Vancouver Canucks Draft History — Rating the Middle Years 1985-1999


The infamous

Cam Neely

trade was not the only thing then Canucks GM

Jack Gordon

botched. Canucks drafting in the middle years was bad.

Previous to this, I had a look at the draft years at the early stages and the dynasty that could have been.  The Canucks, unlike the more established franchises, seemed determined to pass up on hall-of-fame and perennial all-star calibre players in favour of serviceable NHL’ers who sometimes gave the team a few decent years.  In 1984 alone, the Canucks could have drafted Gary Roberts, Patrick Roy, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille in the same draft.  Obviously one cannot expect the team to nail all their picks, but it seemed quite clear the Canucks team builders of the early years weren’t good at that scouting thing.

The early years were marked as much by their tendency to yield incompetent play and poor decisions on the ice, as they were by their tendency to change in the head office. In the franchise’s first ten years, they changed coaches six times and captains five.  Four General Managers Bud Poile (1970-1973), Hal Laycoe (’73-’74), Phil Maloney (’74-76), and Jake Milford (’77-’81) made picks for the team in the 70’s.  It was Milford who drafted something that resembled a new core for the 80’s, adding stable and productive players such as Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl and Richard Brodeur.  Despite having losing season after losing season, the Canucks led by draft picks Smyl, Brodeur, and Gradin, did muster a miraculous Stanley Cup playoff run in 1982, but the success did not materialize on the ice in the following seasons.

After the Jake Milford tenure, it was Harry Neale’s turn to steer the Canucks for three years between 1982 and 1985.   Neale saw the team slip into its worst period of the 80’s and his drafting tactics seemed no better than his predecessors so he was fired for the man who would be remembered as having the dubious distinction of facilitating the worst trade in the history of the franchise, the infamous “Cam Neely trade”. According to this post, the Bruins received no less than 13 players and counting for Barry Pederson as a residual effect  Two thirds of the Bruins current second line, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, are playing for the B’s thanks to none other than the Canucks GM between 1985-1987, Jack Gordon.

Not coincidentally, Gordon would never receive a job offer from another NHL team after the Canucks fired and replaced him with the true founder of the NHL team as we know it today, former expansion draft pick and Pat Quinn commits 4 penalties on one hit” href=”” target=”_blank”>Bobby Orr nemesis, Pat Quinn. Not all of Quinn’s picks were home runs, but the big Irishman had a knack for selecting game changing talents and taking calculated risks with his picks.  Sometimes it didn’t hurt that Trevor Linden landed in his lap, but it hurt a lot when Quinn selected Petr Nedved over Jaromir Jagr. At any rate, Quinn’s tenure between 1987-1997, represents the single most important figure in the team’s history. When he was eventaully replaced by his protege, Brian Burke, the team had Quinn’s handprints all over it for his abilities as a trader.  But did he know his stuff when it came to drafts?  Check it out below.

DraftNotable Draft PicksCould Have Drafted?Analysis
1985 RW Jim Sandlak(4th)G Troy Gamble(25th)

C Robert Kron (88th)

C Igor Larionov (214th)G Sean BurkeNJD (24th)C Joe NieuwendykCGY (27th)

G Mike Richter NYR (28th)After Cam Neely disaster, Canucks load up on size in the injury prone Sandlak instead of drafting consensus top goalie Sean Burke.  Then they could have used their second pick to take the skilled Niewendyk, who wins a Stanley Cup with Calgary.  Even Richter would have been a better pick than the Gamble one. Larionov an interesting pick in a weak year. C+1986C/W Dan Woodley (7th)D Don Gibson(49th)

RW Ronnie Stern (70th)

LW Vladimir Krutov (238th)D Brian LeetchNYR (8th)C Craig JanneyBOS (13th)

D Jyrki LummeMTL (57th)

