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August 25, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Vancouver Canucks

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Vancouver Canucks Top 10 Prospects

1. Cody Hodgson, Center
2. Anton Rodin, Left Wing
3. Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing
4. Yann Sauve, Defense
5. Jordan Schroeder, Center
6. Eddie Lack, Goaltender
7. Bill Sweatt, Left Wing
8. Kevin Connauton, Defense
9. Joseph LaBate, Center
10. Pathrik Westerholm, Center

Organizational Ranking: 26th

System Overview: Disappointing seasons from several top prospects like Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder have hurt the Canucks system, as there is a larger sense of pessimism around those two than there was a season ago. However, a fine 2011 draft class, a solid season from forward Anton Rodin, and Eddie Lack's great AHL campaign help Vancouver from sliding to the absolute bottom of our organizational rankings. The likelihood of Vancouver producing any impact players is very slim, but there's certainly a chance to produce a few semi-significant players.

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1. Cody Hodgson, Center
Date of birth: 02/18/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 52 GP, 17 G, 30 P (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: First round, tenth overall in 2008 by Vancouver

The Good: Hodgson is an above-average puck carrier who can create well in open space and has a fair amount of creativity with the puck. He looked more conservative in the AHL than he was in the OHL when it came to letting his loose his raw offense skill, but with experience, he certainly projects to be a creator with the puck. He thinks the game at a plus level with tremendous vision, instincts, and lighting quick decisions. This translates into him being an excellent playmaker who sets up chances for his linemates with regularity. He's not afraid to battle in the physical areas and shows a responsible hard-working defensive game as well.

The Bad: Hodgson is an underwhelming skater who doesn't generate a lot of power behind a short stride, and he lacks pro-level acceleration and top speed. His frame also leaves a bit to be desired as he isn't quite where he needs to be strength-wise and can be pushed off the puck or boxed out of the physical areas a little too easily. While things like the orbital bone injury this season is a fluke occurrence, injuries are starting to become a persistent problem.

Projection: An above-average second line center who safely projects onto a top six.

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2. Anton Rodin, Left Wing
Date of birth: 11/21/1990
Age: 20
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 53 GP, 7 G, 26 P, 15:28 ATOI (Brynas-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 53rd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Rodin is an above-average to plus skater that can get to a very desirable top speed and moves pretty freely with a fluid stride. His puck skills are above-average as he has the ability to dangle in open ice, but also can show beyond that at times as he will flash plus ability and spark a highlight reel with his puck-handling ability. He's a decent playmaker who can spot his teammates and distribute the puck. Rodin has above-average offensive creativity and instincts, as he can certainly process the game well with the puck, usually make good decisions, and doesn't hurt himself by overdoing it with his hands.

The Bad: Despite a fine work ethic, Rodin really struggles in the physical game as he can be boxed out of the high percentage areas too easily by bigger defenders and has a ton of physical development left to do.

Projection: An above-average second line forward who safely projects onto a top six.

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3. Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing
Date of birth: 03/16/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 61 GP, 29 G, 58 P (Oshawa-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 29th overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Nicklas Jensen impressed me throughout the year in his performances with very refined technique and an above-average skill set. While he has solid agility, his speed may touch average but the stride is so good and the way he pushes through every step makes it easy to see him being above-average once that area of his game develops. He loves to carry the puck and shows solid to above-average puck skills when he does with excellent coordination. Jensen's shot is above-average now, but I can see it being plus down the road as his mechanics are near perfect and the shot can be dangerous from mid-distance. In several viewings of him, I've been more than impressed with his forechecking, backchecking, and his hustle on the penalty kill.

The Bad: While he has a good frame, he isn't exactly the best in regards to physical play. He has a ways to fill out, though, and it will be a key area to work on before he leaves the CHL. He also does well when defenders attempt to engage him, showing good balance and strength on the puck, but in terms of separating others off the puck in the corners, he isn't the most successful.

