Top 5 Canucks Prospects
What will the 2011-2012 season bring for Cody Hodgson?
Drafted 10th overall in 2008, Hodgson was considered a can’t miss prospect—especially after following his draft year by leading Team Canada in scoring at the 2009 World Junior Championship (where Canada won gold and Hodgson had 16 points in six games) and being named the 2008-09 CHL Player of the Year.
Since then, Hodgson has hit on hard times. Injuries have marred his development, and Vancouver’s depth at centre has limited his opportunity.
Going into this season, Hodgson once again finds himself on the outside looking in if you go by the Canucks’ depth chart. With Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre tentatively penciled in ahead of him, many fans see Hodgson as potential trade bait or in need of more time in the minors. But I disagree.
It goes without saying that this is a vital year for Hodgson. Assuming he’s healthy, it’s time for him to prove he belongs with the big boys and that he’s ready to be an asset on the Canucks third line. Although he’s played some right wing in the past, Hodgson is a natural two-way centreman, and there’s no reason Vancouver wouldn’t consider putting Manny Malhotra on the left wing and Hodgson at centre.
When Malhotra was signed last summer, the scenario of playing as a winger was presented to Malhotra and he was fine with it. Last year, Hodgson clearly wasn’t ready to assume such a prominent role, and everyone would agree that playing between five and 10 minutes on the fourth line is a waste of time for a young offensive player like Hodgson.
As hockey fans throughout North America await training camp to see which prospects are ready to seize a roster spot, Vancouver’s depth and strength in a weak Northwest Division gives them the luxury of helping Hodgson grow into that third-line role. Although you’d have to assume Malhotra will still take the more crucial faceoffs, having Malhotra on that line as a mentor for Hodgson could provide a real boost for Hodgson’s development.
But make no mistake: if Hodgson isn’t ready, he will once again start the year with the Chicago Wolves.
As for this final segment in the “Top 20: Canucks Prospects” series, we count down Vancouver’s top five prospects, all of whom should be regular contributors in Vancouver within the next two-to-three years. Please also note that with Cory Schneider having played the full 2010-2011 season in Vancouver, he is now considered a Canuck, rather than a Canuck prospect.
5. Jordan Schroeder
After a rocky season with the Moose, will Schroder rip it up with the Wolves?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Position: Centre / Right Wing
Age: 20 (Born September 29, 1990)
Place of Birth: Burnsville, Minnesota
Acquired: 2009 NHL Entry Draft (first round, 22nd overall)
2010-2011 Stats: 61-10-18-28 (AHL: Manitoba Moose)
Is the highly-skilled Jordan Schroeder destined to be the next Martin St. Louis or the next Ryan Shannon?
Entering the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Schroeder was a highly-touted prospect and the fifth-ranked North American skater. But when he fell to Vancouver with the 22nd pick, it was clear that many teams didn’t want to gamble on a player of Schroeder’s diminutive stature.
Two years later, and after his first year as a professional, it would be fair to say that Schroeder struggled in Manitoba. Mostly, he struggled with his consistency and work ethic, which isn’t too surprising given that he was a college star in his two years at the University of Minnesota, where the season is much shorter than a professional campaign.
In his second AHL season, however, we should get a much better read of whether Schroeder can adapt and be a solid defensive player and an offensive dynamo. He should be getting big minutes this year, and needs to have a dominant year to prove he’s ready to take the next step in his development. He has wicked skills, great speed and the strength to overcome his lack of size, so let’s hope he dominates on the farm.
In three World Junior tournaments, Schroeder posted 27 points in 19 games to eclipse Jeremy Roenick’s mark of 25 and set a new American record for most points in the WJC. And although Vancouver doesn’t exactly need another fast winger who can get pushed around too easily, Schroeder’s time will come.
4. Eddie Lack
"The Stork": Eddie Lack
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images
Age: 23 (Born January 5, 1988)
Place of Birth: Norrtalje, Sweden
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010
2010-2011 Stats: 53-28-21-4 / 2.26 GAA / .926 SV% (AHL: Manitoba Moose)
Not many people around the NHL know who Eddie Lack is, but before his stellar rookie campaign in Manitoba, virtually no one knew about “The Stork.” But thanks to the tremendous scouting of Thomas Gradin and Lars Lindgren, Lack has arrived as a legitimate NHL prospect. And should Vancouver decide to trade Schneider or (dare I say it) Luongo, Lack will be waiting in the wings.
But it’s no wonder no one had their eyes on Eddie Lack. After all, when Vancouver signed him in April of 2010, Lack had spent the 2009-2010 season as a back-up keeper for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. Playing behind Jacob Markstrom, a highly-touted Florida Panthers’ prospect, Lack saw action in only 14 games. Prior to that, he had been a pretty dominant keeper in the Swedish second division, but until you prove yourself in a first-tier league, not many people pay attention.
But what a difference a year makes. At 23 years old, and with a stellar AHL season under his belt, Lack seems NHL ready. And you’ve got to think that even if Luongo and Schneider carry the load all year in Vancouver, Lack may see a little NHL action—if for no other reason than to let him get his feet wet.
