It’s no surprise when Jim Benning overvalues the players and prospects in his possession. However, I think we need to give everyone a reality check when it comes to Grade A prospects. The Canucks don’t have as many as he thinks.
Jim Benning should really have someone speak for him. If you watch professional wrestling, that person is a manager (rather funny that a manager needs managing, but that’s where we are at). The Vancouver Canucks used to have that in Trevor Linden, but it’s not like it worked well as Benning said whatever he wanted.
From a media perspective, we love how honest Benning is. It makes for great content, even if the Canucks’ General Manager reveals a little too much. I have mentioned his absurd comparables for Brandon Sutter, Markus Granlund and Erik Gudbranson before. He compared those players to Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, respectively.
What’s more head-scratching is how they view certain players in the prospect pool. I know the defence was barren before drafting Quinn Hughes, Jett Woo and Toni Utunen, but Benning talks about Guillaume Brisebois like he’s an elite second pairing defenceman. I do like Brisebois, but we are looking at a sixth or seventh defenceman as his best case scenario.
Which brings me to the latest foolish sentence to come out of Benning’s mouth. Durirng his interview on Sportsnet 650 a few days ago, he proclaimed that the Canucks have 6-8 Grade A prospects. The Linden news overshadowed everything else, but this is ludicrous. No team in the cap era has had that many Grade A prospects and I will show why his evaluation of the pool is absurd.
Defining a Grade A prospect
More from The Canuck Way
- Which team won the Bo Horvat trade?
- What to expect from newcomers Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty
- Back to the future: How the skate uniforms became a regular Canucks’ feature night
- Canucks kick off 2023 with disappointing 6-2 loss to Islanders
- 2nd period penalty trouble sinks Canucks in 4-2 loss against Winnipeg
Let’s start from the beginning. What is a prospect? It’s a player outside the NHL, yet to play a meaningful number of games. To me, if a player is no longer eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, they are not a prospect anymore. Also, if that player is over 24 years, they shouldn’t be considered a prospect.
Although, the NHL likes to ignore that second part to celebrate AHL journeymen around the league. Why do I need this first definition? Because Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen are not prospects anymore. Tweeners like Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Leipsic and Tyler Motte are not prospects either.
So what makes a prospect a “Grade A” prospect? The answer can vary. In this class of prospect, a player is all, but guaranteed to become a first line forward or top pairing defenceman. Goaltenders make it complicated, but I will bend on this one to give the Canucks’ prospects the best scenario.
Many of you are going to disagree when I say that most of the Canucks prospects don’t fit in this category. You are welcome to have your opinion, just know that you are wrong. A prospect does not deserve the Grade A label because they were drafted or acquired by the Canucks. That’s the endowment effect and I have discussed that before.
Grade A Canucks prospects
It should go without saying that Elias Pettersson fits in this category. His high offensive ceiling and progress in Sweden supports this. Pettersson has a very high chance of being a first line forward in the future, whether that’s at centre or wing.
Quinn Hughes is also a Grade A prospect. He has the makings of a dynamic, offensive defenceman and just needs to add a little strength like Pettersson. Skating is so important in today’s game and it’s one his best attributes.
Like I said earlier, I will count a goaltender here, so add Thatcher Demko to this group. Although, Demko has not proved a thing at the NHL level, but he is a top five goaltender in the AHL. I will not include Michael DiPietro. He is tracking well, but it’s the OHL. The jump between the OHL and the AHL is huge and that transition to the NHL is more difficult. Until he turns pro, I’m not placing DiPietro in the “A” category, He is a Grade B prospect for now.
As Olli Juolevi has top four upside instead of top pairing, he’s not one of these prospects. Honestly, I see him as a second pairing player, but the top four is not a bad projection. Jonathan Dahlèn is good, but played in Sweden’s second tier league. He does not fall into the “A” category either.
Adam Gaudette projects as a middle six centre. It doesn’t matter that he won the Hobey Baker if his upside is not a number one pivot. This is why I say time and time again to not make ridiculous expectations. He’s not Ryan Kesler. Stop acting like he is. Let him develop first.
Don’t oversell prospects
The Canucks have three Grade A prospects. Not 6 or 8. Three. And I’m being rather lenient on the third player in this group. Many of the players Canucks fans wrongly assume are A prospects are simply in the “B” and “C” category.
I would argue that the Canucks have a good number of B prospects, which is part of why the pool is strong. However, don’t be arrogant and assume every prospect we have is an A prospect. In saying so, you are lying and setting yourself up for ridicule.
I have said this many times. There is nothing wrong with being excited about the prospect pool. I encourage it, since the last four years have been so bleak. But remain on planet Earth. Please, I implore you. As long as you remember that these young men are prospects and not NHL players, it’s easy to discuss them in this reality.
You have to be realistic. There’s nothing opposing fans love more than taking us down a peg when we proclaim something insane. Don’t be the crazy fan on Twitter or be part of the groupthink that has taken control of the team’s subreddit. Think for yourself. It’s okay to question things about this team’s prospect pool. It doesn’t make you any less of a fan. Blind faith is for cults not sports.