They say hindsight is 20/20. Never more true is that than when you look at the draft history of the Vancouver Canucks. They have had some great home run picks including the pick of Cam Neely (let's forget that they gave him away for peanuts), the selection of the Sedin twins in 1999, and of course the Canucks legend himself current president of hockey operations, Trevor Linden.
They made a few solid first round selections such as Ryan Kesler in 2003 and Mattis Ohlund in 1994. Like any good team they had some late round steals like #113 overall Pavel Bure and #175 overall Patrik Sundstrom.
This list however is about all the swings and misses, the type of picks that can set a franchise back many years. Every team has them. Every fan agonizes over them. The Canucks have had more than their fair share and you will see the 15 of the worst featured today. For the purpose of this article I tried sticking to mainly first round busts as well as players they could have picked within the first 2 rounds. Saying a team missed out on say Henrik Lundquist (205th Overall in 2000) is illogical as every team missed out on him multiple times over.
One player you won't see on this list is Luc Bordon, who tragically passed away at the age of 21. Who knows what he could have accomplished in his career. So even though the Canucks could have had Anze Kopitar (11th), Marc Staal (12th), Tukka Rask (21st) or T.J Oshie (24th) among countless others it just didn't feel fair putting him on this list.
So here we go, get your tissues ready as we dive into a list of the top 15 worst draft mistakes in Vancouver Canucks history.
15 Rick Vaive
Rick Vaive ended his NHL career in 1991-92 with a very respectable 441 Goals, 347 assists, and 788 points. His production is not necessarily why he makes this list. For most players scoring almost 800 points is a very productive career. Unfortunately for the Vancouver Canucks, only 21 of those points came as a member of the Canucks. Packaged in a deal to bring the legendary Dave "Tiger" Williams to Vancouver, Vaive had most of his success in the NHL as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This draft was littered with guys who could have helped the Canucks in a much more meaningful way. The legendary Bruin Ray Bourque went 8th, Michel Goulet went 20th and Kevin Lowe went 21st.
14 Alek Stojanov
This pick would be ranked in the top 10 if it wasn't for who he was traded for. Let's back things up however; Alex Stojanov was a highly touted player in junior. He made waves when he pummelled Eric Lindros in a fight. Known as a player that could score and fight, Stojanov was expected to be a fixture of the Canucks. A shoulder injury suffered in the AHL would forever change his career as he never had the same offensive flair to his game again.
Now playing purely as an enforcer, the Canucks realized they made a grave error and quickly sent Stojanov to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 1995-96 NHL trade deadline for Markus Naslund. Stojanov would continue to struggle at the NHL level and would only score 7 points in a 107 game career, while Naslund would end up retiring as the all time scoring leader in Canucks history (a mark since passed by both Sedins).
13 Dennis Ververgaert
Here is one of those picks that just infuriate a fanbase. Dennis Ververgaert came into the NHL on fire! Averaging over 20 goals per season for his first five years, Dennis seemed to be on his way to establishing himself as a strong right wing presence for the Canucks for years to come. Then it all went wrong, Struggling to get chemistry with his new linemates and feeling the pressure of the emergence of Stan Smyl, Ververgaert crumbled under the pressure. After starting his career so good, he was out of the league by 1980-1981.
What makes this pick hurt more is NHL Hall Of Famers Lanny McDonald (4th overall), Bob Gainey (8th overall) were still there for the taking.
12 Dale Tallon
Dale Tallon was far from a horrible draft pick. Having three productive years as a member of the Canucks. When you pick someone 2nd overall you expect to get more than three seasons of decent performance. Even after leaving the Canucks, Tallon would tally only 98 goals, 238 assists and 336 points for his career. In picking Tallon Vancouver missed out on Reggie Leach (3rd overall, 666 career points) and more upsetting Darryl Sittler (1,121 points, NHL Hall Of Famer). Tallon may not have been a bad choice, but definetly wasn't the best option avaliable
11 Jocelyn Guevermont
Much like Tallon, Jocelyn Guevermont was not a horrible selection by any stretch of the imagination. He was a member of the famed Team Canada during the Summit Series, and a former NHL All Star. Unfortunatley for the Canucks he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres at the time of his All Star selection. For the 2nd straight year, the Canucks got a servicable player early in the draft but missed out on some great players that really could have helped them much more. Rick Martin (701 career points) was drafted just two picks later, If they were set on a defenseman, the legendary Larry Robinson was still available.
10 Jere Gillis
Here is the Vancouver Canucks first real complete draft flop. Jere Gillis had a decent first season with the Canucks, however it was all downhill from there. He set his career high in scoring his rookie year scoring 41 points. He finished his lackluster career with 78 goals, 95 assists, and 173 points in 386 games. He left the NHL in 1986-87 after playing one game with the Flyers, After bouncing around overseas, Jere retired in 1990-91 (with one short comeback in 1996) and became a movie stuntman. What makes this pick hurt even more is NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy was picked at no.15.
