With the Canucks struggling to win games this season, fans are looking for answers. They see an aging team that appears to be in decline since their near dream season in 2010-11.
The Canucks aren’t getting any younger. They have only four players on their roster under the age of 25 (Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, Dale Weise and Tom Sestito), and none of them were Canucks draft picks. So the heat has been put on Mike Gillis. But is that fair? Lets investigate…
Mike Gillis took over as Canucks GM in 2008, which means he has been the man in charge for 5 drafts. In that time, the Canucks have produced only one full-time NHL player: Cody Hodgson. Despite the fact that Hodgson is now playing in Buffalo, that pick has to be looked at as an excellent pick. Jordan Schroeder looks like he will probably develop into a capable NHL player, as does Nicklas Jensen. Kevin Connaughton will probably find his way into the show soon, and Brendan Gaunce might also. But with the exception of Hodgson, all there is at the moment is potential.
Having only one player in five years of drafting isn’t exactly something to be proud of, but should it be seen as a blemish to Gillis’ record?
When analyzing the Canucks drafting record under Gillis, we must consider a few things. First, the Canucks have been a good team in the last 5 years and have been picking low in the draft. Also, they traded away their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2010 in an attempt to win the Stanley Cup.
Some people might look at teams loaded with a lot of young players and conclude that they’re better at drafting than the Canucks are, and maybe they are. But to credit the Edmonton Oilers to drafting Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov would be wrong. Anyone would have drafted those players.
To accurately judge Mike Gillis’ drafting record, we must compare Vancouver to other teams with similar drafting positions in the last 5 years.
The teams I have chosen to compare Vancouver to are San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and New Jersey.
San Jose Sharks
1st round draft picks: 2
NHL Players: Jason Demers, Tommy Wingels
Conclusion: Like the Canucks, the Sharks have been hurt by trading away draft picks in an attempt to win now. They had only 2 first round picks, and those came in 2010 and 2012. Demers is a decent depth defenceman and Wingels is just starting to show what he can do in the NHL. Both players were picked in 2008.
1st round draft picks: 6
NHL Players: Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw
Conclusion: Unlike the San Jose Sharks, the Blackhawks have kept all of their first round draft picks, and even acquired an extra one in 2011. They have also picked up extra picks in the later rounds, giving their more chances at success. They blew their highest draft pick in 2008 when they chose Kyle Beach (passing on Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson and others), but they have two players already on their roster from the 2011 draft.
Detroit Red Wings
1st round draft picks: 2
NHL Players: Tomas Tatar
Conclusion: Commonly known as the best drafting team in the last 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings have very little to show in the last 5 years. Tomas Tatar is their only full-time NHLer, and he is only seeing limited ice time in his first NHL season. They only picked in the first round twice, but those picks came in 2008 and 2010 and they are still waiting for those players to develop.
1st round draft picks: 5
NHL Players: Simon Despres, Beau Bennett
Conclusion: Both Despres and Bennett have hardly established themselves as impact players in the league, rather they are just breaking in. Credit the lack of impact players in the fact that they did not have a draft pick in the first 3 rounds of the 2008 draft.
1st round draft picks: 3
NHL Players: Luca Sbisa, Zac Rinaldo, Sean Couturier
Conclusion: The Flyers did capably in drafting Sbisa and Rinaldo. Couturier was picked 8th overall, a pick they acquired in the Jeff Carter trade.
1st round draft picks: 5
NHL Players: Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton
Conclusion: Thank you Toronto Maple Leafs. Seguin and Hamilton were high draft picks (#2 and #9 overall respectively) acquired from the Phil Kessel trade. Credit the Bruins for picking Hamilton, but anyone would have drafted Seguin with the 2nd overall pick. With the Bruins, credit the trade, don’t credit their drafting prowess.
New Jersey Devils
1st round draft picks: 4
NHL Players: Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson
Conclusion: The Devils have drafted reasonably well. Henrique (picked in the third round) looks like a good player. Adam Larsson looks solid too, though he was picked 4th overall.
The best players picked by our list of comparable teams in the last five years were mostly players taken high in the draft. The Bruins hit a home run with Tyler Seguin, a second overall draft pick. The only other real impact player is Adam Henrique, a nice mid-round selection by New Jersey in 2008. But the next best of the bunch are players that were high draft picks and are largely unproven at the NHL level in Dougie Hamilton, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier.
Draft picks in 2008 and 2009 should be making their mark in the NHL soon, if they haven’t already, so we can begin to judge those players. Ryan Kesler is a fine player, but it took him 5 years before he scored 20 goals in a season. Michael Grabner looked like he might be a bust until he scored 34 goals for the Islanders, 5 years after he was drafted.
Dave Nonis was fired in 2008 and had his draft record attacked at the time. But it’s only now that we see how many excellent picks he made in 4 draft years. Nonis picked Cory Schneider, Alex Edler, Mike Brown, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond and Michael Grabner. And that list doesn’t include his highest draft pick, the late Luc Bourdon.
So what conclusion can we make about Vancouver’s draft record under Mike Gillis? It’s way too early to tell. Unless you’re picking in the top 10 of the draft, it’s too early to make any conclusions about draft picks in 2010, 2011 and 2012. His picks in 2008 and 2009 look decent, certainly far from terrible.