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'Prospect'ive: Top 10 Prospects of the Vancouver Canucks

Khalil KassamContributor IOctober 12, 2016

'Prospect'ive: Top 10 Prospects of the Vancouver Canucks

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    If you look through the Stanley Cup Champions of the past ten years, one noticeably similar characteristic that each embodies is that their core players have been acquired through the draft rather than through trade or free agency.

    Conn Smythe Winners such as Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin and Cam Ward were all drafted and groomed in the organizations with which they won their Cups.

     The Vancouver Canucks, who have often been criticized for having one of the weaker prospect pools in the NHL still have a number of players that, in a short time, will have the ability to make an impact with them as the team’s core begins to age. While each Canuck prospect will have the ability to affect the team in their own respective ways, these rankings are based on the magnitude of the positive impact that each will have during their time on the Canucks roster.

10. Billy Sweatt

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         Position: Left Wing

         Current Team: Chicago Wolves

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      71    16   18   34   9

     

     Billy Sweatt, a former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, has been working his way up the Canucks organization and has now become a mainstay in the top-six of their AHL affiliate in Chicago. He is similar to current Canuck Mason Raymond in that it is his speed that sets him apart from his competitors.

    While he has all of the tools to become an NHL player, some say that he may need to add some weight to his 190-pound frame in order to succeed in an NHL top-six role. Sweatt isn't really the type of player who can perform as a grinding third-liner, which may limit his chances with the big club in Vancouver. If he continues to improve his skill set and his strength, he may be given an opportunity with the Canucks, if a potential injury were to occur. 

9. Anton Rodin

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         Position: Right Wing

         Current Team: Chicago Wolves

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      62    10   17   27   -5

     

    Potentially the most intriguing name on this list, Rodin was drafted back in 2009 with hopes that he would become a dynamic top six forward with high scoring capabilities. He has an impressive skill set, which includes great speed and an even better shot. Due to Rodin playing with men the past three years in both the AHL and Swedish Elite League, look for him to crack the Canucks roster in the next couple of years.

    Similar to Sweatt before him, Rodin may not have the grit needed to perform in the NHL as a role player in the bottom-six. The current organizational depth that the Canucks have in top-six wingers is why Rodin is placed so low on this list. 

8. Patrick McNally

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         Position: Defense

         Current Team: Harvard University 

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   

                                      34    6   22   28   

     

    McNally seems to be a potential steal for the Canucks, as he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He continues to be a project for the organization, as he is just heading into his sophomore year at Harvard, where he has become one of their best defensemen. McNally is projected to become an offensive-minded d-man if he is to reach the NHL, and this would fill an organizational need due to the impending retirement of Sami Salo. His skating ability and hockey sense should allow for him to become a 2nd or 3rd pairing defensemen with the Canucks in a couple of years after further development. 

7. Brendan Gaunce

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         Position: Center

         Current Team: Belleville Bulls

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      68    28   40   68   4

     

    The freshly attained Gaunce, who was just selected in the first round of last week's 2012 NHL Entry Draft, gives the Canucks something they lack in size down the middle. He's a big center who still has room to grow during his years in the OHL.

    While he is projected to become a third-line center who's ceiling rivals that of Jordan Staal, there is potential for Gaunce to come into a top-six role as his career progresses. His shot and leadership skills are praised, and the only knock on him is his foot speed. These traits show similarities to that of former Canuck draft pick Cody Hodgson.

6. Kevin Connauton

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         Position: Defense

         Current Team: Chicago Wolves

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      73    13   20   33   -3

     

    Connauton is definitely the Canucks' defensive prospect that has the highest ceiling. His offensive talents set him apart from other young defensemen as his great passing and superb shot have allowed him to become an AHL All-Star in his most recent season. The only small knock on Connauton is his play in the defensive end. With another year of development in the AHL in order to improve his defensive zone play, look for the young D-man to crack the Canucks roster in 2013 as a potential future powerplay quarterback.

5. Jordan Schroeder

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         Position: Center

         Current Team: Chicago Wolves

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      76    21   23   44   8

     

    Schroeder is virtually NHL ready at this present time and the Canucks first round pick of 2009 could be ready to make an impact with the big club at the beginning of the upcoming season due to the injury to second line center Ryan Kesler. Schroeder's foot speed, shot and leadership abilities are what makes him such an attractive prospect. The reason for his being so low on this list is due to his size which may hinder his ability to succeed at the NHL level. The beginning of the next season could be viewed as an audition for Schroeder as if he succeeds in the time that Kesler is hurt, he may find himself having a permanent spot on the second line wing due to his positional versatility.

4. Chris Tanev

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         Position: Defensemen

         Current Team: Vancouver Canucks 

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      59    0    16    16   22

     

    While many may question whether Tanev's actually a  'prospect', his lack of playing an entire season in the NHL with the Canucks allows for his inclusion on this list. He has the potential to be an everyday second-pairing defenseman if he continues to develop his game. One noticeable strength that Tanev possesses is his first pass capability. Rarely will he be seen making an error in breaking out of his own zone. The fact that he's already proved himself to be capable at the pro level should allow for Tanev to garner a permanent spot in the Canucks' defence corps next season.

3. Zack Kassian

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         Position: Right Wing

         Current Team: Vancouver Canucks

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      44     4    6    10   -2

     

    In perhaps one of the most scrutinized deals in Canucks history, trading away young center Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres brought power forward Zack Kassian to Vancouver. Kassian has all the tools needed to become a successful power forward in the league including great size, a solid shot and necessary grit.

    The only problem is that the latter two characteristics were missing in his short time with the Canucks last season. It must be kept in mind that Kassian is still young as he was drafted only three years ago in 2009. A good training camp should allow for him to maintain a spot with the big club in Vancouver, where he will have another opportunity to grow the grit and toughness he has and that the Canucks somewhat lack.

2. Nicklas Jensen

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         Position: Right Wing

         Current Team: Vancouver Canucks 

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   G    A     P   +/-

                                      57    25   33   58   2

     

    Young Nicklas Jensen who was selected 29th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has the potential to become a top-line winger for the Canucks in a few years. His large frame and impressive skill set have prompted Jensen to draw comparisons to Detroit star Johan Franzen.

    Jensen recently stated that he will play in the Swedish Elite League during the upcoming season if he is unable to crack the Canucks roster. Playing in Sweden will do loads for his game, as he will have the ability to garner experience playing with men rather than with boys in the OHL. Look for Jensen to make a significant top-six impact for the Canucks down the road.

1. Eddie Lack

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         Position: Goaltender

         Current Team: Chicago Wolves

         2011/2012 Stats: GP   W   L   GAA   SV%   SO

                                      46    21  20   2.31  .925      4

     

    Nicknamed "The Stork", 6'5 goaltender Eddie Lack proves the notion that the rich just keep getting richer. Already with two star goalies in their system in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the Canucks have another potential star waiting in their farm system in Lack, who has all the tools to become a successful NHL starter.

    His size and technical abilities have allowed for him to become an AHL All-Star and with the impending exit of Roberto Luongo, a hole is left on the Canucks roster. If Lack proves his worth in upcoming preseason games, the backup job in Vancouver could be his. His star potential makes him the best candidate to be at the top of this list of Canuck prospects.

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