Yesterday, as five new players entered the Vancouver Canucks' organization, we received some insight into the strategy for the future.
The players drafted by the Canucks are as follows:
Brendan Gaunce (26th overall): C, 6'1", 207 lbs
Alexandre Mallet (57th overall): LW, 6'1", 195 lbs
Ben Hutton (147th overall): D, 6'2", 183 lbs
Wesley Myron (177th overall): LW, 6'1", 182 lbs
Matthew Beattie (207th overall): LW, 6'3", 173 lbs
Based on the size of the players drafted, it's fair to assume that the Vancouver Canucks of the future will be a large team—not just because of these players, but the preferences shown by Mike Gillis and the scouting staff of the Vancouver Canucks.
But, as we all know, many late draft picks never make it to the NHL, let alone become impact players. And for that reason, I'm going to focus this article on the selection of Brendan Gaunce, and what that could mean for the future of the Vancouver Canucks.
Brendan Gaunce is a center who stands 6'1" and weighs in at 207 lbs. He was born in Sudbury, Ontario and played for the Belleville Bulls in the OHL.
Last season, Gaunce tallied 28 goals and 40 assists for a total of 68 points in 68 games played, and he was the top scoring player on the team and 34th in the OHL.
From what Gaunce has shown us thus far, many have began comparing his style to that of Jordan Staal's. If that is indeed true, then we can look at Staal's career to help analyze the impact Gaunce might have on the Canucks.
Staal was drafted second overall in the 2006 entry draft. He went straight to the NHL, playing 81 games in the 2006-07 season and picking up 42 points.
Since that rookie season, Staal has put out similar offensive numbers while growing into one of the best defensive forwards in the game. He broke out this past season, picking up 50 points in 62 games, and went on to lead the Penguins with nine points in playoff games.
Picked 26th overall, Gaunce doesn't appear quite as NHL ready as Staal was. With Manny Malhotra under contract for the following season, this will sit fine with Gillis and the Canucks.
Following the NHL season, the Canucks will have the chance to decide if Gaunce is ready for promotion. If he is, then Vancouver and Malhotra will part ways. If not, they could re-sign Malhotra to a one-year deal, or look elsewhere for a short-term contract.
Once Gaunce makes the Canucks (which will most likely be the 2013-14 or 2014-15 season, he will play the role of third line center, much like Jordan Staal. Unlike Staal, however, Gaunce will not be restricted from moving up in the Canucks roster.
If all goes well, Gaunce will be ready for the second line around the same time that the Sedin twins are set to retire. It's hard to imagine with their continual dominance, but at 33 years old, the Sedins will not be around forever.
Ideally, by that time, Kesler will be in a position to take over as the top line center, if he hasn't done so already.
In creating this cycle of talented centers, Mike Gillis has effectively prepared the Canucks for the inevitable end to the Sedin era, allowing the Canucks to remain a strong team for the considerable future.
Of course, the addition of Brendan Gaunce does not guarantee a positive future for the team. Numerous pieces to the puzzle will need to be added over the years, and the organization will need to effectively prepare Gaunce and the other young prospects for the future.
Just because he was picked in the first round does not ensure he will develop as planned. Not all No. 26 draft picks can capitalize on their potential the way Corey Schneider, David Perron and Brian Boyle have.
Regardless, this was a strong and strategic choice by the Canucks. Earlier in the year, Gillis stated that the Canucks have modeled their team after the most successful franchise from the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings.
As we all know, the Red Wings are known for developing players internally rather than seeking external help (although that might change with the cap space and gap Nicklas Lidstrom left).
In drafting Gaunce, Gillis and the Canucks have once again shown they intend to follow in Detroit's footsteps as they are prepare for contention after the Sedin era, rather than drafting players and positions they will require to make a large impact in the next few years.