Well, this week, I will re-rank our prospects, one-by-one, and give reasons for each ranking. Many of the Canucks’ prospects have regressed a great deal in development this season, and this could serve as a wake-up call for some of them; (If they have computers, and read this site, that is.) while others will be pleasantly surprised by their surge in the rankings. Without further ado, let us proceed.
1. Allen, Bryan (D), Manitoba Moose (AHL). Drafted: ’98 (1/4)
Even though he started the season with the Canucks, Allen quickly proved that he didn’t belong there. He’s still my top prospect on reputation and potential alone. When he reaches the NHL again, I hope that we see the Allen of last year’s play-offs, the physical, tough, and defensively-responsible Allen. If he can conquer his split-NHL personality, then he’ll fit in just fine. Our blueline is in need of some fresh blood, and, with Murray Baron and Scott Lachance as our #3-4 defensemen, respectively, Allen should rocket up the depth chart, if he wants to.
2001-02 Manitoba 22GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 P, 53 PIM.
2001-02 Vancouver 7 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 6 PIM.
2. Chubarov, Artem (C), Vancouver Canucks. Drafted: ’98 (2/31)
Brian Burke’s second selection after taking over the Canucks as GM has worked out very well. After two injury-riddled seasons, Chubarov’s potential is really starting to shine through. After being promoted to the Canucks last week, he has played mostly on the fourth line, where his hard work, and never-give-up attitude has given him a special place in the hearts of Canucks fans. He’s looking more and more like a keeper every day, but, don’t let his offensive production in Manitoba fool you; he won’t be much of an offensive threat at the NHL level. I’ve enjoyed watching him a lot, as he reminds me a bit of Jarkko Ruutu, when he was working so hard to impress Marc Crawford, playing on the fourth line, but, Artem is not as physical as Jarkko, a recent addition to the Finnish olympic team. Injuries and a log-jam on the big club ruined his first two chances to stick with the Canucks for good, but, if you ask me, (And most people don’t.) the third time’s a charm.
2001-02 Manitoba 19 GP, 7 G, 12 A, 19 P, 6 PIM.
2001-02 Vancouver 8 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM.
3. Umberger, R.J. (C), Ohio State Buckeyes. Drafted: ’01 (1/16)
Im my opinion, the enigmatic centre has been one of the main reasons that the Buckeyes have ran all the way to the #12 spot in the overall rankings. He’s big, strong, but always leaves scouts and observers thinking he could do so much more with the incredible gift of talent he has. He has led the Buckeyes (9-5) in scoring, and has kept at the same, PPG pace that he had in his Freshman season. I would have liked to see the Pittsburgh native play in the CHL this season; with his size, he could dominate the league, although he could still stand to be a bit more physical.
2001-02 Ohio State 15 GP, 8 G, 8 A, 16 P, 10 PIM.
4. Auld, Alex (G), Manitoba Moose. Acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers. (2001)
Auld has missed more than half of the season to date due to injuries, but, since his return, he has went from the ECHL on a conditioning assignment, to Martin Brochu’s back-up with the Moose. He’s still the Canucks goaltending hope for the future, but with the strong play of Dan Cloutier, he doesn’t need to push himself extra hard to make the NHL this season. He played well in Columbia, and is just getting himself together in Winnipeg. He’s not a future star, but he could step in as the back-up to Cloutier next season, and work his way up to starter in a couple of years, especially with the sometimes shaky and inconsistent play of our current back-up, Latvian netminder Peter Skudra.
2001-02 Manitoba 4 GP, 2 W, 1 L, 0 T, 3.21 GAA, .824 SV %.
2001-02 Columbia 3 GP, 2 W, 0 L, 1 SOL, 2.21 GAA, .913 SV %.
5. Smith, Nathan (C) Swift Current Broncos. Drafted: ’00 (1/23)
Although I’m not a fan of Smith, you need to give credit where credit is due. He shocked scouts last season with an increase of 41 points from his draft year total of 49. He’s been slowed a bit by injuries this season, so his point production has slipped, but Smith still appears to be primed for a spot on the Moose roster next season if all goes well. The 20-year-old centre was invited to the Canadian National Junior Team, and once again, was among the first cuts from the squad. A smooth-skating centre, Smith needs to be signed by the June deadline, or he may go back into the draft, I’m not completely sure. Either way, he should be determined to prove his naysayers wrong, and finish up strong for the Broncos, who also sport another ’00 Canuck draftee, Tim Smith.
