If you’re planning on watching the world junior championship simply to catch up with Vancouver Canucks prospects, you’re not going to be seeing much hockey this holiday season.
That’s because the Canucks don’t have very many representatives at the annual event. Actually, to be precise, they have one player, a goalie, who may not play at all.
Jonathan Iilahti, the team’s sixth-round pick (175th overall) from last summer’s draft, is one of four goalies on Finland’s roster. With 2009 Calgary draftee Joni Ortio on the roster, he’s the favourite to take the reins. Iilahti will face competition from another 2010 late-rounder and a 2011 draft-eligible netminder, so we won’t know who will get the nod until the tournament starts.
So what does that say about the state of Vancouver’s prospect pool? Only that the NHL squad has focused its efforts on winning the Cup as soon as possible, rather than worrying about five years from now.
While the WJC can be a ground for draft-eligible players to stand out and move up the draft rankings, it’s generally a tournament for 19-year-olds. So for a team that didn’t pick in the first three rounds at the 2010 NHL draft, it can only be expected that they’d be under-represented.
First-rounder Jordan Schroeder, picked in 2009, isn’t eligible and neither is 2008 pick Cody Hodgson. Three of Vancouver’s other four picks from 2010 are North Americans and face a straight uphill battle when trying to crack the big-name Canadian and American rosters.
On top of Schroeder and Hodgson, the Canucks have intriguing prospects Bill Sweatt, Sergei Shirokov, Kevin Connauton and Eddie Lack, among others, playing on the American League team. The fact the Canucks have so few players at the WJC doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare, it just means they took a year to build for the now.
And for a team in the position the Canucks are, that makes perfect sense. When the WJC rolls around again next season, Vancouver should be a little better represented. Although if they do end up with the 2011 Stanley Cup, they won’t be picking very high at the draft.