd, 1999)– Pavel Bure (113th, 1998)
Patrik Sundstrom (175th, 1980) – Trevor Linden (2nd, 1988) – Cam Neely (9th, 1983)
Don Lever (3rd, 1972)– Elias Pettersson (5th 2017) – Rick Vaive (23rd, 2015)
Petri Skriko (157th, 1981) – Ryan Kesler (23rd, 2003) – Stan Smyl (40th, 1978)
The Sedins were obvious choices as they are the only Canucks draft picks who finished with 1,000 career points.
The Canucks drafted some excellent right wingers, but unfortunately for Canucks fans they traded Vaive, Neely and Bure. Vaive has the most career goals, 441, of any Canucks draft pick. GM Jake Milford traded Vaive during his rookie season after only 47 games. He was drafted by the Canucks in the summer of 1979, but he was traded in Febuary of 1980 along with Bill Derlago to the Maple Leafs for Dave “Tiger” Williams and Jerry Butler. Derlago was the Canucks first pick, fourth overall, in 1978 and was a rookie with Vaive. What an awful trade by the Canucks. The amateur scouts must have been livid.
Over the next five seasons Derlago scored 35, 34, 13, 40 and 31 goals, while Vaive scored 33, 54, 51, 52, 35, 33 and 32 in seven seasons with the Maple Leafs. I wonder if Vaive and Derlago might have given the Canucks more offensive punch during their 1982 run to the Stanley Cup Final?
The sad part for Canucks fans is the Neely trade to Boston was arguably worse. Neely played three seasons with the Canucks, and didn’t light it up right away, producing 51 goals and 104 points in three seasons. Keep in mind he was 18, 19 and 20 years young. On June 9th, 1986, GM Jack Gordon traded Neely, and the Canucks first round pick, in 1987 to Boston for Barry Pederson. Pederson’s first three seasons with the Bruins were excellent scoring 92, 107 and 116 points. The next year he got hurt and only played 22 games. He returned in 1985/1986 and scored 29 goals and 76 points and then was moved to Vancouver. Pederson scored 76 and 71 points in his first two years in Vancouver, but he wasn’t the same after his injury. The Canucks struggled in his first season and along with Neely they ended up giving Boston the third overall pick in 1987. The Bruins selected Glen Wesley. So it was Neely and Wesley for Pederson.
The Bure trade was a bit different. He didn’t sign a contract extension, and refused to report to the team for the 1998/1999 season. GM Brian Burke didn’t rush into a trade, but he finally pulled the trigger on January 17th, 1999, dealing Bure, Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a third round pick (Robert Fried) to Florida for Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Kevin Weekes, Mike Brown and a first round pick (Nathan Smith).
The Canucks were losing any trade involving Bure. It didn’t matter that Burke waited seven months, he still lost the deal, badly. Had it just been Bure for the four players and draft pick Vancouver loses the trade, but adding Hedican made it an even bigger loss. Jovanovski was a solid player for the Canucks, but Gagner only played 33 games, Weekes 31 and Brown 16. Brown was mainly an AHL player. Bure had 58 and 59 goal seasons in Florida, but then injuries slowed him down.
Some might not remember Skriko, and wonder why he is on the team, but he led the Canucks in scoring twice and had four consecutive 30-goal seasons between 1985-1989. Perusing through his stats I came across his 1986/1987 season. He had four hat-tricks that season including a stretch of five games where he scored 12 goals. He was quite skilled.
Canucks Defence (Draft number and year)
Mattias Ohlund (13th, 1994) – Doug Lidster (133rd, 1980)
Alex Edler (91st, 2004) – Bob Dailey (9th, 1973)
Quinn Hughes (7th, 2018) – Adrian Aucoin (117th, 1992)
A combination of solid, but not elite defenceman. Based on his rookie season, Hughes has a chance to become the best D-man ever drafted by the Canucks, but having a rookie on your all-time roster illustrates a lack of quality left-shot D-men. Edmonton had the same issue with RD and Ethan Bear.
Canucks Goalies (Draft number and year)
Cory Schneider (26th, 2004)
Glen Hanlon (40th, 1977)
Hanlon has played the most NHL games, 477, of any drafted goalie, but Schneider, 409 games, had a better career. After these two the only other goalies with 100 games played include: Murray Bannerman (289 GP), Wendel Young (187) and Frank Caprice (102).
Losing the Perreault lottery hurt, and it took almost 30 years to find an elite offensive centre in H. Sedin. Their RW drafting has been excellent, and they have quality centres, but lack on the left wing. Hughes might become the elite #1 D-man they’ve been searching for, and their D corps is solid, but not spectacular. Their draft history of goalies produced very little.
Unlike many other organizations, in the early years of the draft the Canucks first round picks all played at least 300 NHL games. Dan Woodley, seventh overall in 1986, and Rob Murphy, 20th in 1987 ended that streak when they played five and 125 games respectively.
The issue for Canucks is that they traded away their best first round picks early on in Vaive, Derlago and Neely. Lever was a solid player for eight seasons, but the other first rounders were more role players like Jim Sandlak, JJ Daigneault, Michel Petit, Garth Butcher, Rick Lanz, Jere Gillis, Rick Blight, Denis Ververgaert, Jocelyn Guevremont and Tallon.
Between 1987-1998 they drafted Linden, Ohlund, Petr Nedved and Bryan Allen in the first round. All played over 700 NHL games, but they missed on other first rounders in Jason Herter, Shawn Antoski, Alex Stojanov (although they did trade him for Markus Naslund, great trade), Libor Polasek, Mike Wilson, Josh Holden and Brad Ference.
Drafting the Sedins in 1999 was the start of some solid years and ultimately led them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. They selected RJ Umberger and Bieksa in 2001, Kesler in 2003, Schneider, Edler and Jannik Hansen in 2004. You wonder if they had hit on any picks in 2000, 2002 or 2007 if they might have looked different in 2011?
Each time the Canucks made it to the Cup Finals they had key pieces of their roster homegrown through the draft. If they can develop a few more players from the past five drafts, and make some good selections moving forward they have a chance to build a competitive team around Pettersson, Hughes and Boeser.
Who would be on your all-time Canucks drafted roster?
Around the Nation
The Nation Network series launched this week.
Oilers All-time Draft Roster
Maple Leafs All-Time Draft Roster.
Canadiens All-Time Draft Roster
Flames All-Time Draft Roster
We will have Ottawa and Winnipeg tomorrow and some American teams next week.