Why the Canucks should be trying to add more draft picks ahead of this trade deadline

Photo credit:NHL.com
Noah Strang
1 year ago
As the Vancouver Canucks take a step back and analyze the best way to move forward, one thing is clear. This roster is far from being competitive and there are going to need to be some major changes to get it where it needs to be. Over the next few seasons, Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin will attempt to add to the young talent already in Vancouver and create a competitor.
The first big step in that process has already been made with captain Bo Horvat being shipped to the New York Islanders. While the return package included three components, it was the conditional first round pick that will determine how this trade is viewed a decade from now. If the Canucks can make the most of that selection, this deal will be remembered much more fondly than if they draft a dud.
After years of operating at a negative with draft picks, trading away more than they acquired, the Canucks finally have managed to get their hands on another first-round pick. No matter if it’s for this upcoming draft of the one after, the extra draft capital will go a long ways for the organization. Now the focus needs to be on turning more current roster players into draft picks and cap space.
While acquiring additional draft picks is a good thing, the process doesn’t end there. Making the most of those picks is going to be crucial and something that the Canucks have had mixed success with historically. Getting their hands on lottery tickets is never going to hurt, but the Canucks need to make sure that they get the most value possible from these assets, no matter if that’s using the picks in the draft or in trades.

Why draft picks alone aren’t enough

While stocking up on draft picks is crucial when attempting to retool a roster, the sheer quantity of selections doesn’t matter if you don’t make the most of them. Canucks fans only need to look back to when the team selected Jake Virtanen and Olli Juolevi with top-six draft picks within a three year range for examples of this.
Another famous example from recent history is the Boston Bruins’ 2015 draft class. The 2015 NHL draft was one for the ages with players such as Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, and more going in the first round. The Bruins had picks 13 through 15 and managed to end up with just Jake DeBrusk as the only notable asset. The three selections following the Bruins’ picks were Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot.
Even with all the draft picks in the world, scouting and player development are key to mining young talent in the NHL. Those are areas where the Canucks haven’t performed the best but there seems to be a renewed focus from the new management group on using tools such as the AHL to help prospects grow. With the baby Canucks playing just down the road in Abbotsford, it’s easier than ever for the big league team to keep an eye on its budding stars.

The value of draft picks as an asset

Across the NHL, draft picks are one of the top assets available. They’re easily traded and provide a ton of clearly defined value. For that reason, stacking draft picks is crucial for every team, not just because of the possibility of adding through the draft, but also because picks are a great trade chip.
At last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens had a slew of draft picks across the early part of the draft. They made three selections within the first 33 picks and traded an additional first rounder to acquire Kirby Dach. Having a surplus of picks allowed them to swing that deal and take a chance on a reclamation project without sacrificing the depth or quality of their prospect pipeline.
For the Canucks, we’ve often seen the opposite play out over the last few seasons. Over and over, they’ve dealt high draft picks to acquire players. While the trades in a vacuum might be good, such as trading a first round pick for J.T. Miller, the inability to acquire draft picks resulted in their prospect pool being barren.
As the Canucks look to operate on a shorter timeline to turn things around, they — and some fans — may scoff at the idea of acquiring draft picks that could take years to reap rewards in favour of players already in the NHL. That would be darn right foolish, because draft picks are the best currency in the NHL and can be used for a variety of acquisitions, including — but certainly not limited to — adding through the annual draft.
Think about it this way. Were you shocked the Canucks didn’t acquire a young defenceman in the Bo Horvat trade? Potentially! But that first round pick that the team acquired instead of another player gives the Canucks plenty of options leading up to the draft.
Obviously, they can use it to draft a defenceman, but if there are none available that they like? They can pick up the phone and make a trade because they now have two of the most valuable assets in the league at their disposal.

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