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Canucks Draft Wrap-Up

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
History books will show that in the grand scheme of things, February 18, 1990 was a pretty ordinary day. But after Friday night and Saturday morning that date now has plenty of significance to the Vancouver Canucks. That day, 18 years ago, was the day both Cody Hodgson and Yann Sauvé -- the team’s first two picks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft -- were born.

While they play their junior hockey in different provinces and different leagues, the two prospects do share more than just a birthday. They both suited up in the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game in Edmonton last January and before that were teammates on Canada’s Under-18 squad at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic last summer.

Much has been made of Hodgson, the offensive centre with the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton Battalion, who was taken 10th overall on Friday night. Anyone who has seen the kid likes his skill level and loves his leadership qualities. The Canucks followed that pick by nabbing Sauvé, a big defenseman from the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior League, with their second round selection (41st overall).

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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Both players wore letters when they represented their country – Hodgson as the captain of Team Canada which won the gold medal at the U-18 World Championship in Russia this spring. Sauvé served as an alternate captain on the Canadian team overseas a year ago. He also wore an ‘A’ at the Top Prospects game where he turned some heads and raised some eyebrows by getting into a brief scrap with top-draft prize Steve Stamkos.

New general manager Mike Gillis has made no secret of his desire to infuse the Canucks organization with leadership – on and off the ice. He’s hired Scott Mellanby and Ryan Walter -- both of whom were captains in the National Hockey League -- and now he has used his first two selections in the draft for guys who seem to possess that same quality.

Hodgson has been compared by some to a Chris Drury type player who raises his game and is at his best when his team needs him most. Hodgson, like a lot of teenagers these days, prefers to model himself after Sidney Crosby.

“I try to play as much like Crosby as possible -- obviously it works for him, so I try to emulate the best,” he says. “I love the way he competes, the way he’s got great vision, he’s strong down low and he’s got great balance and he can put the puck in the net as well.”

Sauvé, a 6’3” and 209 pounds Montreal native, is drawing comparisons to a hard rock blueliner in his hometown – Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek.

“I’m a strong kid, I can play physical, I can move the puck and I’m a good skater,” he says of his skill set. “I’m just going to play my game and show [the Vancouver organization] what I can do.”

Sauvé was ranked 29th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final report. Many scouts suggested that in any other year he would have been a first rounder, but with so much defensive depth in this draft, he slipped slightly and wound up going 11 picks into round number two.

The Canucks rounded out their 2008 draft with three late round selections on Saturday: Prab Rai, a speedy winger with the Seattle Thunderbirds (in the 5th round, 131st overall), Mats Froshaug, a point-a-game Norwegian winger playing junior hockey in Sweden (in the 6th round, 161st overall) and goalie Morgan Clark whose father Ian is the Canucks goaltending consultant and who spent this past season with the Red Deer Rebels (7th round, 191st overall).

Anyone drafted beyond the third round has to be considered a long shot to play in the big leagues and yet in the salary-cap era of the National Hockey League, late bloomers and diamonds in the rough can play a huge role in a team’s success.

As such, the Canucks have to be hoping that somewhere down the road Rai, Froshaug and Clark all have the opportunity to contribute.

But the expectations on those three will pale in comparison to the hopes the Canucks -- and Canuck fans -- have for Cody Hodgson and Yann Sauvé. It’ll likely be a few years before anyone truly knows how the Canucks fared in the 2008 Draft, yet the early indications are they managed to pluck two first round calibre players even though they only had one first round pick.

If that is, in fact, the case then a few years down the line, then June 20 and 21, 2008 will join February 18, 1990 as memorable dates in Vancouver Canuck history. But only time will tell.
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