NHL Entry Draft Journal, Day 2: Gillis on draft strategy

Above: Canucks’ 207th overall pick Matthew Beattie.

Thomas Drance is in Pittsburgh covering the NHL entry draft for Pass it to Bulis. We told him that if he doesn’t get us at least one sexy scoop, he will be whipped when he returns, so he’s doing it journal-style, touching on a bunch of topics really quickly in the hopes that something he files will appease our irrational demands and spare him a flogging.


Day two of the draft started pretty early (10 am EST), and I’ll admit to battling a mild hangover (what can I say — I’m an aspiring hockey writer).

I’d bought a coffee and a water and was starting to feel better when I walked into the media entrance and prepared to be scanned. Standing in front of me was soon-to-be-officially-announced coach of the Chicago Wolves Scott Arniel. We struck up a conversation.

He was a really nice guy. He quizzed me about the challenges of covering a team like the Canucks from Toronto (“I just stay up really late”) and invited me to come catch and cover some Wolves games in Chicago. Finally, I got to the front of the line, and placed my coffee on the table — or so I thought. I actually placed the coffee on a bit of table that only appeared to be there, since it was covered by a white sheet that was overlong. My coffee promptly spilled all over my pants, and as Arniel breezed into the stadium he quipped, “better luck with the rest of your day!”

Dude’s a class act.

The Book on Brendan Gaunce

When the Canucks selected Brendan Gaunce with the 26th overall pick on Friday night, many obsessive Canucks fans rushed to Google to pull up a highlight package, a scouting report, anything that would help them get a handle on who exactly Vancouver’s new prospect is. In a month’s time, fans seeking to learn everything they can about the team’s newest first rounder will have another resource: a book by John Matisz that profiles Gaunce’s “struggles and successes” during the season leading up to his draft year.

The book is being published and funded through an “independent scouting agency called hockeyprospects.com,” says author Matisz. “Marc Edwards [founder of hockeyprospects.com] had an idea in his head: ‘Why don’t you follow a kid through the draft.’ Marc’s whole product centers around the draft so it just seemed like a natural fit.” Matisz selected Gaunce as his subject because “[Marc Edwards] knew him. Brendan’s brother played for a team in Ontario that Marc coached against, so he knew the family, knew Brendan was a good kid, good interview, had a good head on his shoulders.”

Matisz was at the draft this weekend, following Gaunce around in an effort to finish up the last chapter of his book. He said he felt “like TMZ.” Everyone who has spoken to Gaunce this weekend has commented on the kid’s maturity and poise. (Vancouver’s less handsome paper described him as: “oozing intangibles.”)

Matisz agrees with the assessment. “He’s's a very grounded, mature kid. He grew up with Steven Stamkos, Cameron Gaunce, his brother is in the Colorado system, Cody Hodgson and Michael Del Zotto, literally hanging out with them everyday, playing road hockey with them, so it’s kind of all rubbed off on him.”

Matisz adds that Gaunce is likely to be the captain of the Belleville Bulls next season. Gaunce wore the A this past year and the team’s current captain has “graduated” from his OHL eligibility.

Affable Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis was in rare form during his post-draft press conference, and spoke to the media (and a couple of bloggers in Cam Charron and I) for 13 minutes after the close of the second round. He was as cool as a cucumber. Considering many thought that hanging onto Luongo past the draft would be the front-office version of the Titanic striking an iceberg, that’s pretty impressive. I guess Gillis wasn’t posturing over the past several months when he was professing preternatural patience.

Asked by Botchford if he felt that a Luongo deal was ever close, Gillis responded with a quip: “It hasn’t been close for me. I’m the problem.” He then elaborated on the false deadline that the draft represents:

“This is a significant consideration for our organization, it’s not going to be done lightly and it’s not going to be done in a hurry. And it’s certainly not going to be done because of the pressure of selecting kids who in all likelihood aren’t going to be significantly involved in this team.”

But he wasn’t done there. He also got laughs when he was asked about whether or not centre was the team’s biggest need, not just at the draft, but on the roster as well. Gillis smiled coyly and answered with one word: “hypothetically.”

On Draft Strategy

Over at Canucks Army, I spent last week breaking down what leagues Gillis drafts from most often, his seeming preference for older players, and the recent trend of the Canucks drafting size. While Gillis fished from some new “fishing holes” this weekend, he loaded up on big forwards and didn’t shy away from drafting older players, as expected. But Gillis revealed a whole lot more in the post-draft press conference.

In particular, we’ve spent years talking about how Gillis likes “smart players”, and today Gillis explicitly stated that he looks to draft guys who are headed to play in the NCAA. According to Gillis, he applies this pro-College philosophy “from the fourth round onward,” and that in rounds four, five, six and seven, “[the Canucks are] going to select players who are going to go to big programs in the US and develop their skills at a pace that is more easy to watch.” It’s not necessarily the intelligence, it turns out. It’s presumably that Gillis thinks the NCAA is a strong league when it comes to developing talent, and that he can afford to wait. As he said:

“In the fourth round and beyond we like to select players who are going into a college program to develop for a few more years. It gives you more opportunity and more development time. We have a team right now that we’re not going to make a whole lot of changes too over the next couple of years. We have our core players signed so we don’t have a lot of urgency to push people into the league. We can draft guys that we think fit a criteria and let them develop.”

He also explicitly addressed his preference for larger players, saying that “size and ability is something everyone is looking for,” and it didn’t matter whether or not you find that combination in “an 18 year old, a 19 year old or a 20 year old. You want to try and get it so that’s another reason why we stacked up.”

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  1. Old Greg
    June 23, 2012

    More Drance please.

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  2. immie_8
    June 23, 2012

    13 MINUTE Gillis interview – anyone find a full video? Please post if you do.

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  3. Lenny
    June 23, 2012

    Canucks statisticians have probably studied and calculated that later round draftees who go to good college programs are more likely to have success in the NHL. They are probably better off in college than going back to junior or Europe or the ECHL.

    Didn’t know Drance is from my city.

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