A ranking of the Top 10 ‘late round’ draft picks in Vancouver Canucks history

Photo credit:Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
14 days ago
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With the Vancouver Canucks set to be bystanders in this year’s NHL Draft until sometime in the third round and on the second day, there is plenty of time to consider the best late round draft picks in franchise history. For the sake of this argument, ‘late round’ is defined as anything from the fourth round on. That’s because early in their existence, the Canucks were part of a league with considerably fewer teams where a third-round pick could be in the mid-30s overall. Stan Smyl is a perfect example. The Steamer was the Canucks third-round pick in 1978, and he went 40th overall. So we’re going to use players taken in the fourth round or later to compile this list. Not every player in this ranking reached his apex as a member of the Canucks, but this is a ranking of what these mostly unheralded players achieved and accomplished throughout their NHL careers with heavy weighting applied to their time in Vancouver.

Pavel Bure

(6th round – 113th overall in 1989): there is no question Pavel Bure is the best late round selection in the history of the hockey club. A Hall of Famer with his jersey retired at Rogers Arena, the Russian Rocket is on a short list of the best draft picks in Canucks history period. The fact the Canucks needed to secure and produce game sheets from the Russian junior leagues to prove he was eligible in his draft year just adds to the intrigue and the legend. They made their pick, landed their player and in the process secured the most exciting skater to ever suit up for the organization.

Igor Larionov

(11th round – 214th overall in 1985): while Larionov’s greatness in the NHL didn’t peak in Vancouver, he still remains one of the best late round picks in franchise history. Already a star with the Soviet National team when the Canucks spent an 11th rounder on him, Larionov played three seasons with the Canucks and put up 65 points in 1991-92. A three-time Stanley Cup winner with Detroit and a Hockey Hall of Famer, Larionov logged 921 NHL regular season games and played 150 more in the playoffs.

Patrik Sundstrom

(9th round – 175th overall in 1980): few people recall that Patrik Sundstrom had a 91 point season for the Canucks in 1983-84. Not bad for a guy selected in the 9th round of of the draft. The slick Swede spent the first round seasons of his NHL career in Vancouver before being dealt to New Jersey in a trade that brought Kirk McLean and Greg Adams to the Canucks.

Harold Snepsts

(4th round – 59th overall in 1974): anytime a player logs more than 1,000 NHL games as a fourth rounder, it’s a home run selection. Snepsts played for the Canucks on two separate occasions. He began his career in Vancouver in the mid-70s and returned in the late 80s. The big, physical defenceman was a fan favourite who played 781 of his 1033 NHL games in Canuck colours. He appeared in a pair of NHL All Star games and has taken his rightful spot in the team’s Ring of Honour.

Jannik Hansen

(9th round – 287th overall in 2004): the ultimate long shot, the Honey Badger simply wouldn’t be denied. Making the NHL as a Danish player is an accomplishment in itself. Playing 11 years and 626 games in the league is something else altogether. Especially for a guy drafted in a round that no longer exists in NHL Drafts. Hansen used his blazing speed and his relentless forecheck to become a fixture on some of the best Canucks teams of all time. The organization unearthed a hidden gem late in the 2004 draft when it scooped up Hansen.

Kevin Bieksa

(5th round – 151st overall in 2001): the Canucks landed one of the most popular players in franchise history midway through the fifth round back in 2001. At the time, Bieksa was an unheralded defenceman out of Bowling Green University. The rest is history. The Grimsby, ON native played 597 of his 808 NHL games for the Canucks, had a trio of 40+ point seasons as a hard-nosed blueliner, scored the overtime goal that punched their ticket to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and remains a fan favourite for his work on Hockey Night In Canada.

Matt Cooke

(6th round – 144th overall in 1997): not always the most popular player, Cooke played hard and carved out an NHL career that lasted 16 years and earned him a Stanley Cup. He played 566 of his 1046 NHL games in Vancouver before moving on to Washington, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. At his best, he used his speed to create offence and help on the penalty kill. He had a 15 goal/42 point season for the Canucks and scored a career-high 18 in Pittsburgh. But he also had a dark side that included crossing the line on multiple occasions with hits on unsuspecting and vulnerable opponents.

Adrian Aucoin

(5th round – 117th overall in 1992): in 1998-99, Aucoin scored 23 goals for the Canucks. It’s a record for goals by a defenceman that still stands a quarter of a century later. Not bad for a fifth rounder. Aucoin broke into the league with the Canucks and played 341 of his 1108 career games for Vancouver. A whopping 18 of his 23 goals were on the power play in his big year. A few years later, in 2003-04 with the Islanders, Aucoin finished fifth in Norris voting. Again, not bad for a fifth round pick.

Petri Skriko

(8th round – 157th overall in 1981): not only a fun name to say, Skriko was a goal-scoring phenom for the Canucks. The Finn racked up four consecutive 30+ goal seasons from 1985 through 1989. He registered 38 goals and 78 points in his second season in the league. While enjoying success in Vancouver where he played 472 of his 541 NHL games, Skriko faded quickly after being dealt to Boston. He also spent short stints in Winnipeg and San Jose but was never close to the same player he was with the Canucks. 

Gino Odjick

(5th round – 86th overall in 1990): any list of best late round Canucks picks through the years wouldn’t be complete without Gino. Best known for his work without his gloves on, Odjick once scored 16 goals in a season. But it was his role as an enforcer that cemented his bond with Canucks fans. Odjick racked up seasons of 348, 370 and a league-high 371 penalty minutes. He played 444 of his 605 NHL games in a Canucks uniform and was part of the team that went to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. Gone far too soon, but never forgotten. The Canucks fared well with the fifth round pick they used to pick Odjick in the 1990 draft at BC Place Stadium.
Honourable mention: there are lots of other candidates that provided the Canucks plenty of value from their draft slot. Here are a handful that deserve recognition.
Garry Valk 6th round (108) in 1987
Dave Lowry 6th round (110) in 1983
Doug Lidster 7th round (133) in 1980
Scott Walker 5th round (124) in 1993
Brent Sopel 6th round (144) in 1995
Ben Hutton 5th round (147) in 2012
And while he never suited up for the Canucks, new Stanley Cup champion Gustav Forsling has turned out to be a heck of a player for a guy taken in the 5th round (126th overall) in 2014.
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