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Stick around for the later rounds, because Jim Rutherford has retooled a blueline off of mid-round selections at least once before

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Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
2 months ago
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Picture this:
Jim Rutherford is in a pickle.
His team has just missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year, and they look like they’ll need some serious retooling to get back into the contention game.
Unfortunately, Rutherford and Co. have already dealt away a large number of early draft picks, so building through the draft isn’t really an option.
Or is it?!
Miraculously, Rutherford and Friends pull two all-star defenders out of the middle rounds of two consecutive drafts, and within a few years those defenders were leading Rutherford’s team all the way back to the Conference Finals.
Wait, what?!
Oh, sorry, did you think we were talking about the present day Vancouver Canucks? Of course not! We were obviously telling the tale of the Carolina Hurricanes, circa 2012.
And sure, that story takes place more than a decade ago. But it should lend Canucks fans at least enough optimism to make it through the latter rounds of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft with some hope in their hearts.
Back in the summer of ‘12, Hurricanes GM/President/Co-Owner Rutherford had kicked off the draft weekend with a blockbuster trade, sending our old pal Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the eighth overall pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jordan Staal.
It’s hard to say that the trade didn’t work out. The Hurricanes didn’t make the playoffs the next year, or for any of the next six, and Rutherford himself stepped down as GM in 2014 and moved over to Pittsburgh himself. But Staal is still the captain in Carolina, and they’ve since got right back into contention mode, where they remain to this day.
Of course, that has more to do with what Rutherford did later on in that same weekend.
The Penguins used that eighth overall selection to draft another old friend, Derrick Pouliot — no real loss as far as the Penguins were concerned, though they could have technically selected someone like Jacob Trouba or Filip Forsberg instead.
Rutherford and the Hurricanes, meanwhile, had to wait until pick #38 to make their first selection, and they chose…Phil Di Giuseppe. A fine second rounder, in the end, though nothing spectacular.
With their second second rounder of 2012, the Canes selected Brock McGinn at 47th overall, and he’s still going strong to this day. Daniel Altshuller came next at 69th overall, and we’ve never heard of him, but that’s okay. They can’t all be winners.
And then came the fourth round, where the Hurricanes held three picks — the exact same number, you’ll note, that the Canucks possess for the 2023 Draft.
With his first fourth round selection of the day, Rutherford called down Erik Karlsson at 99th overall. What a coup! Unfortunately, it wasn’t that Erik Karlsson, and this one never played an NHL game. Next came Trevor Carrick at 115th, who put together a fine career but didn’t make it last in the big leagues.
Then, at 120th overall, Rutherford selected Jaccob Slavin, a player who would go on to be considered, in all likelihood, the greatest defender in Carolina Hurricanes franchise history.
And he wasn’t done retooling the blueline with mid-round picks quite yet.
Flash-forward a year, and it’s the 2013 Entry Draft all of a sudden and time for third round and the 66th pick — just nine spots off of where the Canucks will be drafting in the 2023 third round. And who does Rutherford call down but Brett Pesce, perhaps the second-best defender in Hurricanes history and, together with Slavin, the foundation of what would become the most effective blueline in all of hockey.
Rutherford wouldn’t stick long enough to see either player arrive in Carolina. He added a few more solid mid-round picks the next year in 2014 — Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, and Lucas Wallmark — and then joined the Penguins.
The point of all this is not to claim that Rutherford is some sort of mid-round draft guru who is guaranteed to get the Canucks some quality players during this week’s festivities. As a Whaler GM, he got Sami Kapanen in the fourth round and Craig Adams in the ninth. In Carolina, Rutherford got Erik Cole in the third round, Josef Vasicek in the fourth, and Frederik Andersen in the seventh. But Rutherford was also in charge of that franchise for a cumulative two decades, so there were also an awful lot of misses in between those successful selections.
That was certainly the case in Pittsburgh, where the only players of note Rutherford and Co. pulled out of the middle rounds were Dominik Simon at 137th in 2015 and…that’s it.
So, no, Rutherford is not a mid-round guru, nor is he particularly “in charge” of the Canucks’ draft efforts in 2023. That honour goes to GM Patrik Allvin, who was around for some of those lackluster Pittsburgh drafts, but is otherwise largely an unproven quantity at the draft table.
The point of all this is really just to highlight that despite the fact that the Canucks have dealt away a first and second round pick for this draft already, there’s still hope that they’ll be able to add some truly impactful players to the organization through their two third rounders, three fourth rounders, and beyond.
Such an outcome is far from concrete. It might even be called downright unlikely. But for those who prefer to enter into the uncertainty of the Entry Draft with a reason for optimism, there’s plenty to be found here.
Teams have made a major positive difference for themselves in the mid-rounds before. Jim Rutherford teams have made a major positive difference for themselves in the mid-rounds before.
So why not now?
Why not the Canucks?

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