The Vancouver Canucks are patiently waiting for some of their prospects to begin to blossom.
Over the last five entry drafts, the Canucks have been attempting to replenish their stocks that had grown thin. From 1996 to 2001, they have only managed to develop half dozen players that have produced consistently at the NHL level.
The loss of R.J. Umberger in a trade two years ago coupled with the fact that Nathan Smith, Josh Holden, Fedor Fedorov, Ryan Bonni and Thatcher Bell never developed into NHL regulars hampered the Canucks's organizational progress.
The Canucks have a couple of elite prospects in the mix, but they are lacking depth up front and overall talent. It looks like they should have a couple of defenseman and perhaps two goaltenders in this group develop into NHL players.
1. Cory Schneider: Goalie (first round, 26th overall in 2004), currently with Boston College (NCAA)
Schneider, a sophomore netminder, has led Boston College to first place in the Hockey East standings. He has 14-4-1 record and a .934 save percentage. Schneider had a solid performance at the WJC, although his Team USA did not medal. He is technically sound and rarely is rattled when the pressure is on. He has the potential to become an elite goaltender in the NHL one day.
2. Luc Bourdon: Defense (first round, 10th overall in 2005), currently with Val d'Or (QMJHL)
After the WJC in Vancouver, word got out quickly about how good Bourdon was and what type of potential he has. He has good size at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, but it is his mobility and mean streak that made people take notice. He has the potential to be a top-two defenseman in the NHL one day soon.
3. Kevin Bieksa: Defense (fifth round, 155th overall in 2001), currently with Vancouver (NHL)
Bieksa is a feisty two-way defenseman who plays a competitive style, although he is not the biggest at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He had an excellent season last year in the AHL and looks like he is ready to play full time. An unfortunate injury cost him the first few months of the season. He could become a reliable No. 5 defenseman who could log some power-play time.
4. Kirill Koltsov: Defense (second round, 49th overall in 2002), currently with Omsk (RUS)
The slick, puck-moving Koltsov has the best offensive instincts of any defenseman on the Canucks roster. He is a little undersized at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds so he may want to add a little strength before coming back to North America.
5. Julien Ellis: Goalie (sixth round, 189th overall in 2004), currently with Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Ellis, an athletic and acrobatic butterfly goalie, must have a solid remainder of the season after being cut from the Team Canada's WJC team. He is having a good season so far with .907 save percentage and 19 wins in 35 games. If the Canucks are patient, he could be a NHL goaltender in four or five years.
6. Alexander Edler: Defense (third round, 91st overall in 2004), currently with Kelowna (WHL)
Edler, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound Swede, has taken the WHL by surprise as he has scored almost point a game thus far from the blueline. His 34 points in 36 games are impressive even for a 19-year-old, but it is his work ethic and conditioning that are the reasons for his success thus far. He might develop into a top-four defenseman if his offensive skills translate to the NHL.
7. Mason Raymond: Left Wing (second round, 51st overall in 2005), currently with Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Raymond, a 20-year-old freshman, is leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 points in 26 games. He is a skilled forward who will need a few years in college to develop the rest of his game. He has shown his ability to be a clutch player and finds ways to be effective if not scoring.
8. Brett Skinner: Defense (third round, 68th overall in 2002), currently with Manitoba (AHL)
The Brandon, Manitoba native gets to come back near home after three great years at the University of Denver. Skinner has offensive ability from the blueline, but he may need a little extra weight and strength to handle players down low.
9. Jason King: Right Wing (seventh round, 212th overall in 2001), currently with Manitoba (AHL)
After a good season last year in AHL, concussion problems have curtailed his development. He has shown the ability to score at both levels but he must continue to work on his defense and consistency.
10. Alexander Vincent: Goalie (fourth round, 114th overall 2005), currently with Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
The lanky 6-foot-5, 200-pound netminder is continuing to craft his trade in the QMJHL and could be a project. Vincent has potential to become a backup NHL goalie in five or six years if he continues to work hard.
Also of note: Marc-Andre Bernier: Right Wing (second round, 60th overall in 2005), currently with Columbia (ECHL)
Bernier, a grinding winger, has had some difficulties finding his offensive spark from the past, but with increased ice time that should all work out. He was highly thought of when he was drafted but he will need to work hard to get a roster shot.
"We Will Rise Again"
- Fan's sign from the final game of the 05/06 season