2001-02 Swift Current 14 GP, 6 G, 11 A, 17 P, 12 PIM.
6. Vydareny, Rene (D) Manitoba Moose. Drafted ’99 (3/59)
The Slovakian defender, whose stats are getting more and more painful by the day. has survived an ECHL demotion, and battled inconsistent play this season. An offensive-minded defenseman, Vydareny is regressing in his development this season, but he needs more playing time in order to realize his lofty potential. He needs to step it up soon, regardless of playing time, and begin to return the investment made by Brian Burke in him, especially considering how long it took to get him over here for good. As much untapped potential as anyone in our system.
2001-02 Manitoba 12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, 5 PIM.
2001-02 Columbia 10 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, 9 PIM.
7. Bell, Thatcher (C) Rimouski Oceanic. Drafted: ’00 (3/71)
Bell has gotten back on track this season after a poor campaign in ’00-01. The speedy centre, who has not played since our last update, goes up the list on the merit of scoring statistics alone. Another Canucks pick who needs to be signed by the June deadline, he should have no problems fitting into the Moose system next season, but he still needs to put on some muscle.
2001-02 Rimouski 23 GP, 8 G, 20 A, 28 P, 27 PIM.
8. Reid, Brandon (C) Manitoba Moose. Drafted: ’00 (7/208)
Another Quebec league draftee by the Canucks, Reid has had a rough go of it so far this season in Manitoba. He began the season glued to the bench, as coach Smyl was mostly playing the older players. On a team loaded with centres, Reid has become an outsider with the Moose. The lightning-fast former Quebec league star is another of many Canuck prospects who needs to work extra hard to ensure he has a spot on the Moose next season.
2001-02 Manitoba 21 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, 0 PIM.
9. Gladskikh, Evgeny (LW) Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Drafted: ’01 (4/114)
A steal in the fourth round in 2001, Gladskikh was an unknown quality going into the draft, which was one of the deepest in many years. An elegant skater, but a bit on the smaller side; Gladskikh’s potential is much like that of our #2 prospect, Artem Chubarov. Like Chubarov, he’s a very hard working player, and is beginning to blossom offensively, already equalling his point total from last season. Every time I hear more about the kid, I like his potential even more. Maybe next season, the Canucks will bring him over from Russia, and be better able to monitor his progress in one of our junior leagues.
2001-02 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 18 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 P, 2 PIM.
10. Brown, Mike (LW) Vancouver Canucks. Acquired in the now-infamous Pavel Bure deal, in 1999.
Now in his third year in the Vancouver system, the enforcer is quietly enjoying his best season of pro hockey; and looks to be up to stay with the trade of former pugilist Donald Brashear to Philly. Always a willing combatant, Brown has added a tint of offense to his game this season, with eleven points for the Canucks top farm team in Manitoba. Admittedly, his only NHL-level skill is fighting, so he will need to improve across the board before he is an every-night player. Time will tell if he becomes a good two-way player, or another five-minute per night, Scott Parker-esque goon.
2001-02 Manitoba 23 GP, 7 G, 4 A, 11 P, 130 PIM.
2001-02 Vancouver 3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 5 PIM.
11. Barrett, Nathan (C) Lethbridge Hurricanes. Drafted: ’00 (8/241)
Even though it appears Barrett has no intention of signing with the Canucks, once again, I have to give credit where it is due. The leading scorer of the WHL, Barrett probably won’t go any higher if he re-enters the draft, than he went in 2000. A great goalscorer, as evidenced by his 24 goals this season, and a good playmaker, with 33 assists, for the Hurricanes this season. He’s asking for entirely too much money, especially for someone that has never set foot in a pro hockey arena to this point in his career. Also, this is his overage year, so, his statistics may be skewed a bit, especially considering he knows the league like the back of his hand. Either way, Brian Burke has never been held hostage by a junior player with unrealistic contract demands, especially a junior player. Don’t expect Burke to budge from his original offer, therefore, don’t expect to see Barrett in a Moose uniform next season.
