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September 20, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Vancouver Canucks

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Vancouver Canucks Top 10 Prospects

1. Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing
2. Brendan Gaunce, Center
3. Frankie Corrado, Defense
4. Kevin Connauton, Defense
5. Jordan Schroeder, Center
6. Anton Rodin, Left Wing
7. Patrick McNally, Defense
8. Eddie Lack, Goaltender
9. Joseph LaBate, Center
10. Alexandre Grenier, Right Wing

Organizational Ranking: 24th

System Overview: Vancouver was a hard system to rank because they have a fair amount of talent, but there are question marks up and down their pipeline. Can Jensen get some consistency and have a big season? How high is the upside for Gaunce and Corrado? Can Connauton defend in the NHL? Will Rodin break out? How for real is Alex Grenier? Did Eddie Lack's big seasons come from his talent level, or from bringing a goalie in his mid-20's in the AHL? I could see an argument that there's a league-average amount of talent in this system, but there are a lot of things to watch for this team going into next season.

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1. Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 03/16/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 25 G, 58 P (Oshawa-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 29th overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Jensen is a pretty gifted offensive player. He has above-average hands and offensive instincts, and some scouts consider one or both of those skills as top-end. When he's on his game, Jensen is a dominant puck possession weapon due to how he can control the play with his hands and puck protection ability. Jensen also has the ability to be a very impressive playmaker. He's a decent skater, maybe a tick above, with good technique and quality agility. Jensen is a good shooter, with a textbook release in terms of his weight distribution and follow-through.

The Bad: Consistency has historically been Jensen's major issue. When he's on, he's a very skilled power forward who can dominate a game, but he has stretches where he doesn't do much or will drift off to the perimeter. He needs to continue to get stronger.

Projection: He could be a very good second line winger.

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2. Brendan Gaunce, Center
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/25/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 28 G, 68 P (Belleville-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 26th overall in 2012 by Vancouver

The Good: Gaunce is a pretty advanced player from a physical and game-processing standpoint. He has high-end hockey sense and shows the ability to set his teammates up very well. He makes good, quick reads and is a pretty impressive defensive forward. Gaunce's body is at or near pro level which is quite unusual for an 18-year-old. He likes to play a power forward game and should be a quality player in that role as a pro. He's got a plus shot with impressive velocity. Gaunce could fast track to the NHL in a short amount of time.

The Bad: Gaunce's skating needs work, as his speed is below-average. He's not a really gifted offensive player, either, from a creativity or puck skills standpoint.

Projection: He could be an average second line center.

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3. Frankie Corrado, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 03/25/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 191
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 60 GP, 3 G, 26 P (Sudbury-OHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 150th overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Corrado didn't blow people away with his stat line last season, but every scout I talked to was blown away by him. He can skate and think the game at a very high level, showing the ability to be a top-end player in his own end. Corrado has the four-way movements to close gaps efficiently, and make stops in his own end with quick decisions, good positioning, and solid physical play. He sees the ice well and can make a good first pass.

The Bad: Corrado's offensive upside is somewhat questionable, as while he has the hockey sense to produce, he hasn't really done so as of now. He needs to get stronger and improve his conditioning.

Projection: He could be a quality second pairing defenseman.

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4. Kevin Connauton, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 02/23/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 71 GP, 13 G, 33 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 83rd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Connauton took several steps forward last year, from a talented project into a quality prospect. He's a plus skater who one NHL source describes as "tremendous". He is very good at leading the rush and jumping up when he senses a chance to create an odd-man chance. He has skill, too, as he can move the puck at a solid level and has a cannon from the point that is accurate. An AHL All-Star this year, Connauton wasn't sheltered and played at a top level while facing off versus top players.

The Bad: Connauton's defense showed significant strides last season, and while he doesn't project as a quality defensive player, he's made enough improvement in that area where he may not have to be sheltered by his coach in the NHL.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman.

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5. Jordan Schroeder, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 09/29/1990
Age: 21
Height: 5'9''
Weight: 177
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 76 GP, 21 G, 44 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 22nd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Schroeder had a better second AHL season and really elevated his game in the second half. He's a high-end skater, who with his size and muscle mass can accelerate quickly and pressure defenders with his speed on a consistent basis. Schroeder is a skilled playmaker who can be a starting point on offense and quarterback a power play from the sideboards. Schroeder's all-around game showed significant improvement as he was used on the penalty kill, was effective doing so, and showed better effort in the physical game.

The Bad: Size is what every scout is always concerned about with Schroeder. His strength level is actually solid, but he's easily pushed off pucks, and the fact he doesn't have a high-end work ethic makes him susceptible to physical punishment and a lot of lost battles. He sometimes will try to do too much offensively and can over-pass.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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6. Anton Rodin, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 11/21/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 62 GP, 10 G, 27 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 53rd overall in 2009 by Vancouver

The Good: Rodin is an exceptional offensive talent who has everything you want in a player, minus the production. Scouts call him an "explosive skater", he's got great hands, good offensive instincts, is creative, plays hard in both ends, and drives the net. Rodin can simply attack defenses in many ways, and when he's on his game, he stands out on every shift.

