The Vancouver Canucks may not be competing in the playoffs this year, but there are still many things for Canucks fans and followers to look forward to over the next few months.
2014 World Championships
Several Canucks will be representing their countries at the 2014 World Championships from May 9th to 25th in Minsk, Belarus. So far Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison and Alex Burrows have been named to Team Canada’s roster. Burrows has played for Canada once before, in the 2012 World Championships (in which he had three goals in five games), but this is the first time for Bieksa and Garrison. Eddie Lack will represent Sweden in net.
“I’m very excited,” Bieksa told IIHF.com. “It’s my first opportunity to represent my country. It’s still a few weeks away. I’ll be sitting around waiting for it, and when I go over there it’s going to be a lot of fun, putting that Maple Leaf on for the first time. I’ve been in this league for a long time and never really had the opportunity, so I’m going to take advantage of this.”
Canada and Sweden are in the same group along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, France and Italy. There has been no word on whether or not Nicklas Jensen and Jannik Hansen will be suiting up for Denmark or if Yannick Weber will be suiting up for Switzerland.
2014 NHL Entry Draft
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will take place from June 27th to 28th in Philadelphia. This year the Canucks get the sixth overall pick, the highest pick they have had since drafting the Sedin twins second and third overall in 1999. Last season the Canucks drafted Bo Horvat ninth overall and Hunter Shinkaruk 24th overall; both are forwards, and new Canucks president Trevor Linden has mentioned that they will likely choose a forward as their sixth overall pick as well.
“There are several quality forwards involved in the mix this year,” Linden told The Vancouver Sun. “It is going to be a big piece to building this organization.”
Some of the highest ranked forwards to be drafted this year include Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle, Nick Ritchie and Jake Virtanen. At last year’s Entry Draft the Canucks dealt away goalie Cory Schneider for the ninth overall pick; Linden mentioned that he plans to have hired a new general manager by the draft, so once again, anything could happen.
OHL and WHL Playoffs
Several Canucks prospects will be making appearances in their respective leagues. Brendan Gaunce and Dane Fox and their Erie Otters are battling the Guelph Storm in the Western Conference Finals for a trip to the final playoff round. The Otters defeated Saginaw in five games in round one and Sault St. Marie in four in round two. So far the Otters have lost the first two games of round three to Guelph 5-4 and 7-2. The series resumes in Erie for game three on April 21st. Gaunce and Fox have both played a large role in their team’s success. Gaunce, drafted 16th overall in 2012 by the Canucks, has six goals and 15 points in 11 games and Fox, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent in December 2013, has seven goals and 17 points in 11 games.
In the OHL Eastern Conference Finals, two Canucks prospects and their teams are facing off against one another. Cole Cassels and the Oshawa Generals and Miles Liberati and the North Bay Battalion are one game in to round three; North Bay leads the series with a 1-0 win. The series continues with game two on April 20th, and the winner of this round goes on to play the winner of the Erie and Guelph series in the OHL Finals. Cassels, drafted 85th overall by the Canucks in 2013, is also playing a huge role in his team’s success, with six goals and 13 points in nine games, including a huge overtime goal in game two of round one. Liberati, drafted 205th overall by the Canucks in 2013, has one assist and 12 penalty minutes in 14 playoff games.
Prospect Bo Horvat, drafted ninth overall by the Canucks in 2013, and his team, the London Knights, were knocked out of the OHL playoffs in the second round by the Guelph Storm. However, they are hosting the Memorial Cup this season from May 16th to 25th, and will be competing against the OHL, WHL and QMJHL champions, so are not finished yet.
In the WHL, Anton Cederholm and the Portland Winterhawks are facing off against Kelowna in the Western Conference Finals; Kelowna leads the series with one win. Cederholm is a Swedish defenceman drafted 145th overall by the Canucks in 2013. He has one goal and two points in 10 playoff games in his first year in the WHL.