 Woodley one of only 3 top-10 draft picks to have played fewer than 5 NHL games. Enforcer Stern later yields Dana Murzyn.  Krutov a bust. No other draft pick plays more than 61 career games. Brian Leetch wins rookie of the year and a Stanley Cup.  F 1987 C Rob Murphy (24th)LW Garry Valk (108th)D Glen WesleyBOS (3rd)C Joe Sakic QUE (15th)

LW John LeClair MTL (33rd)

D Mathieu Schneider MTL (44th)

RW Theoren Fleury CGY (166th)Boston picks where the Canucks should have picked thanks to brutal Cam Neely trade in a draft year which might have yielded Burnaby’s Joe Sakic had the Canucks not given away Neely and a pick. With due respect to Garry Valk, Quinn’s first draft is a bust. Also further proof here that someone in Calgary and Montreal knew what they were doing. F1988RW Trevor Linden (2nd)RW Dane Jackson(44th)

RW Dixon Ward (128th)C Jeremy RoenickCHI (8th)RW Rod Brind’Amour STL (9th)

RW Teemu Selanne WPG (10th)

RW Mark Recchi PIT (67th)

LW Valeri Kamensky QUE (129th)

 So often it is said that Linden was a “no-brainer”, but if you could do it all over again wouldn’t Brind’Amour, Roenick or Selanne all look pretty good alongside future pick, Pavel Bure? Numerous busts in this year overshadowed by the Linden pick, but can a case be made that it was also the wrong pick? If you consider Kamloops Blazers star Rechhi dangling in the mix down at 67… I think so.  C-1989D Jason Herter(8th)LW Rob Woodward (29th)

RW Pavel Bure (113th)C Bobby HolikHFD (10th)D Adam FooteQUE (22nd)

D Patrice Briseboise MTL (30th)There is no questioning the steal of the decade goes to the Canucks with the drafting of Pavel Bure, as I’ve already described here, but beyond this, the Canucks manage to draft another of the three players in league history to manage less than 5 NHL games as a top-10 pick.  Herter was a puck mover, but Holik and Briseboise and Foote were better in their own zones. The risk of drafting a college player doesn’t pay off.  Despite the Bure pick, a terrible draft for the team.  D1990LW Petr Nedved (2nd)LW Shawn Antoski(18th)

D Jiri Slegr (23rd)

LW Darin Bader (65th)

RW Gino Odjick (86th)

D Karri Kivi (233rd)RW Jaromir Jagr PIT (5th)C Keith PrimeauDET (3rd)

C Keith Tkachuck WPG (19th)

G Martin Brodeur NJD (20th)

C Alexei Zhamnov WPG (77th)

C Sergei Nemchinov (244th)

 The Canucks botch the first round entirely with numerous top flight NHL’ers in the pool.  You could have literally thrown a stone in the air and hit someone better than Nedved. With the Canucks also lacking a young center to play with Bure they pass up on later round Russians who could have helped.C- 1991RW Alex Stojanov (7th)D Jassen Cullimore(29th)

 RW Alexei Kovalev NYR (13th)LW Markus NaslundPIT (14th)

D Sandis Ozolinsh (30th)Quinn drafts the prospect who would later be traded for Markus Naslund, but that’s not really the point.  Stojanov was redundant on a team with Gino Odjick anyway.  Cullimore was a serviceable D-man who was traded for Donald Brashear, but Ozolinsh would have made a fearsome fit on the Canucks blueline for his ability to move the puck.  Other picks were wasted.  Lesson learned.  Always draft goons in the later rounds and support skill with more skill. F1992C Libor Polasek (21st)C Mike Peca (40th)

D Adrian Aucoin (117th)RW Valeri Bure MTL (33rd)Talk to most Canucks fans and they will remember Libor Polasek as the worst pick ever made, but given the available options, the Canucks took a chance on a hulking centre and lost.  Given that Pavel’s younger brother was around though, wouldn’t it have made sense to reunite the brothers in Vancouver?  I hear that works sometimes.  Peca and Aucoin, to Quinn’s credit, were two of the best players available in the entire draft in a very weak year.  A-1993D Mike Wilson(20th)RW Scott Walker(124th)