Projection: An average second line forward who safely projects as a below-average second to above-average third line forward.

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4. Yann Sauve, Defense
Date of birth: 02/18/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 39 GP, 3 G, 14 P (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 41st overall in 2008 by Vancouver

The Good: Sauve is a solid to above-average skater with a pretty good first step and four-way mobility who can get to a desirable top speed pretty quickly. He's an above-average passer who moves the puck pretty easily with good technique and can flash the ability to thread some impressive mid-distance distributions. Sauve has above-average skills with the puck for a bigger defenseman, although on the grand scale, I'd say he's average. His physical game used to be somewhat of an issue in previous seasons, but I saw a better, conscious effort from Sauve in regards to being stronger in his one-on-one battles and showing more physicality.

The Bad: Sauve is quite underdeveloped and his weight listing may be somewhat generous. He's done some work to improve his physical game, but it still has a ways to go in regards to building his frame and being consistently solid physically in his own end. His decision-making could use some work as well as he will cough at puck at poor times and force bad passes.

Projection: He has below-average second pairing upside, but safely projects as an average third pairing defender.

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5. Jordan Schroeder, Center
Date of birth: 09/29/1990
Age: 20
Height: 5'8''
Weight: 175
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 61 GP, 10 G, 28 P (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 22nd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Schroeder is an above-average to plus skater with a great first step, he has shifty feet that give him a very elusive and agile aspect to his game, and he has a desirable top gear. He's a plus handler of the puck who can control a game well from the sideboards, as he has the skills and especially the vision to make plays and create chances for his teammates. Schroeder has great in-tight abilities with the puck as he can show some impressive deking abilities and is also dangerous in full flight as he can handle the puck pretty well at top speed. He has a solid shot as well, and while he's more of a pass-first type of player, he can certainly be a decent goal-scorer.

The Bad: His physical game is about as bad as you're going to find. Schroeder is a pint-sized player who doesn't attack the physical areas much, is easily overwhelmed when it comes to battles along the boards, and can have the puck stripped off of him without much effort at times. He likely will have to be pushed off to wing permanently, although when he was tried at wing this season, he struggled more so than when he played center.

Projection: He has average second line forward upside but there's also a chance that he may never become a league regular as well.

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6. Eddie Lack, Goaltender
Date of birth: 01/05/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 196
Catches: Left
Statistics: 53 GP, .926 SV% (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: Undrafted free agent

The Good: Lack had a tremendous first full North American pro season and really turned some heads. He's a really calm, composed goalie who plays an above-average positional game, as he always finds ways to square up pucks and never seems to lose the puck. Lack has a big frame that he uses to absorb rebounds very well and when he enters the butterfly he takes up a ton of space that makes it hard for pucks to get behind him when he centers himself to the shot. Lack never seems to scramble for pucks, as his footwork is quiet, and while he can be decent while sprawling, that really isn't his game.

The Bad: Lack has solid athleticism for a big man, but I wouldn't say compared to the average NHLer that it's at that level. He doesn't have a ton of major issues, but not a lot of upside either.

Projection: An average NHL starter in a perfect world who safely projects as a below-average starter to an above-average backup.

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7. Bill Sweatt, Left Wing
Date of birth: 09/21/1988
Age: 22
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 80 GP, 19 G, 45 P (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Chicago, drafted second round, 38th overall in 2007 by Chicago

The Good: Sweatt is a plus skater with a blistering top speed who can make even the most mobile defenders back up and give him space and he easily accelerates to that top gear. He pushes off very well and can consistently maintain above-average movement levels even when he's not really exerting himself. He's a pretty hard two-way worker who forechecks and backcehcks with a good effort level. Sweatt's defensive aspect has also improved; he certainly has the ability to be a fine two-way forward and to log penalty killing minutes at the top level. He has decent passing ability, but won't show beyond that.

