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A job well done

by Mark Janzen / Vancouver Canucks
The 2009 NHL Draft came and went and in one large swoop, and a year of scouting, profiling and testing came to fruition for the Vancouver Canucks.

In only his second NHL draft as a general manager, Mike Gillis is quickly showing why the Vancouver Canucks hired him just over a year ago. Last year was Cody Hodgson, a 10th overall pick that will likely go down as the steal of first round, and this year was the 22nd overall pick, Jordan Schroeder, who could very well be this year’s first round steal.

"We were really happy," Gillis said after seven rounds of draft action. "I think everyone is really happy. Schroeder dropping to the point where we could select him, we were thrilled with."

And the smiles continued in the second and third rounds as Vancouver picked Swedish forward Anton Rodin with the 53rd selection overall and defenseman Kevin Connauton with the 83rd pick.

"We had Rodin in the first round so to get him in the second round late was a strong pick we believe and Connauton, too. We are really pleased with how we did.

But for Gillis and the Canucks brass, the draft has become a scientific experiment that few other NHL teams are concocting. Ever since the former agent arrived on the West Coast, Vancouver has been doing things a little bit differently. Relationships and personality are at the forefront of every single draft pick.

"This is a great day for these young players to start their pro careers and start a relationship," Gillis said. "I think the experience now for me is that we really want to build on these relationships with these young guys. We’ve spent an awful lot of time trying to find out as much as we can about them and we think that they’re capable young people that they have every opportunity ahead of them. We want to develop them and hopefully we will be successful at it."

Exhibit A is Cody Hodgson. He has developed exponentially since Vancouver selected him and is now likely just a few short months away from securing a spot in the locker room at GM Place. He has become an obvious leader at every level and there’s no telling how far he can go.

Exhibit B is Jordan Schroeder. He has always been a straight-A student. He’s currently attending the University of Minnesota and he quite simply doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything. Even the fact that he was rated 5th among North American skaters but didn’t hear his name until the 22nd spot.

Exhibit C will be the next crop of Canucks draft picks who have all been combed over and combed over, all via the fine tooth variety.

"We’ve done as much work or more in the history of the Vancouver Canucks to try and find out about the kids that we are drafting and select a certain profile and we’ll see if that profile is successful," said Gillis. "It was last year with Cody Hodgson and if we can replicate that with these picks I think we’ll be in good shape."

That’s the word: profile. Gillis and the Canucks have distinguished a typecast that they want and, in doing so, they feel that they are a step ahead of the game when it comes to the type of people and personalities they aspire to bring into the Vancouver fold.

Well, maybe mum is actually the word. When asked what exactly that profile entails, Gillis wasn’t indulging information, other than the fact that, despite drafting nine North Americans in 12 selections during his tenure, citizenship is scarcely part of the equation.

"We’re going to protect some of the stuff that we are doing as long as possible. We haven’t looked at [citizenship] as part of the profile. We look at intelligence and character and playing ability, not nationality."

Maybe all this secrecy is what will be the key for a successful Vancouver Canucks future. Keep it on the DL as the kids say.

For Gillis, this weekend was once again about picking the best person combined with hockey ability. And you get the feeling that he and the Canucks are on to something.

Just check the exhibits in a few years.
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