The Bad: Rodin had a bit of a rough landing in his first pro season, just getting used to the pace and the North American pro game. He was better in the second half, so there are some signs of optimism. He needs to get much stronger.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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7. Patrick McNally, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 12/04/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 34 GP, 6 G, 28 P (Harvard University-ECAC)
Acquired: Fourth round, 115th overall in 2010 by Vancouver

The Good: McNally has ridiculous offensive tools and oozes upside. He's a high-end skater, puck-handler and offensive thinker who plays an aggressive style and can threaten a defense, and was his team's best defenseman. His top speed and acceleration are great and he can weave in and out of traffic, but he can slow the play down and use his tremendous vision to create a lot of chances. McNally has a big shot from the point.

The Bad: He's what one scout calls an "all offense" defenseman, and the same scout says "I question his ability to defend." McNally is certainly a gambler and will take unwise risks at times to try and create scoring chances. He needs more strength, too.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman, but is a bit of a project.

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8. Eddie Lack, Goaltender
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 01/05/1988
Age: 24
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 193
Catches: Left
Statistics: 46 GP, .925 SV% (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Free agent

The Good: Lack had another great AHL season, stopping 92.5% of shots after stopping 92.6% last season. He's a calm goalie in net who doesn't tend to overreact with his positioning, but when he needs to make a second save, he shows good effort fighting through traffic or trying to scramble up loose pucks. Lack is a smart goalie who reads the play well and squares up pucks consistently with his giant frame. His technique is solid, and he moves around well for a big goalie.

The Bad: Lack has no real weakness other than his upside is not really that high. He's NHL-ready, but probably won't be a significant player.

Projection: He could be an okay starting goaltender.

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9. Joseph LaBate, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 9th
Date of birth: 04/16/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 5 G, 20 P (University of Wisconsin-WCHA)
Acquired: Fourth round, 101st overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: LaBate is a skilled big man with good puck skills and hockey sense. He generally makes good decisions, generates scoring chances, and has fine instincts. He has the rare combo of size and skill that make him a desirable asset when controlling the puck and being effective in the high percentage areas. He's a decent defensive forward, too.

The Bad: LaBate's skating is a bit rough as he doesn't generate a whole lot of power from his stride. While he has skill, whether or not he has scoring line talent is a question mark. He needs to continue bulking up as well.

Projection: He could be a good third line forward, and may have a chance to be a tick better.

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10. Alexandre Grenier, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 09/05/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 64 GP, 25 G, 64 P (Halifax-QMJHL)
Acquired: Third round, 90th overall in 2011 by Vancouver

The Good: Grenier had a fine QMJHL season after being drafted in his third draft-eligible season and starting his CHL career late. Grenier is a toolsy player with a fair amount of upside. He's a huge man with above-average speed and hands, and both are well above average for a player of his size. His development curve has been tracking straight up as he has really rounded into an offensive weapon and become more coordinated in his body.

The Bad: As Grenier got a little behind the development curve, his game is still somewhat raw in terms of playing with a fast pace and his defensive game. He also needs to get stronger and improve his conditioning.

Projection: He has top-six upside, but is a long-term project.

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The Next Five

11. Bill Sweatt, Left Wing: Sweatt is a high-end skater with some skill, but his ceiling isn't that high.

12. Yann Sauve, Defense: Sauve shone this season in a shutdown role. He has a solid physical game, good mobility, and moves the puck okay, but that's not his strong suit.

13. Alex Friesen, Center: Friesen is a very good defensive forward and faceoff man with solid speed and good physicality. If he pans out, he could be the next candidate for Vigneault to bury in the defensive zone.

14. Alexandre Mallet, Right Wing: Mallet is a pretty advanced physical forward with some but not much offensive touch.

15. Pathrik Vesterholm, Center: Vesterholm had a disappointing season, but if he bounces back, his skill and hockey sense could still make him an intriguing prospect.

The Sleeper: Matt Beattie, Right Wing

Beattie has good size and a fair amount of offensive skill, but he's really raw and needs a ton of strength. He's heading to Yale next season.

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Vancouver Canucks Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Chris Tanev, Defense
2. Zack Kassian, Right Wing
3. Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing
4. Brendan Gaunce, Center
5. Frankie Corrado, Defense
6. Kevin Connauton, Defense
7. Jordan Schroeder, Center
8. Anton Rodin, Left Wing
9. Patrick McNally, Defense
10. Eddie Lack, Goaltender

Tanev may never be a top offensive player, but his defensive game has that kind of potential. He has elite defensive hockey sense, good mobility, and can move the puck well. The Canucks depth has helped hold him back, but he could arguably be a top-four defenseman next year for a number of teams. I was split on choosing between Kassian and Jensen for the second slot. Jensen has a little more upside, but I like that Kassian showed improvements this year at the pro level to his possession game although his physical game wasn't at the same level as it was in the OHL.

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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<< Previous Article
From Daigle To Datsyuk (09/19)
<< Previous Column
Top 10 Prospects (09/18)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects (09/21)
Next Article >>
Top 10 Prospects (09/21)

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