Part 3 in my "State of the Franchise" series. I'm already prepared for the scathing comments I'm likely to receive for this one.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
30. San Jose
#28: Vancouver Canucks
Top Fws: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler
Top Ds: Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa
Top G: Roberto Luongo
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Zack Kassian (21)
2. D Christopher Tanev (22)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Nicklas Jensen (19)
2. F Brendan Gaunce (18)
3. F Jordan Schroeder (21)
4. F Anton Rodin (21)
5. G Eddie Lack (24)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: D
The Canucks are well-off at every position, with depth and talent throughout their ranks. They have no major, immediate needs at the NHL level. They have two adept NHL goalies, one of (if not the) deepest group of defensemen in the NHL and 4 lines that possess a lethal combination of speed and skill. Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler combine to form a potent one-two punch at center, and any day they can line up with a mix of wingers such as Alex Burrows, Daniel Sedin, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, David Booth, Zack Kassian and Mason Raymond.
Roberto Luongo looks like he’s on his way out and beyond Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack, the Canucks lack goalies at the professional level. The middle 6 wingers, while deep, have been streaky and tend to disappear for long stretches and with names like David Booth and Mason Raymond not living up to expectations, the Canucks may find a need there. Ryan Kesler will be injured to start the season and the Canucks will be hardpressed to replace his minutes.
They have a diverse and talented group of forwards, led by first round picks Nicklas Jensen and Brendan Gaunce. Jordan Schroeder, a former first-rounder himself, has begun to establish himself professionally and names like Anton Rodin and Alex Grenier look like they can provide depth for the NHL club at some point. Eddie Lack has been one of the AHL’s best goalies and looks to start the season backing up Cory Schneider.
There is little depth beyond the top prospects. On the wing, Jensen, Rodin, Grenier and Alexandre Mallett are the only prospects that could have the ability to carve out a career beyond just a 4th line presence. On defense, while names like Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve and Patrick McNally have decent potential, none are likely to become major factors at the NHL level. The goalie pool looks weak beyond Eddie Lack and David Honzik.
The Canucks have built themselves to be contenders both now and for at least the foreseeable future. On paper, they remain the deepest team in the NHL and with a bevy of NHL talent already on the roster, the team has no need for a prospect to be forced into a role he may not be ready for. Most of their core is in the prime of their careers and the Canucks have been very careful with the development of their top prospects up to this point.
While the lack of top talent in their prospect pool is discouraging, the truth of the matter is that even without them, the Canucks would likely remain contenders for the Cup. Having a prospect like Nicklas Jensen or Brendan Gaunce is a luxury rather than a necessity given the fact that the Canucks’ top players at those positions are locked in for the long term. However, they will need to prepare for the coming years as the team heads down the path of the Sharks and watches their core players age through their Cup window.
With the majority of the core players still relatively young, the Canucks are in no hurry to improve a shallow prospect pool. They will continue to contend in the competitive Western Conference for at least the coming year, barring drastic changes.