Vancouver Canucks Finally Looking Outside Their Own Back Door

daniel lockwoodContributor IAugust 1, 2009

VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 26:  Milan Lucic #27 of the Vancouver Giants skates against the Tri-City Americans during their WHL game on October 26, 2005 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada.  The Giants defeated the Americans 6-2. (Photo by Chris Relke/Getty Images)

It seems the Gillis Era in Vancouver has found a cost effective way of recruiting players. After years of ignoring the Giants and local prospects during the Burke/Nonis reigns, the Canucks are finally trying to find the next great local star.

Personally, when Lucic was running over the competition in the WHL, I couldn't believe our draft wizards were trumpeting Grabner.    

All Lucic did after being drafted in 2006 was help the Giants win the Memorial Cup in 2007, before heading off to fame and fortune in Boston (and really, after the ghosts of Cam Neely...that's just mean).

A year later we had Patrick White, with another Giant in Jonathon Blum going two picks before to Nashville, and St. Louis regular David Perron being picked right after (sigh!). Though, in that year, they did try hard to trade up to get local whiz kid Kyle Turris.

Now, Gillis has seen the advantage of having a great junior team just 15 minutes from his D/T office, where prospects can be easily seen and grow in a winning environment.

Kevin Connauton, a third round defenseman with upside, has decided to leave school at Western Michigan to start his pro career.  He'll go to camp, and play for the Giants this year, close by if needed.

Nolan Toigo has been given a free agent look at camp this year.  He has played with the Giants on two occasions, and could become a very good player.  He will be a 20-year-old for the G-men this year.

Talented Slovak Mario Bliznak, another Giants alum, has been impressing and honing his game under the eye and tutelage of Craig Hiesinger and Scott Arniel for the Moose (and Mike Keane, the 42-year-old Winnipeg local who has been invaluable in the careers of guys like Kesler, Burrows, Rypien and others).

He is my pick for a player that could be a dark horse at camp in a month or so.

Signing local boys Mike Funk and Kellan Tochkin, two Abbotsford natives looking to kick start their careers, in addition to Prab Rai (Surrey) and Dan Gendur (Vancouver) has given the Canucks some local flavour that has been missing.

And hey, it cuts down on the scouting trips...