The Plan, by VanBy Scott McKenzie, TheFourthPeriod.com
VANCOUVER, BC -- When Mike Gillis took over as GM of the Canucks two seasons ago, he spoke of "the plan."
Each roster move was carefully orchestrated in order to follow "the plan" and one of the major aspects was drafting and developing their own players.
An equally important quality to the plan was becoming a bigger, faster, grittier team in order to contend for a western championship.
Those two aspects have yet to come hand in hand for Gillis and the physical size of his top prospects show that. Cody Hodgson, Gillis' first ever opening round pick isn't seen as being overly big, fast, or gritty. Hodgson's numbers are listed by the Canucks as being 6’0, 185lbs. To get a better sense of how small that is, Edmonton's Sam Gagner comes in at 5’11, 195lbs.
Canadian hockey fans were in awe of some of the plays Hodgson created in the World Junior championship two years ago, so Canuck fans let didn't mind Hodsgon's lack of size and speed due to his tremendous upside.
The Hodgson draft choice came despite Gillis having the chance to pick Kyle Beach (6’3, 210lbs), who was raised in B.C. and was selected next by Chicago – the team pretty much everyone in the NHL is trying to emulate. That constant emulation may be due in part to what they’ve done with big, tough B.C. boys, think Troy Brouwer (6’2, 214 lbs), Brent Seabrook (6’3, 218lbs) and Andrew Ladd (6’2, 205lbs).
Gillis’s next first round draft pick was quite a bit further down than the Hodgson choice, and he went even smaller by choosing Jordan Schroeder – 5’8, 175lbs. Taking a look at some of Vancouver’s other top prospects, their physical statures don’t vary much.
Anton Rodin is 5,’11, 174 lbs, Sergei Shirikov is 5’10, 195 (and hasn’t been seen in or around a corner), and Prab Rai is 5’11, 195. However, adding size up front doesn’t necessarily need to be done with draft choices. Gillis has done a fine job adding size with the additions of Victor Oreskovich (who’s Canadian, not Russian), Raffi Torres (another surprisingly Canadian name), Manny Malhotra and Joel Perrault. Gillis also added a big B.C. defenceman in Dan Hamhuis to go along with a relatively big blueline with Alex Edler, Shane O’Brien and to a lesser extent Keith Ballard and his prospects on defense are big, too.
Peter Andersson will fill into his 6’3 frame over time as will Yann Sauve. Trading for size rather than drafting it has cost the Canucks a fair chunk of money but it’s also added experience.
Malhotra should be entrenched as the Canucks’ third-line centre this season and will earn $2.5 million. That’s the same amount as top-six forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond, more than what Alex Burrows will make.
The two big additions on defense – Hamhuis and Ballard – will combine to make $8.7 million this season.
Hamhuis and Ballard’s contracts will both exceed what Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Edler and Kevin Bieksa make and will be $1 million more than what Willie Mitchell made last season.
Those contracts are a necessity when Gillis continues to go small with his top draft picks. They didn’t even have a first round pick in the draft, trading it along with Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier for Ballard and Oreskovich.
Hamhuis and Ballard’s contracts will last six and five years, respectively. By the time those contracts expire Hodgson, Schroeder, Rodin and Shirokov should be carrying much of the load on offense.
With the Raymond and Samuelsson deals expiring at the end of next season, if the youngsters develop as expected, there could be a future log jam across the forward wall as Ryan Kesler’s contract keeps him around for as long as anyone on the team excluding Luongo.
Scott McKenzie covers the Vancouver Canucks for TheFourthPeriod.com
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