9 Cody Hodgson
The most recent selection on this list, Cody Hodgson has been a frustrating player to fans and a colossal disappointment to the teams he has played for. Highly touted coming out of Junior, Hodgson has struggled with injuries as well as a poor attitude that quickly alienates fans and teammates alike. The Canucks made their move on February 27th, 2012 dealing Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres for fellow rookie Zack Kassian and Marc Andre Gragnani. Buffalo signed him long term (six years, $25.5 million) Hodgson was bought out two years into the deal. The Canucks could have had Tyler Myers (12th) Erik Karlsson (15th) or Jordan Eberle (22) instead of Hodgson.
8 Garth Butcher
Garth Butcher was not a huge mistake at the time when he was selected 10th overall in 1981. However history shows he was not worthy of a first round pick. Highly touted coming out of junior, Butcher was expected to be an offensive threat who could kick start the rush up the ice. In the NHL however it was quickly apparent his skills on the offensive side of the game weren't up to snuff. He reinvented himself as a reliable defensive defensemen but not what you expect from a first round pick. The mistake was more evident when you look at the type of players Vancouver passed on for Butcher which included Al MacInnis (15th) and Chris Chelios (40) who would have provided the exact skill set the Canucks were looking for in Butcher.
7 Troy Gamble
Oh does this one hit right in the feelings of Canucks fans all over. Troy ended up being a huge "gamble" at 25th overall. His rookie season was average at best finishing his first year in net with a record of 16-16-1. From there it was all downhill, only winning another 4 NHL games over the rest of his NHL career which ended in 1991-92 due to performance and some debilitating concussions. Compounding this mistake is the fact New York Rangers great and key player in the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup win over the Vancouver Canucks Mike Richter was drafted just three picks after Gamble.
6 Kirill Koltsov
He came over to North America in 2003 and had two fairly good years for the AHL Manitoba Moose, collecting a total of 49 points in 102 games across 2 season. However, an NHL call up never materialized, and Koltsov went back to Russia, where he has played ever since. Koltsov’s issues have always been attitude related, and this was a strong factor in his lack of NHL opportunity. Picked 54th that year is perenial all star Duncan keith.
5 Brad Ference
Even the Vancouver Canucks realized the error of their ways after this pick was made. Brad Ference was a big defenseman coming out of the WHL in the 1997 NHL draft. After being drafted the Canucks would return Ference to his junior team both seasons he was eligible for. On January 17th, 1999 the Canucks cut their losses with Ference, throwing him in as part of a blockbuster trade that sent Pavel Bure, Ference, Bret Hedican, and a 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers for Dave Gagner, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Brown, Kevin Weekes and a 1st round pick in 2000.
Ference wouldn't do much better with the Panthers and he continued to bounce around the league after a four-year stint with Florida. Brad Ference ended up playing 250 games in the NHL compiling 565 penalty minutes in that time. Picked just two picks later in 1997 was Marian Hossa who is still going strong in the NHL today as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
4 Petr Nedved
Petr Nedved was a real disappointment. He came out of the Seattle Thunderbirds with an immense reputation and highly impressive stats, but played weakly and had a poor attitude. He lasted only three years after a contract impasse and would go on to play for a variety of teams in the NHL, often wearing out his welcome Nedved has to go down as one of the biggest draft busts in Canucks history, especially when you consider who they could have had instead of Nedved in 1990. The Canucks passed on players such as Future Hall of famers Jaromir Jagr(5th)and Martin Brodeur(20th), as well as NHL stars Keith Primeau(3rd) and Keith Tkachuk(19th).
3 Patrick White
White joined the University of Minnesota program just after being drafted by Vancouver but faded quickly after a promising freshman season.His rights were traded away to the San Jose Sharks, in a salary dump for the finned ones, as part of an exchange that brought Christian Ehrhoff to the Canucks. White’s poor play and attitude has yet to see him make it to the NHL. Instead of White in 2007, the Canucks could have chosen David Perron (26th) or P.K. Subban (43).
2 Jason Herter
Jason Herter was an offensive defenseman with some promise who struggled with groin injuries throughout his career. He lasted just a couple of seasons in the Vancouver minor leagues before moving on. He would play a grand total of one game in the NHL with the Islanders, and ended up in Europe. In picking Herter the Vancouver Canucks passed on such players as Bobby Holik (10th), Mike Sillinger (11th) Olaf Kolzig (19th) and Adam Foote (22nd).
1 Dan Woodley
There is not much that can be said about this pick that is positive. Dan Woodley was picked 7th overall but struggled to even stay in the NHL. He was only able to make it for five games in Vancouver before being traded for another horrific draft bust in Jose Charbonneau. Woodley is infamous for being one of only three top ten picks from the 1980s that would play less than 10 games in the NHL. Similiar to the year before this pick is mde all the worse by the quality of player Vancouver passed on to draft him.
Picked just two selections after Woodley was first ballot Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, who of course would play a big part in the New York Rangers defeating the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Just think how different things could have been had Richter and Leetch been on the Canucks instead. For his complete inability to perform at the NHL level and the sheer talent that the Canucks passed over to draft him, Dan Woodley is the worst draft pick in Vancouver Canucks history.