Well, the 2009 draft is over and done with in Montreal. Since I’m primarily a Canucks fan, here’s a recap of who the Canucks drafted,
FIRST ROUND – Jordan Schroeder (NCAA)
SECOND ROUND – Anton Rodin (Sweden)
THIRD ROUND – Kevin Connauton (NCAA)
FOURTH ROUND – Jeremy Price (CJAHL, committed to NCAA)
FIFTH ROUND – Peter Andersson (Sweden)
SIXTH ROUND – Joe Cannata (NCAA)
SEVENTH ROUND – Steven Anthony (QMJHL)
Now, there’s some interesting things going on with the decisions that Gillis made in his second year at the draft table. At first glance is the number of players that had either played in the NCAA last year or are committed to college hockey next season, which should tell you something about Mike Gillis’ drafting philosophy. As well, the Canucks only drafted two players who were born in 1991, Andersson and Anthony, with all the rest being players who were late 1990 births (and weren’t eligible last season to be drafted) or were passed up in 2008’s draft. What these two points signify to me is that Gillis has probably read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which talks about what it takes to be successful. I recommend that if you’re looking for some light non-fiction to pick up his book. At any rate, Outliers makes a point that the truly successful people aren’t folks who were ‘born’ talented, ie, they were gifted with some sort of attribute, but rather, that talent was refined through practise. Gladwell makes mention of 10,000 hours of practise as a benchmark, indicating that people who put in that amount of effort on something are more likely to succeed than someone who drifts by on raw talent. Since Gillis targeted players who were older than some of their other draft compatriots, as well as players who were committed to the NCAA (a league where players are typically regarded as being more mature, but also take a little longer to develop), it indicates to me that he’s looking for prospects that have had more time to develop and put in ‘practise.’ It’s an interesting edge and one that is testament to Gillis being committed to player development: any edge he can get, he’s going to try and take.
Another general statement to take out of this year’s draft is that, despite Gillis stating that he felt that there was a serious need for getting some solid 2 way defensemen into the system, he didn’t let position dictate who he drafted, opting instead to go with skill over position. Again, this is different from previous draft years, which typically saw the Canucks going after players they ‘needed’ in the system rather than more potentially lucrative options. The Luc Bourdon selection, which saw the Canucks pass up on Anze Kopitar, is perhaps the most glaring example of this. While Gillis may be looking for players with whom he wants to maximize their development, he’s also wanting to go after skilled players, choosing to refine the raw skillsets that already exist with the players he’s selected, rather than trying to draw out talent that may not exist.
As for specific Canuck selections, I’m personally very excited about the selection of Schroeder. I was able to keep tabs on him this past season as he played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers (as I was keeping dibs on Canucks prospect Patrick White, who also plays for the Gophers) and was intrigued that a freshman, and a rather small freshman at that, was pivoting the team’s top line and doing an amazing job at it. There was also his infamous ‘Avery’ selection where he was asked at the Combine who he would pick to have dinner with out of Obama, Anna Kournikova or Sean Avery and he opted to pick Avery. He took a lot of flak for his decision, because Sean Avery is sharing the position of NHL Anti-Christ with Jim Basillie right now, but there wasn’t a lot of attention given to his reasoning, which basically equated to Schroeder wanting to pick Avery’s brain and learn about the game a bit more. It was an interesting choice and a smart choice, which I think is one of the reasons he may have appealed to Gillis.
Some other notes, for those who didn’t catch the draft, Bob McKenzie (one of TSN’s top analysts and a very knowledgable man when it comes to prospects) loved the selection and was singing Schroeder’s praises, along with Pierre McGuire (the more enthusiastic, ableit knowledgable, TSN analyst when it comes to prospects.) Of note, were that Schroeder was playing against high school students while in the eighth grade, he tested very well at the fitness portion of the draft combine, including coming in second at the bench press, and he led Team USA at last year’s Major Junior Tournament…which means the Canucks have Canada’s and America’s leading scorers from last year’s tourney in Cody Hodgson and Schroeder.
Another pick I’m interested in is the Canucks third round pick, Connauton. He’s the first player that fit Gillis’ identified positional needs of an offensive defenseman. He was ranked 7th overall of NCAA prospects, but he plays for a rather unheralded program, Western Michigan, which may have hurt his stock slightly. He’s another freshman who played rather well in his rookie season in the NCAA, so it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of him. Additionally, the Vancouver Giants have his rights and he may be joining the Giants next season, which is another positive to take from him, as the Giants have become rather adept at churning out solid prospects year in and year out.
Steven Anthony is the other draft selection I’m interested in, as he was a once highly regarded prospect that sort of fell off the radar as time went on. Speculation is that part of Anthony’s struggles came with the Saint Johns Sea Dogs coach Jacques Beaulieu, who was recently sacked. Beaulieu didn’t seem to be a big fan of Anthony, giving him very little icetime to work with, although when he was given icetime after Beaulieu was sacked, he really lit it up. What I really like about this selection, though, was that Gillis was proactive and opted to deal Shaun Heshka, a defenseman for the Moose who is an upcoming RFA, for a 7th round pick to nab Anthony. That’s called turning nothing into something, which is great. While Anthony looks to be a bit of a project player, he certainly has the skillset and, more than anyone else selected in this year’s draft, fits the bill of Gillis’ development approach and Gladwell’s Outliers concept of 10,000 hours.