Aug 202011

I love talking about prospects because there’s never any one consensus. Even for a home run like Sidney Crosby, in 2005 no one was exactly how good this kid could be. Was he a 400 ft. home run or a never-seen-before 600 ft. home run? Some thought he was a franchise player, while others thought Crosby could be even more than a franchise player.

Talking prospects with hockey observers is an exercise in sifting through bullshit weeding out biases. It’s way too easy to get excited by the 17 year-old 6’5″ giant who’s being compared to Pronger, but also the mysterious Russian kid your team took a gamble on in the sixth round. You comb the Internet for whatever you can find about your team’s mysterious prospect, but then you realize the biggest problem with scouting reports is that there’s rarely anything negative. So you’re reading about this kid with “decent hands” and “good speed” without realizing that those words mean nothing without a proper context. Meanwhile, the team’s hyping up the prospects to make some money and when you’ve finally absorbed all the information, you’re probably ready to declare some fourth round pick a gem when he’s still the third scoring option as an over-ager on his junior team. When you get to this point, you might as well make wearing rose-coloured glasses mandatory. (I should add that it’s really easy to fall into that trap. Why do you think we have Leafs fans?)

I had issues with ESPN’s piece which ranked the league’s best pipelines (covered by Puck Daddy) but most of them were relatively minor and ESPN’s hockey coverage has already become a running joke. But with the way vancitydan at Nucks Misconduct responded, you’d think Grant Sonier had personally insulted him. For the most part I agree with him that ESPN doesn’t give Vancouver enough credit, but I hardly think the Canucks’ pipeline is all that desirable either.

vancitydan then compares previous regimes to Gillis’ track record, how we got “lucky” when Kesler fell to 23 when he was ranked just 16th among North American skaters, then slams Nonis (who has the best track record of the three) for a “horrible” ’06 draft only to yield a “good pick” in Grabner. I have to agree the 2007 draft was a disaster but without Nonis the Canucks also wouldn’t have Edler, Hansen, Schneider, or Raymond. Gillis gets a good rep for being a good GM but his character-driven draft strategy hasn’t fared to well either. The biggest finds weren’t through the draft, but rather through free agent signings.

(If you don’t want to read me rant on Canucks prospects, feel free to skip to the last paragaraph.)

I don’t expect much from Steven Anthony (not this one), a player who I got to see every now and again over the past two years. He’s skilled, but he’s also small and that works in the Q, but his defensive deficiencies and general lack of hockey awareness holds him back. He had his best year in his fourth major junior season, and was still under a point per game despite having Jurco, Huberdeau, Galiev, Beaulieu, and Despres. Remember Prab Rai? Everyone was jacked up to get him and he’s going to have a hard enough time cracking the Moose roster. Darren Archibald comes in a similar fashion, in that he’s only ever been a point per game player as an overager.

The two I would agree on would be Anton Rodin and Bill Sweatt, the more talented (and still playing) of the two Sweatt brothers. With the Canucks’ luck with Swedes, Rodin’s an intriguing prospect, highly touted both in Sweden and overseas. It’s rare when two sides come to a consensus so that’s usually a good thing. (A lot of Swedish scouts were unconvinced by Brunnstrom). Sweatt’s a potential late bloomer and I’ll usually give college kids a couple more years because their development comes at a much more slower (arguably steadier) pace than junior players. There’s some potential there but I wouldn’t play him anywhere the bottom six so that’s a big enough hurdle there: to be good enough to be considered a top six NHL-calibre winger.

Jordan Schroeder’s an interesting case. The general consensus in 2009 when the Canucks drafted him was that he was a steal. THN had him ranked 8th, and his main asset was that he would be great for the “new NHL.” But that was 2009, when scouts thought good skating ability is enough to get by, but that’s just not the case, since there’s just as many kids with good skating ability but are considerably bigger than Schroeder. He had a tough year with the Moose and was moved all over the lineup. Scouting is about perception, and while vancitydan fawns over Schroeder’s highlight reel, I can point out just as many reasons why Schroeder won’t be an impact NHLer.

0:43-:050 – There’s no way Schroeder lays out anyone in the NHL and the victim, Andy Bohmbach, is a lanky forward with zero future in the NHL. Also notice how when Schroeder goes to the net he still tends to stay on the perimeter.
2:47 – That’s awful coverage against Hershey’s Ashton Rome. He wasn’t anywhere near the play. We know he’s magic with the puck but hockey’s mostly played without the puck on your stick.
3:10 – Against the Marlies it looks like Schroeder really wanted that puck.
3:29 – He gets hammered right after he releases his shot. He won’t get that shot off at the NHL level.
3:53 – He can’t even catch Bill Thomas on a partial breakaway, even with highly touted footspeed and “new NHL” toolbox. (I could do this forever)

Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve look to be keepers and Eddie Lack seems like a really great find, but the rest aren’t especially noteworthy. Nicklas Jensen appears to be the only notable from our 2011 class, and even then he’s not a prospect with a particularly high ceiling. You could already see the brimming optimism vancitydan has for Honzik, who has been compared to Pekka Rinne, although it had been previously established that Anthony was a Crosby type, further proof that player-to-player comparisons are ridiculous and futile. The same goes for Labate and Grenier – they’re projects at best.

I think you have to be really careful about hyping up prospects for your own team because you have to be aware that 29 other fanbases are doing the exact same with their players. But like vancitydan said, it’s “just an opinion though,” to which I’d like to just add, “perception isn’t always reality.”

  2 Responses to “The Canucks’ Cupboard is Pretty Bare”

  1. […] ARMCHAIR HOCKEY: Jason Chen isn’t buying into the hype that the Vancouver Canucks have a desirable pipeline of young talent. […]

  2. Jeez, this is why I have so much respect for amateur scouts. Their job difficult but integral to the success of their franchise. You hit the nail on the head with this analysis of the Canucks and prospects in general. I 100% agree that in the past, the Canucks have not recieved enough credit for their drafting and development. Not only have they not received credit, but they have often been publicly scorned. However the bulk of our Stanley Cup Finals squad is home grown. Schneider, Bieksa, Edler, Tanev, Glass, Raymond, Kesler, Burrows, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Hansen were all either drafted or developed by the Canucks.
    Unfortunately you are correct in your breakdown of the Canucks current prospects. Schoeder’s hype and game seem to have fizzled since being drafted. While Cody Hodgson shows flashes of promise, his nickname may as well be “the band-aid”.
    While we do have some decent projects in our pipeline, years of late draft selections are taking their tole. That being said, the same could be said for many of the top franchises, who year after year draft in the mid to high 20’s. The lone dissenter may be Philly, who now has both Couturier and Schenn upcoming.

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