The Vancouver Canucks were very busy on the first day of the draft, to say the least. When news broke that Ryan Kesler (and a VAN 3rd rounder) was traded to Anaheim for C Nick Bonino, D Luca Sbisa, the 24th overall pick, and the Ducks’ 3rd round pick, some speculated that GM Jim Benning would go after the first overall pick, as had been rumored for weeks before the draft. However, the Kesler trade would turn out to be the biggest trade of the day. The Florida Panthers had been listening to offers from pretty much half the league yesterday regarding their first overall pick, and it turns out the Vancouver Canucks were indeed one of the teams calling Florida GM Dale Tallon.
Canucks and Panthers still talking. Van offer for 1st pick believed to be 6th, 24th and last years 1st rnd pick, Hunter Shinkaruk. #TSN
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 27, 2014
The Canucks twitter account later confirmed that they had made an offer, but to no avail:
#Canucks made a “serious offer” to get the 1st overall pick from Florida. “I guess they didn’t like our offer” – Benning
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) June 28, 2014
Benning was not done wheeling and dealing just yet however, as he then dealt Jason Garrison to Tampa for a second round pick. He then flipped that second round pick to the New York Rangers for heart-and-soul forward Derek Dorsett. The right-winger accumulated 128 PIM this past season, and had a career-high 235 PIM in 2011-2012 with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dorsett will bring an element of physicality to the Canucks as well as fighting skill and underrated speed. Despite only having scored 8 points on the season, he played a very prominent role on the Rangers’ fourth line, using his speed to get in on the forecheck and being part of one the best fourth lines in the NHL. Dorsett can be effective in a defensive role on a checking line in Vancouver.
Back to the Kesler deal, the Canucks believe Nick Bonino can replace Ryan Kesler in the second line center role. Bonino scored 22 goals last season while Kesler scored 25, so even the goal-scoring can be replaced by Bonino. At 26 years old, he still has plenty of time to become even better, as last season was his break-out year. Jim Benning said he believes 24-year-old Luca Sbisa can potentially develop into a top-4 D, but even more important than the pieces who can help the Canucks immediately are the guys they drafted.
With their 6th overall pick, the Canucks took winger Jake Virtanen of the WHL Calgary Hitmen. The right-handed power forward can play both the wing and center, but will likely be used as a winger for the Canucks. Virtanen scored 45 goals and 26 assists for 71 points in 71 GP. Add to this his 100 PIM and his +23 rating and one can make the case that the Canucks may have found their own ‘Milan Lucic’ (move over Zack Kassian).
Virtanen is a heads-up player who thinks the game well and is willing to get his nose dirty. He has slick hands, a dynamic shot and a strong stride that makes him dangerous. He can be outright dominant at times offensively with his blend of size, skill and speed.
With the 24th pick acquired in the Kesler trade, the Canucks took Jared McCann, a center for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. He scored 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points in 64 games. McCann was expected by some to go in the top 15 of this draft, so Vancouver got a steal here. They upgrade at the center position as well as on the wing, and so the push for youth continues.
McCann is a hard-working, two-way forward who displays strong agility and mobility. He’s effective at both ends of the ice and has the ability to produce strong numbers due to his hands, patience, shot and sense.
Ironically, one can compare the playing style of McCann to that of Ryan Kesler’s or, to a lesser extent, Ryan Getzlaf’s, while Virtanen plays a game in the mold of either Corey Perry or Milan Lucic. Add to their garrison of picks Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko, taken with the 36th overall pick in the second round. Demko has the potential to be the goalie of the future for the Canucks, and now the organization is very comfortable with their depth at the goaltending position having Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom, and now Demko in the system.
The Canucks made one more trade before the draft was over; VAN traded their No. 50 pick on Day 2 for Linden Vey of the LA Kings. The young two-way center just did not fit into LA’s plans, so the Canucks scooped up a guy who plays a style similar to Canucks prospect Bo Horvat. Vey could have an immediate impact and make the Canucks lineup this season, as he appeared in 18 NHL games last season, scoring 5 assists for the Kings. In a larger role, Vey can emerge as an NHL regular for the first time in his career.
Adding Vey, Virtanen, McCann, and Demko to Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Jordan Subban, among others already in the system gives Vancouver its best prospect pool in years. After several seasons of disappointments and a most recent one of total collapse, the future is brighter than ever for Canucks fans.
As is customary of Canucks current and past goalies (see: @strombone, @eddielack, and @j_markstrom), it seems as though newest Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko has a good sense of humor too, so be sure to follow @thatcher_hockey:
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) June 28, 2014