Younger and Bigger
After the second-straight season where the Vancouver Canucks have been bounced out of the NHL playoffs in the first round, GM Mike Gillis stepped to the microphone and offered his synopsis of the season, state of the franchise, and the new direction the ‘Nucks will be heading.
“Younger and bigger” was Gillis’ answer on how to produce results. Concerned that the NHL is trending to a more physical, less skilled nature and tired about his team being leaned on too much without much push back, Gillis wasn’t shy on what type of players he will be looking for in the future.
Looking back a few months ago, Gillis had already started his new regime by making a quiet signing in mid-March. That’s when Kellan Lain became the newest Vancouver Canuck. Who’s Lain? A 6’6” 225lb forward from Lake Superior State University.
A solid skater with good face-off skills, Lain’s physical attributes are exactly what the Canucks, and Canucks fans, are looking for.
But one man does not make a team.
So here is a list of other potential big fish that could join Lain as larger, younger, and imposing Canucks.
Keith Aulie – Defenseman – Tampa Bay Lightning
The 6’7” 23-year-old rear guard has struggled to keep pace with his Canadian World Junior teammate, Tyler Myers (the 2010 NHL Rookie of the Year), but the second part of the Twin Towers defensive pairing is starting to find his game in the NHL.
Keith Aulie is still somewhat of a project but his skating ability, and his added inches, allow him to recover quickly when defending. An ideal second unit D-man that could blossom into a pure road grader in front of the net.
Jamie Oleksiak – Defenseman – Dallas Stars
While Jamie Oleksiak is still a prospect at this point, his size will make him a marketable commodity. Standing 6’7”, over 240 pounds, the 20-year-old d-man is just starting to fill out.
A first round pick with Dallas, his potential is as enormous as his skate size.
Martin Hanzal – Center – Phoenix Coyotes
The 6’6” 26-year-old forward from the Czech Republic has played the past 6 seasons with the ‘Yotes. A solid playoff performer and national team member, Martin Hanzal has the range and ability to play a 200 foot game. And with his size he also has the ability to out-work and out-reach defenders down low.
Jimmy Hayes – Right Wing – Chicago
The right-handed 6’6”, 221lb 23-year-old Boston native, like Lain, has gone through the NCAA college route to the NHL but tasted championship success by winning the Frozen Four with the Boston College Eagles in 2010. Playing in only 10 regular season games with the Hawks, Hayes is listed as a black ace during this playoff season.
With the consecutive early exits from the playoffs and the increasing age of the Sedins, it seems that the flagship of the Northwest Division is about to enter the dreaded re-building era.
How long we wait and how many rosters spots get overhauled is still unclear, but one thing is for certain, the Canucks are determined to never be pushed around again.
Cheers, The Bartender