The only question is how good will Eddie Lack be? A technically-sound keeper with good rebound control and a great glove hand, Lack stands at a lanky 6-foot-5, which gives him all the makings of an NHL starter (and maybe even a star) down the road.
3. Anton Rodin
Will Rodin be the next Bure or the next Shirokov?
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Position: Right Wing
Age: 20 (Born November 21, 1990)
Place of Birth: Stockholm, Sweden
Acquired: 2009 NHL Entry Draft (second round, 53rd overall)
2010-2011 Stats: 53-7-18-25 (Swedish Elite League: Brynas)
In the 2009 draft, Vancouver was considering drafting Rodin with their 22nd overall pick…until Jordan Schroeder was still available. But when Rodin was still there in the second round, there was no hesitation.
A shifty, explosive winger who compared himself after the draft to Zach Parise in his style of play, Rodin is a sniper with a flair for scoring highlight-reel goals.
It should also be noted that Rodin doesn’t shy away from physical play and is willing to take the puck into high-traffic areas. Like many European prospects, it’s easy to forget about Rodin because he’s been developing over in Sweden, but he is expected to cross the pond this year.
Assuming he doesn’t dazzle the Canucks coaching staff in training camp, Rodin should play the year for the Wolves in Chicago, where we’ll get to keep a closer eye on his progress.
2. Chris Tanev
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Age: 21 (Born December 20, 1989)
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010
29-0-1-1 (NHL: Vancouver Canucks)
39-1-8-9 (AHL: Manitoba Moose)
A year after completing his freshman season at the Rochester Institute of Technology (which also happens to be the alma mater of new Canucks agitator Steve Pinizzotto), Chris Tanev found himself playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And in Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Bruins, Tanev played the way he had all year for the AHL Moose and the NHL Canucks: solid and steady.
Unlike many of the Canucks’ recent finds in the undrafted free agent ranks such as Eddie Lack and Darren Archibald, Tanev wasn’t so much a late bloomer as he was a late grower.
Until he was 15, Tanev played on some top teams in Toronto, including the Toronto Red Wings, who were considered something of a dynasty in the Greater Toronto Area. So he was an extremely skilled kid with a promising hockey future—until he stopped growing. At 15 years old, Tanev was 5’0” and 120 pounds. For two years, his lack of size prevented him from playing on elite teams and he settled for playing high school hockey.
But towards the end of high school, he had an immense growth spurt, shooting up over a foot in less than 12 months. At 6’2”, Tanev now has the size to go with a very complete skill set, a calm demeanour and a bright mind. As Canucks fans know by now, he hardly ever looks rattled and rarely turns the puck over.
With Christian Ehrhoff’s departure and Tanev’s emergence, Tanev is a virtual shoo-in to play the full season in Vancouver. Of course, there may be a few hiccups along the way, but assuming Tanev adds a little more muscle to his lean frame, he’s got the skills and the hockey sense to eat up a ton of minutes.
According to Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner (who knew Tanev from his teenage years in Toronto when Sam Gagner played against Tanev), “[Tanev] plays a complete game where he wants to be involved in all aspects of it. He kills penalties, he’ll block shots, he’ll join the rush five-on-five, he really closes his gaps well, and on the power play he’s creative so he knows how to make plays.”
So despite the loss of the Canucks’ most mobile defenseman in Christian Ehrhoff this offseason, Tanev has the tools to add more offense than he showed last year. This year, he could find himself getting some time on the second unit power play and with increased confidence that he’s an NHL regular, it will be interesting to see how much he will jump into the play.
1. Cody Hodgson
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Age: 21 (Born February 18, 1990)
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario
Acquired: 2008 NHL Entry Draft (first round, 10th overall)
8-1-1-2 (NHL: Vancouver Canucks)
52-17-13-30 (AHL: Manitoba Moose)
From the minute Mike Gillis used his first pick as Vancouver’s GM to draft Hodgson, you could tell Hodgson had a Trevor Linden-like aura about him. And despite his injury woes and questions about his skating ability, Hodgson still oozes leadership potential.
But with the logjam at centre in Vancouver, everyone wants to know if Hodgson’s slow development has turned him into trade bait or whether he’ll be playing in Vancouver this year. In my mind, now that Hodgson has played a year of professional hockey, including 12 games with the Canucks during their Stanley Cup run, you’ve got to figure he’ll be chomping at the bit to prove he belongs when training camp rolls around.
Remember, Hodgson is still just 21 years old and he’s faced a mountain of adversity since being named the CHL Player of the Year in 2008-09 after posting 92 points in just 53 games. To remind fans what he potentially brings to the table, Hodgson is a smart positional player who reads the play at both ends of the ice very well. A scorer and a playmaker, Hodgson is elusive, has soft hands and a decent shot.
But perhaps his biggest asset is that he has been a clutch player at every level, including the 2008 U-18 World Championships, where he captained Canada to gold and the 2009 World Juniors where he led the tournament in scoring with a remarkable 16 points in just six games.
Mark my words: Once Hodgson establishes himself in Vancouver and finds his role, he will be one of those guys you want on the ice in every situation.