Typically during this time of year, there’s a lot of talk about organizational needs. With the Canucks’ prospect cupboard nearly bare – only Cory Schneider, Michael Grabner, Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov (if the Russians let him leave for North America) may be ready to make the jump to the NHL in the next year or two – the smart ass in me says that they simply need to draft players – regardless of position – who can have an impact. But that said, the Canucks do have one, big, obvious need: they need players who can provide some offense.
1) They don’t have any puckmoving defensemen in their system.
This has been an organizational weakness for a long time. Sami Salo (when healthy), Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler fill the need with the big club, but should any of them leave (Salo is on the final year of his contract), the Canucks don’t have anyone ready to step in. Their top defensive prospects at the moment are Yann Sauve, Taylor Ellington and Evan Oberg and none of them are nearly ready for the NHL. (Plus, Ellington is projected to be a defensive defenseman anyway.)
2) They lack proven scorers in their system.
As good as Cody Hodgson has been, he’s not projected to be an elite offensive player; rather, he’s projected to be a complete, two-way player. Michael Grabner has shown that he can finish at the AHL level, but his inconsistency tells me he may not be ready to make jump to the NHL just yet. After Hodgson and Grabner, the talent drops off considerably. I realize it still may be a bit early to judge the 2007 draft, but I do wonder about selecting Patrick White and Ellington when both David Perron and Oscar Moller were still available. As it stands right now, both Perron and Moller would look good in the Canucks organization.
For the first time since 1998, the Canucks hold picks in every round. Also, this year’s draft is a fairly deep one with a lot of players that fit their needs – David Runblad, Calvin de Haan, Toni Rajala, among others. (Alix has already previewed some of these players.) Needless to say, the Canucks have a good opportunity to quickly restock their prospect cupboard, and if they do they’re pre-draft homework, hopefully a few of their picks develop into regular NHLers.
Incidentally, Alix will be in Montreal this weekend for the NHL Entry Draft. Check back later this week for her first-hand accounts on the weekend and the new Canucks.