2001-02 Lethbridge 36 GP, 24 G, 33 A, 57 P, 52 PIM.
12. Komarniski, Zenith (D) Manitoba Moose. Drafted: ’96 (3/75)
He’s starting to show some more forward momentum in his development cycle this season, taking on more icetime with the Moose. The Defenseman with the booming shot has improved across the board this season, except offensively, where his development seems to have stagnated. The rest of this season will be a determining year for the Edmonton native. Will he make the transition from solid defenseman in the AHL to decent one in the NHL? Or will he remain in Manitoba? We’ll find out in a couple of months.
2001-02 Manitoba 29 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 P, 79 PIM.
13. King, Jason (C/LW) Halifax Mooseheads. Drafted: ’01 (7/212)
The 20-year-old Moosehead has ripped up the Q this season, averaging more than a goal per game for Halifax. There really isn’t any reason besides his age that King dropped so far in June’s draft, and he’s rewarding the team that took a gamble on him in the Canucks, with his finest campaign to date. Whether King is legitimate NHL stock is still to be determined, but if he plays at any level close to the proficience he has shown this season in the Q, he’s a shoe-in for a spot with the Moose next season. Lower-pro seasoning may be necessary for King, who has been somewhat of a late-bloomer. I, like every other Canuck fan, hope that he keeps on blooming, but next season, in Manitoba.
2001-02 Halifax 25 GP, 26 G, 14 A, 40 P, 17 PIM.
14. Fedorov, Fedor (LW) Manitoba Moose. Drafted: ’01 (3/66)
After being hit in the eye a few weeks ago, Fedorov’s season has gone down the tubes. He is a player that will only get better, and I hope that he does, even though I thought that the pick used on him would have been better used on someone else. A very talented player, he still needs to improve his defensive zone coverage before being seriously considered for a regular shift with the Moose and Canucks. He could also use a goal or two to boost his confidence. I hope his eye gets better soon; the last thing we need is another Mattias Ohlund-type of injury.
2001-02 Manitoba 8 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, 6 PIM.
2001-02 Columbia 2 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, 0 PIM.
15. Morrison, Justin (RW) Manitoba Moose. Drafted: ’98 (3/81)
Rounding out our top 15 is LA-native Justin Morrison. Posessing oodles of raw skill, Morrison was in the eyes of many teams going into the 1998 draft, but fell conveniently into the laps of the Canucks at pick 81. After a decent college career at Colorado College, he broke into the professional ranks this season with the Manitoba Moose. Even though his offensive statistics haven’t been anything out of the ordinary, he’s worked hard, and earned a spot in coach Smyl’s good books. His future is still cloudy at best, but at least the ship has some direction now.
2001-02 Manitoba 27 GP, 6 G, 3 A, 9 P, 29 PIM.
Ryan Bonni has dropped off the Canucks’ radar, most likely forever. The big defenseman was demoted to Columbia for the second time this season two weeks ago, and his days in the Canuck organization appear to be numbered. He’ll be looking for work elsewhere next year if the Canucks let him go.
Tim Branham, a third round pick in ’00, has had a miserable offensive season for his new team, the Guelph Storm of the OHL. He’ll need to rebound in the second half if he doesn’t want to fall off the face of the earth on our depth chart.
Alfie Michaud is a classic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Once upon a time, he was our top goaltending prospect. Now, after a demotion to the ECHL, his days in our organization also appear to be numbered. He could’ve been a lot more than what he turned out to be.
Darrell Hay has struggled offensively this season in Manitoba, collecting a measly two points in 24 games with the Moose. He’s another guy that needs to pull up his socks if he wants to be seriously considered in this organization again.
Pat Kavanagh played with the big club last season in the play-offs, and still has a decent future, but he’d be best-advised to latch on with an expansion team, even though the Canucks have a lack of depth on the wings.
And last, but not least, Kevin Swanson has played very well for our ECHL affiliate down in Columbia, but, he’s another guy caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He doesn’t have a future in the Canucks organization.
Well, that is my thorough run-through of the Canucks system, will you please excuse me while I drop dead?
I’ll be back next week,
For Hockey’s Future.com,
I’m Kirk Pedersen.