The Bad: Sweatt doesn't have a whole lot of offensive upside. While he shows decent hands and passing ability at times, he doesn't really show above-average offensive skills, creativity, or instincts with consistency. He also has to improve his physical game; despite the fact that he will engage and pressure opponents physically on the forecheck, his strength level isn't all that effective.

Projection: An above-average third line forward who safely projects onto a bottom six in some role.

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8. Kevin Connauton, Defense
Date of birth: 02/23/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 73 GP, 11 G, 23 P (Manitoba-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 83rd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Connauton is an above-average skater who's quite mobile. He shows good agility moves around much more freely than a defender his size usually does. He's a solid puck-mover who can control a power play well with effective distributions and has the offensive abilities to flash mid-distance distributions coming out of his own zone. Connauton also has a fine shot that he doesn't shy from utilizing and can definitely be a threat to pull the trigger from the blue line on top of his puck-moving abilities.

The Bad: Connauton's hockey sense is fringe and it keeps his ceiling from advancing to any form of significant level. He regularly coughs up pucks due to poor reads and bad timing. He's not that physical a defender, and combined with below-average defensive awareness, he isn't that good in his own end. He can be a little rigid handling the puck too and is more of a puck-mover than a rusher or handler.

Projection: An above-average third pairing defender who may just end up a depth player and/or power play specialist.

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9. Joseph LaBate, Center
Date of birth: 04/16/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 25 GP, 27 G, 49 P (Holy Angels-US high school)
Acquired: Fourth round, 101st overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Joseph LaBate is a big and very wiry-framed centerman who I've also seen line up on the wing. LaBate is a low-ceiling guy who will get by on his physical assets. Joseph's puck skills look decent at best and are good for his size, but he probably can't be the guy who will be relied on to be a flashy player. He has a notable shot that generates solid power, and good mechanics for a larger man, especially on his one-timer which he likes to unleash from the right circle on the power play. His physical game projects as plus, as he uses his frame well and has a noticeable work ethic in that regard. It will really flourish once he fills out and gains better balance.

The Bad: He has a good stride and is moderately coordinated for a 6'4" forward at his age, but the skating tool is fringe and the feet look heavy. His hockey sense is fair with the odd adjustment required on the penalty kill and in his defensive positioning; I would have wanted to see more of him, as the high school environment always makes it hard to evaluate that tool.

Projection: An above-average third line forward who safely projects onto a bottom six.

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10. Pathrik Westerholm, Center
Date of birth: 01/06/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 26 GP, 32 G, 57 P (Malmo- J20 SuperElit), 34 GP, 8 G, 21 P (Malmo-Allsvenskan)
Acquired: Sixth round, 180th overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Pathrik Westerholm's puck skills are decent, and he likes to hold onto the puck and distribute it. I haven't seen much above-average stick-handling from Westerholm, but he can make moves at an average level. His offense comes from his vision, anticipation, and a solid finishing ability. Westerholm's hockey sense grades as above-average, as he's smart with his stick-work, anticipates the play well, and shows an effective defensive game.

The Bad: His physical game is fringe just in relation to his frame, although he likely will be a grade above that as he grows, as he does notable work along the physical areas, is hard on his man assignments, and can win battles going against bigger guys. He commonly makes plays off the cycle and I've seen power plays when he would be in front of the net for the duration of it, so he has no issues with the physical side of the game. His skating is below-average and while I saw the occasional decent flash from him, he doesn't show average skating with consistency.

Projection: An average third line forward who may end up a replacement player in things don't pan out.

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The Sleeper: Patrick McNally, a fourth round pick of Vancouver in 2010, is a very skilled defenseman who can really skate and handle the puck, but is a major project with pretty poor decision-making. He still has the ceiling to make him a significant sleeper candidate, as he starts his first year at Harvard University next season.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Premium Article Summer Skate (08/24)
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Top 10 Prospects (08/23)
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Top 10 Prospects (08/29)
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Premium Article The Blue Line (08/26)

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