The Best First Round Vancouver Canucks Draft Picks, Part Three

Vancouver Canucks Draft

We’ve been using the temporary delay in the NHL to look over the Vancouver Canucks draft picks over their history. Just like every other team, there have been some great selections, some disastrous ones. My first articles here compared their selections to who was available in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, so that’s ground pretty well covered. Narrowing it down to those picks who had the best chance to make it, though? That has the Canucks competing against themselves. Guaranteed wins all the way down!

The Best First Round Vancouver Canucks Draft Picks

Now, you’d think this would be a fairly even spread over their 50 years (and 51 drafts) but no. The Canucks spent some years as one of the best teams in the league, sure; more frequently they, ah, weren’t. So we had to break up their top-ten positions into two halves, here and here. We’re going to do it again at the end of the draft positions because the Canucks spent a lot of years in a 21-team league. This means they ended up with lots more early picks, just in the second round. Continuing…

Vancouver Canucks Draft Picks 11-20

Eleventh Overall Pick

Choices: Michel Petit

Kicking off the rollercoaster is a pretty solid pick in Petit. Not a bad description of the 6’1″ 200-pound defenceman, either. He was a big, net-clearing guy who was useful enough to play for 10 different NHL teams in just 16 years. Often asked for in trades, rarely kept. He was even part of the legendary deal that brought Doug Gilmour to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Verdict: Petit. Get used to the “Choices” and “Verdict” options being the same in this article.

Twelfth Overall

Choices: Josh Holden

Holden was drafted on a high: loads of points, a leader on the Regina Pats who had performed well in the playoffs. In fact, he was made captain the next season, and his points-per-game got even better. All told, Holden finished his four years in junior with 352 points in just 246 games. Four goals at the 1997-98 World Juniors just solidified his status as a top prospect for a team needing centres. Unfortunately, he couldn’t live up to the hype, doing well in the minors but never establishing himself in the NHL. Had a great career in Switzerland, though!

Verdict: Holden

Thirteenth Overall

Choices: Mattias Ohlund

Weird as it sounds, the Canucks have not had great luck in drafting out of Sweden. They’ve had great players from there, obviously, but it wasn’t until Ohlund that the Canucks drafted their own. And he was a great player for them, easily one of their best defensemen ever. Which speaks volumes to their blueliners, but also to Ohlund himself. He averaged 25 minutes a game for the team over 11 years with a career-high of 36 points. You know that “solid defensive guy beside the points-getting star” role? That’s Ohlund. But he never got the chance to play beside a scoring star. If you’ve seen Alexander Edler now, you’ve seen Mattias Ohlund then.

Verdict: Ohlund

Fourteenth Overall

Choices: Michael Grabner

Just about everything is strange in Grabner’s NHL career. Off to a good start with Vancouver for his first 20 games, he got moved to the Florida Panthers. He didn’t play a game there, getting plucked off waivers by the New York Islanders. Grabner promptly had the best year of his career with 32 goals and 52 points. After that? In the next decade (so far) he never reached 40 points again, though he did hit 27 goals twice. He was also traded to Toronto, straight up, for five players – only two of whom made it to the NHL.

Verdict: Grabner

Fifteenth Overall

Choices: None

One of three first-round Vancouver Canucks draft gaps. Perfectly normal, statistically speaking, but it sure feels weird.

Verdict: None? Really? Huh.

Sixteenth Overall

Choices: Jim Hargreaves, R.J. Umberger

Hargreaves has some cachet as Vancouver’s second-ever draft pick (first second-round pick?) but that’s about it. He played 66 games for the Canucks before jumping to the WHA to finish his career. Should be an easy pick, right? Well, Umberger never played a game for the Canucks, forcing a trade after sitting out the entire 2003-04 season. No reason was officially given, but speculation later emerged that he refused to be on the same team as former Ohio State teammate Ryan Kesler, who the Canucks drafted in 2003. When Umberger was moved, he brought back Martin Rucinsky for an unsuccessful playoff run. Rucinsky’s totals with Vancouver were 13 regular-season games getting one goal and three points. In the playoffs, he went 1-1 in seven games. Then he left as a free agent.

Verdict: Umberger. He was simply the better player, and a good pick at that position. But Canucks fans have to like Hargreaves more: at least they got 66 games and eight points out of him.

Seventeenth Overall

Choices: Bobby Lalonde

Not the sort of player you see often nowadays, the 5’5″ Lalonde carved a pretty good career for himself, lasting 11 years in the NHL. His record with Vancouver was 73 goals and 189 points in 353 games, so not exactly the second coming of Newsy Lalonde. Still, he played with the Atlanta Flames and the Calgary Flames, so that has to be worth something.

Verdict: Lalonde

Eighteenth Overall

Choices: Shawn Antoski

For many years, the early Vancouver Canucks draft picks were filled with big forwards because they were big. Antoski produced good numbers in the CHL – 56 points in 59 games in his draft year. But the most important numbers were 6’4″ and 201 penalty minutes. He produced 402 total penalty minutes in his last two junior seasons, and that got him picked in the first round. After 70 games in five years (three points, 265 penalty minutes) he was moved on.

Verdict: Antoski

Nineteenth Overall

Choices: Bryan McSheffrey, Paulin Bordeleau

While McSheffrey had some killer sideburns, that wasn’t enough to get him past 90 NHL games – 87 with Vancouver. Bordeleau has an interesting history. Indeed, we’ve talked about him and his connection to the Canucks before. He was drafted 19th overall by Vancouver, but fourth overall by the Toronto Toros of the WHA. Toronto figured they had a good shot at him, as he had played his OHA years in Toronto with the Marlboros. Bordeleau decided to stick with the established league over the upstart… until the Quebec Nordiques expressed an interest in teaming him up with his older brother. In his first year in the WHA, he got more goals (42) than he managed in three seasons in Vancouver (33).

Verdict: Bordeleau

Twentieth Overall

Choices: Mike Wilson

So he never played a game for the Canucks? Wilson was part of the deal that brought Alexander Mogilny to Vancouver, and that’s tough to overstate. Okay, sure, Michael Peca was the main trade ingredient, but Wilson was there, too! The defenceman only played 336 NHL games, but he did have an eventful 2005-06. In that one season, he joined three teams in three nations (Austria, Switzerland, and Finland) in Europe. Not a bad use of your skills, really.

Verdict: Wilson

Mid Round Struggles

And there we have the barren wasteland that is the mid-round stretch for the Vancouver Canucks draft selections. Outside of Ohlund, the Canucks could have traded away every one of these first-round picks and had almost no impact on the team. Don’t worry, though: the next set, 21st-25th, has quite some stories! It was the best of drafts, it was the worst of drafts…
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