The Vancouver Canucks don’t have a bushel of up-and-coming prospects, but they do boast one bona fide star-in-waiting in the system.
That, of course, would be centre Cody Hodgson, the captain of the Brampton Battalion (OHL) and a key player on Canada’s gold medal-winning entry at the 2009 World Junior Championship. Drafted 18th overall last June, the offensively skilled Hodgson nearly made the Canucks out of training camp before being sent back to junior.
Hodgson, in fact, is ranked No. 2 among all NHL-affiliated prospects in The Hockey News’ annual Future Watch ‘09, which is available on newsstands March 9. The publication ranks the league’s top 75 prospects — Columbus Blue Jackets hopeful Nikita Filatov came in at No. 1 —and also highlights each NHL team’s top 10, according to input from more than 20 GMs, scouts and player-personnel directors.
Goalie Cory Schneider, who got a taste with the Canucks when Roberto Luongo went down earlier this season, was the only other Vancouver prodigy to crack the top 75; Schneider came in at No. 26, an improvement on his No.75 standing in Future Watch ‘08. However, with only two highly-rated prospects, Vancouver ranks 24th out of the NHL’s 30 teams with a grade of C; last year, the Canucks earned a C-plus and came in at No. 18.
So, how did Vancouver add Hodgson, yet tumble down the Future Watch rankings?
For starters, a couple of players who were prospects last year — namely, forwards Mason Raymond (No. 28 overall in FW’08) and Jannik Hansen (Vancouver’s No. 4-rated prospect in FW’08) — have made the jump to full-time NHLers; they are no longer eligible for Future Watch consideration. Plus, there’s the tragic case of Luc Bourdon, the highly-regarded defenceman who died in a motorcycle accident last summer. Bourdon was Vancouver’s top-rated prospect in FW’08, and ranked No. 20 overall. Big, skilled and mobile, he had all the tools to be a top-flight blueliner in the NHL, and was just starting to put it all together.
Finally, the Canucks had an under-22 player on their NHL roster last season — defenceman Alexander Edler — and such players are also taken into consideration when figuring out Future Watch team rankings.
This season, the Canucks are one of six NHL teams without an under-22 player on their regular roster.