LW Troy Creur (150th)C Saku KoivuMTL (21st)LW Todd BertuzziNYI (22nd)

C Darcy Tucker MTL (151st)

 Considering the Canucks kryptonite in recent drafts had been the “big belligerent winger with skill” and unknown Europeans, how they pass up on the 6’4″ Bertuzzi or future team captain of the Habs, Koivu is a bit mystifying. Troy Creuer instead of another BC boy in Darcy Tucker was another oversight. Wilson is later traded with Peca for Alex Mogilny. The Walker pick is solid, but he ends up working out for Nashville anyway. C1994D Mattias Ohlund(13th)C Rob Gordon (39th)

C Dave Scatchard (42nd)

D Chad Allan (65th)

 LW Patrick Elias NJD (51st)LW Chris DruryQUE (72nd)

 Ohlund becomes a fixture on the blue-line for a long time for the Canucks and as he approaches his 1000th game, one has to think this was as good a pick as you can make here.  Having two chances at Patrick Elias and taking Scatchard and Rob Gordon (who?) in the second round instead was a mistake.  B1995D Chris McAllister(40th)LW Peter Schaefer(66th)

D Brent Sopel (144th)C Jochen Hecht STL (49th)The Canucks have now given up drafting in the first round altogether because of their propensity to draft future busts.  A pretty weak draft year and the Canucks draft some decent NHL calibre players in McAllister, Schaefer and Sopel whose better years are, predictably, with other franchises.  The gritty two-way Hecht would have fit nicely, but it`s hard to fault the Canucks with this direction, although the calibre is negligible. B+1996D Josh Holden (12th)D Zenith Komarniski(75th)

D Clint Cabana (175th)

 D Derek MorrisCGY (13th)C Dainius ZubrusPHI (14th)

C Daniel Briere PHX  (24th)

D Toni Lydman CGY (89th)

C Samuel Pahlsson COL (176th)All of the Canucks picks are failures at the NHL level and seem sandwiched in between excellent NHL ready players.  A pointless draft.  F1997D Brad Ference(10th)D Ryan Bonni (34th)

LW Matt Cooke (144th)RW Marian HossaOTT (12th)LW Brenden MorrowDAL (25th)

LW Kristian Huselius FLA (47th)

 Once again, the Canucks and Quinn prove that with a top-ten pick, failure at the NHL level is a virtual guarantee.  When other teams are drafting for best available talent, the Canucks draft for needs, and it bites them.  F1998D Bryan Allen(4th)C Artem Chubarov(31st)

LW Jarko Ruutu (68th)LW Alex TanguayCOL (12th)C Mike FisherOTT (44th)

C Mike Ribeiro MTL (45th)

LW Erik Cole CAR (71st)Bryan Allen is the right pick if all the Canucks need is a solid defenceman.  He`s later packaged to Florida for Roberto Luongo, so pretty good yield there.  Still can`t help feeling like Tanguay would have helped more.  Chubarov was supposed to be a skilled two-way centerman, but if you`ve got Ribeiro and Fisher on the board, you take them. Ruutu wasn`t bad at that spot. Brian Burke`s first draft year gets a solid rating  B+1999LW Daniel Sedin(2nd)C Henrik Sedin(3rd)

D Rene Vydareny (69th)

LW Ryan Thorpe (129th)LW Niklas HagmanFLA (70th)G Ryan Miller BUF (138th)Burkie`s special trips to Ornskoldsvik to visit with the Sedins and their family, virtually guaranteeing them that they`d play together in Vancouver was the final selling point to land these two superstars.  A fine move by second year GM Brian Burke, and no one in this draft class approaches what the Sedins have accomplished.  It`s natural to forget the rest of the field, but some good players were passed up in favour of Canucks picks that never played. Still… the Sedins.  A+ Total average score 1985-1999:  C-