Hunting for hidden gems: The Canucks’ NHL Draft history when they don’t have a first round pick

Photo credit:James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
15 days ago
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As the Vancouver Canucks roll into Las Vegas for this week’s National Hockey League Draft, they do so without many chips to play. Having traded their first-round selection to acquire Elias Lindholm from Calgary and their second-rounder to shed the contract of Jason Dickinson, as it stands now, the Canucks won’t make a pick in this year’s proceedings until the third round (93rd overall).
At that point, much of the top end talent in this year’s draft class will be off the board leaving the Canucks hoping to find a prospect that has somehow slipped through the cracks. 
Playing the waiting game at NHL Drafts is nothing new for the Canucks. This will be the ninth time in franchise history – and the third in the past five drafts – the organization has not held a first round selection. Over the years, the Canucks have landed some late round stars. But in those years when the Canucks have not picked in the first round, their track record on landing bonafide NHL players is spotty at best. Here is a look at how the Canucks have fared in those years when they have not had a first round selection in the draft:
2021: The Canucks used their first selection – 41st overall in the second round – on Danila Klimovich. It was a long-shot pick at the time, and it’s hard now to see NHL regulars Logan Stankhoven, Matthew Knies and JJ Moser all taken after Klimovich in that same round. While Klimovich is still in the Canucks’ system, he feels like an afterthought at this point. Goalie Aku Koskenvuo (5th round) and forward Lucas Forsell (7th round) are the only hopes for the Canucks to have something to show for their six picks in the 2021 draft.
2020: Like this year, the Canucks didn’t make a selection until the third round and used the pick on Joni Jurmo who was shipped to Calgary as an add-on in the deal that brought Elias Lindholm to Vancouver. All the Canucks have to show from that 2020 crop is 6th rounder Dmitry Zlodeev who scored one goal in 21 games for AHL Abbotsford last season. As time marches on, it’s looking more and more like the 2020 and 2021 drafts will not produce a single player to suit up for the NHL Canucks.
2010: With the Canucks building to their 2011 Stanley Cup Final run, draft capital was in short supply as the team used picks to bolster its roster. As such, the team completely whiffed on its five selections including its top pick that year Patrick McNally, a Boston area high school defenceman, taken in the fourth round (115th overall). As it turned out, the Canucks class of 2010 produced exactly one NHL game. That belonged to sixth round selection Alex Friesen.
2002: it was quantity over quality as the Canucks made 11 selections in the 2002 draft including second rounders Kiril Koltsov and Denis Grot – neither of whom touched NHL ice. Defenceman Brett Skinner played 11 games for the New York Islanders and was the most decorated Canucks pick from that year’s crop. The only selection to actually play for the Canucks was goalie Rob McVicar, a 5th round pick, who logged 2:44 of mop-up duty in relief of Alex Auld and didn’t face a shot or make a save in his lone NHL appearance.
1995: despite trading their first round pick to acquire Alexander Mogilny, the Canucks actually fared well in the 1995 Draft landing Chris McAlllister, Peter Schaefer and Brent Sopel – all of whom played more than 300 NHL games. McAllister was a second round selection, Schaefer went in the third while Sopel logged 659 NHL games after being a sixth round pick. The team also selected Larry Courville in the third round and he played 33 games for the Canucks in the late 90’s.
1987: the Canucks used their second rounder that year on power forward Rob Murphy who never lived up to expectations. He played 73 of his 125 NHL games for the Canucks but never scored more than five goals in a season. The club’s best pick that year was easily Garry Valk who suited up for 777 NHL games after being a sixth round pick. Valk’s University of North Dakota teammate Neil Eisunhut overcame the odds of being a 12th round selection to appear in 16 NHL games – 13 of them with the Canucks.
1976: the Canucks first pick in 1976 was 26th overall which, back then, was in the middle of the second round. The club took forward Bob Manno who played parts of five seasons in Vancouver but didn’t become an NHL regular until later in his career with Toronto and Detroit. The club also got a handful of games out of Rob Flockhart and Rob Tudor. 
1974: the first time the Canucks participated in an NHL Draft without a first rounder yielded the club best crop of talent. Ron Sedlbauer, the first Canuck to score 40-goals in a season, was the club’s second round pick. John Hughes went in the third round and played 70 NHL games. Harold Snepsts played 1033 NHL games and is in the Canucks Ring of Honour after being a fourth round selection. Mike Rogers, twice a 40-goal scorer in the NHL, played 484 games in the league and scored 202 goals although none of them with the Canucks. He was a fifth round pick that year. And Andy Spruce logged 172 NHL games between Vancouver and Colorado after being nabbed in the sixth round.
So you can see over the years, the Canucks have managed to mine some talent without a first round pick. But you can also see that history shows that it’s not an easy feat to accomplish. It won’t be long now until we see what 2024 yields.

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