Let History Judge!
Vancouver has what can only be charitably described as a spotty record in the NHL draft over their 41 years.
Despite several poor league performances, guaranteeing high picking slots, the team has consistently failed to optimize their positions.
The Canucks actually started reasonably well back in the 1970s with some astute selections, finding long time league stalwarts as Dale Tallon (despite his later devious machinations as Blackhawks GM), Bobby Lalonde, Don Lever and Dennis Ververgaert.
However, a dismal run of choices throughout the 80s and 90s handcuffed the team, forcing a series of short term free agent signings and a middling number of yearly performances as poor cousins to our neighbouring provincial rivals in the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, who both tended to draft much better.
There were occasional smart selections such as Cam Neely, but even he was traded away in the awful Barry Pedersen deal.
The last few years, with Brian Burke and gradually with Mike Gillis, has seen a marked advance in terms of scouting, assessment, and evaluation to improve the quality of choices.
Other Canuck picks including first rounders such as RJ Umberger and Michael Grabner are also making good impressions elsewhere.
The team has high hopes for the latest Danish hope Nicklas Jensen, who was the team’s top choice for 2011, and in light of the team’s turn in good fortune, his promise could be well fulfilled.
Who are the best draft selections in team history?
For selection here, the criteria considered were value for draft position, or a wise move to acquire a higher pick.
Perhaps controversially Trevor Linden is not included here, only because he was expected to be great.
5. Kevin Bieksa (2001 – Round 5 – 151st overall)
Kevin Bieksa – Top pair defensemen are a notoriously difficult position to acquire and the Canucks struck gold when their prospecting unearthed this treasure deep in the 5th round.
‘Juice’ brings good skating ability, loyalty, offensive instincts, defensive acumen and a tough streak that has greatly helped elevate the current edition of the Canucks to elite status.
4. Harold Snepsts (1974 – Round 4 – 59th overall)
Snepsts played over 1000 games in the NHL and is a member of the Canucks Ring of Honour.
He was a mainstay of the defence in the early years of the team and played an essential role as bedrock of the back line as they went to the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals.
3. Stan Smyl (1978 – Round 4 – 40th overall)
The Steamer is adored in British Columbia, and for many good reasons. He was an undersized forward who extracted every last drop of his potential while playing with the team.
As a local New Westminster Bruin, his roots were deep in Vancouver and he was another hero en route to the ’82 final.
His name is also permanently enshrined in the Rogers arena rafters.
2. The Sedins (1999 – Round 1 -2nd & 3rd overall)
His finagling to move the team into position to take Henrik and Daniel second and third in 1999 has been rewarded with two of the most highly honored players in the game today.
Their ability defines the recent high skill level of the franchise, and watching them on the power play is a joy to behold.
1. Pavel Bure (1989 – Round 6 -113th overall)
In 1989, many teams coveted the multi-talented Russian but their executives assumed that he was draft ineligible due to his age and lack of playing experience under the rules at the time.
However, Canucks GM Pat Quinn, with the perceptive assistance of then head scout Mike Penny, determined that Bure’s participation in various contests under the Soviet schedule had rendered him available for selection.
Following the protests of several teams, and an initial league ruling against the pick, the team won out and the most skilled player in team history would go on to thrill the Vancouver fans for years before an uncomfortable parting.
Without Bure’s goal scoring touch, the team would never have made it to their second Stanley Cup Final. Who can forget this beauty?