The Vancouver Canucks’ best first-round picks of the 2000s
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6 months ago
For every bad draft pick the Canucks have made in the last 22 years, there’s been a handful of absolute game-changers. These players in question turned people into Canucks fans, assembled the 2011 Stanley Cup Final roster, and are role models for the soon-to-be picks who strive to be as integral to the organization as they were. All with the goal to flip the script and give a three-time Stanley Cup Final franchise their long-awaited cup.
This is the 2000s, and if it could be summarized in two words, character-making. Who exemplifies character better than the two best twins to ever grace the NHL, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Although drafted in 1999, the Sedins were the blueprints for the next era of Canucks hockey. The building blocks of that future were three first-round picks.
Ryan Kesler: 23rd overall, 2003 NHL Draft
659 GP: 182 G, 211 A
Love him or hate him, Ryan Kesler marked the first of three consecutive top-notch picks and was an absolute menace for the Canucks during the playoffs. While it would probably pain Bieska to admit it, without Kesler’s game-tying goal to send game five of the Conference Finals to OT, the stanchion goal would cease to exist, and so too would Wyatt Arndt. Kesler really came into his own during the 2009–10 season, putting up a 75-point campaign: the best of his career. The following season, Kesler finished third on the team in points and was second on the team in playoff assists. A three-time Selke Trophy finalist and one-time recipient, Kesler was the picture of skill and grittiness that the Canucks’ mid-2000s teams were all about.
Cory Schneider: 26th overall, 2004 NHL Draft
98 GP: 2.20 GAA, .927 SV%
Although Cory Schneider played less than 100 games for the Canucks, his time with the team was pivotal. While first-round goalie selections are far from unheard of, they’re generally frowned upon, as there are plenty of goalies for the taking in later rounds. The Canucks made the playoffs all five seasons Schneider was on the team, including the 2011 run to the finals, in which Schneider made five appearances, one of those being a start. That same season, he won the Jennings Trophy alongside goalie partner and Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo for the fewest goals against in the league. The following season, his last with the team, Schneider led the NHL with five shutouts. He still remains the Canucks’ leader in GAA and SV%.
Luc Bourdon: 10th overall, 2005 NHL Draft
36 GP: 2 G
A motorcycle accident in Luc Bourdon’s home province on May 29, 2008, robbed the 21-year-old of a long life and future with the Vancouver Canucks. Bourdon earned a silver medal and was named the Best Defenceman at the World U18 Championships months before he was drafted. But he shone the brightest at the 2006 World Juniors triple-headed by Vancouver, Kelowna, and Kamloops, claiming gold, leading all defencemen in assists, and being named to the All-Star Team.
Bourdon doubled up on his gold medal with close friend and fellow QMJHL teammate Kris Letang in 2007, making it his third medal in consecutive IIHF competitions. Once he joined the Canucks, Bourdon’s closest friend was fellow francophone, Alex Burrows. Burrows honoured Bourdon by doing his favourite bow and arrow celebration after a two-goal performance in the first home opener following the late star’s passing. Burrows did the celebration again months later when he sent the Canucks to the second round of the playoffs: a team Bourdon most likely would have had a spot on.
Bo Horvat: 9th overall, 2013 NHL Draft
621 GP: 201 G, 219 A
Seeing Bo Horvat on this list just a few months ago would have evoked a completely different reaction than it does now. The Canucks were in a rut and in need of a spark back in 2013. When all the dust had settled, the Canucks had Horvat, and the New Jersey Devils had Schneider. Horvat couldn’t afford a slow start with the Canucks. In his prodigal son glory, he was immediately placed on a line with the Sedins, inching closer and closer to taking the reins of the team. In his nine seasons with the Canucks, four as captain, Horvat really only got one taste of postseason action, and that was in the bubble.
Fans saw a different side of the Canucks captain here. After scoring just 19 goals all season, Horvat scored 10 goals in 17 playoff games, single-handedly reserving a spot on the bench for the St.Louis Blues’ starting goaltender Jordan Bennington. Horvat’s now infamous jab at Canucks fans in the midst of chasing down a playoff spot with his new team wasn’t all that surprising, although contrary to the stoic character fans experienced in Vancouver. Canucks fans had nothing to cheer for, as did Horvat, in nearly a decade with the organization. No Stanley Cup, and the prime of his career gone in a flash. Regardless of what was said in an adrenaline-fueled interview amongst obvious frustration with the trade, Horvat produced in a less than favourable environment in Vancouver, and for all intents and purposes, was the Sedins of this generation. His captaincy might not have resulted in the franchise’s first cup, but he did what all captains are supposed to do: prepare whoever comes next. Although that someone remains a mystery for now.
Brock Boeser: 23rd overall, 2015 NHL Draft
398 GP: 139 G, 172 A
It’s no secret that Brock Boeser hasn’t looked like himself for more than a few seasons. But his numbers don’t reflect as much of a drastic change. Boeser put up 55 points this season, one point shy of his best season in the NHL. The production is still there, it’s just coming in a different medium: assists. But people want to see the Boeser they remember.
The one who nearly put up a 30-goal rookie season, if not for an untimely injury. The same Boeser who instilled excitement back into Canucks fans. And while 55 points might not cut it for someone with Boeser’s skillset, it’s still a 9-point increase from his total last season. He promised improvement, and he followed through on that, personal challenges aside. In those tough circumstances when nothing seems to be going right, talent is what powers a player through.
Elias Pettersson: 5th overall, 2017 NHL Draft
325 GP: 136 G, 187 A
First goal, first game. Elias Pettersson’s game has steadily progressed year after year, and the best is still to come for the 24-year-old. With the numbers he’s producing, it’s incredible to remember just how young Pettersson is, and how much time he still has yet to play in the league. Pettersson’s 102-point season becomes even more incredible when you remember that talks about his lack of scoring were a big topic to start just last season. It feels like there’s not much Pettersson can’t do at this point. He’s been the best player on the ice for the Canucks by a mile in almost every game, capitalizing on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He’s also packed on enough weight that he can be a physical forechecking presence. Pettersson can add jack of all trades next to unicycling and juggling on his resume, although I don’t think he’s ever needed one.
Quinn Hughes: 7th overall, 2018 NHL Draft
283 GP: 26 G, 215 A
How good is Quinn Hughes? Well, he’s the lowest draft pick in a family of three NHL brothers. There’s never quite been a player like Hughes on the Canucks. He’s proven that time and time again by beating his own record for most assists in a single season, which sits at 69 for the time being. At just 23 years old, Hughes has been the Canucks’ go-to on the blue line, and for the last couple of seasons. Both Hughes and Mattias Öhlund make up the team’s top-seven single-season records for average icetime. While Hughes’ significance is not lost amongst Canucks fans, it’s not as appreciated league-wide. Despite being tied for second amongst defenceman with 76 points, Hughes was not a Norris finalist this season.
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