Jim Benning with Thomas Vanek at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. This picture is delightful.
There was a lot of fuss made last week over rumours the Canucks would be trying to trade up in the upcoming draft. Some of that fuss was made by us.
Most of the rumours surrounded the idea that the Canucks could package their first round pick at 6th overall with a roster player or prospect to trade with the Florida Panthers for their pick at first overall. Since the Panthers are reportedly looking for a top-four defenceman, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev were quickly tossed into the rumour mill. Ben Kuzma decided, for some reason, that it made sense to package Bo Horvat with the pick. It doesn’t, for the record.
In any case, the entire speculative discussion is now a moot point, as Jim Benning apparently has no intention of trading the 6th overall pick.
The Canucks’ brain trust is currently in Whistler, beginning their scouting meetings in preparation for the draft. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector talked to Benning there about the rumours surrounding the 6th overall pick.
Jim Benning guarantee on Vancouver’s No, 6 pick. “We’re going to be using that pick.” You can bet he won’t trade No. 36 either.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) June 9, 2014
If it seems like there’s a lot of wiggle room in that quote — “using that pick” could mean using it to trade up or down in the draft — it was apparently clear in context, according to Spector, that Benning meant using the pick for its intended purpose: selecting a player.
Things could certainly change in the three weeks that remain before the draft, but it looks like the Canucks will be, at the very least, selecting a player at 6th overall. That doesn’t preclude them from going after Florida’s pick with a package that doesn’t include their own first round pick, but it makes it less likely to succeed. They may, of course, also aim to acquire more picks in a potential Ryan Kesler trade.
I’ve previously looked at eight different players that the Canucks may select with the 6th overall pick; what’s frightening is that barely scratches the surface. Benning himself has said that the quality of players available from picks 5-through-30 is fairly even. The one thing that reassures me is that the one time the Buffalo Sabres had a pick as high as this when Benning was director of amateur scouting, they went with skill over size, selecting Thomas Vanek.
I am hopeful that if the first five picks play out as expected — Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, and Michael Dal Colle — that Benning will go with a skilled player like William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, or Kasperi Kapanen over a power forward type like Nick Ritchie or Brendan Perlini. That’s not to say that Ritchie or Perlini won’t pan out in the NHL, but I would prefer the Canucks to prioritize skill with a first round pick.
While we can hope that one of the teams picking from one to five goes slightly off the board with Ritchie or Nylander, dropping someone like Draisaitl or Dal Colle down to the Canucks, it doesn’t seem overly likely.