Best of the rest
By Derek Jory
The Vancouver Canucks started Day 2 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Wild.
The Canucks shipped their 2nd round pick, 60th overall, to the Wild for a 3rd rounder (71st overall) and a 4th round selection (101st overall).
Okay, blockbuster wasn't the right word to use right now, but in a few years when we look back on the move and who Vancouver got because of it, the billing may very well fit.
General manger Mike Gillis used the 71st pick to nab goaltender David Honzik, a 6-foot-2, 209-pound product of Tabor, Czech Republic, who spent last season with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigers.
Honzik played in the HC Energie Karlovy Vary system prior to coming to Canada, but in just one season in the QMJHL he’s already drawing comparisons to a young Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.
Backed by stellar play from Honzik, the Tigers were able to pull off an unlikely sweep of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the opening round of the 2011 QMJHL Playoffs, before losing to the Saint John Sea Dogs, the eventual champions, in the second round.
As Sportsnet columnist Patrick King discovered in talking with Tigers head coach Yanick Jean for his latest CHL column, once Honzik found consistency to his game, the Pekka comparisons began.
"A lot of scouts made the comparisons between both of them and I think it's a true fact," Jean told King. "(Rinne) was so good. I think Honzik was the same.
"The first half he had lots of ups and downs like any 17-year-old goalie. You would never know what you're going to get before a game. Second half, he had streaks that you would say, 'Oh, my god. He won five or six in a row.'
"From the end of February to the end of the playoffs, he was just outstanding. The last six or eight games he played for us during the year he was phenomenal."
Forward Alexandre Grenier was the third player selected by the Canucks, going to Vancouver in the 3rd round, 90th overall.
Grenier is a beast at 6-foot-5 and 200-pounds, but the 19-year-old from Laval, Quebec, doesn’t just look the part, he uses his size, tremendous reach and good hands to produce offensively.
In just 31 games with the Quebec Remparts in 2010-11, Grenier had nine goals and 15 assists in the regular season and he added another eight goals and 16 points in 15 playoff games.
According to hockey scout Dan Sallows, Quebec coach Patrick Roy relied on Grenier in several key situations late in the season. Read his complete analysis of the new Canucks prospect here.
A solid LaBate
With the 101st overall pick, acquired in the swap with the Wild, the Canucks drafted Joseph LaBate, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound centre from Burnsville, Minnesota.
LaBate, a member of Academy of Holy Angels in Minnesota last season, had 27 goals and 49 points in 25 games in finishing as a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award. His play caught the attention of the University of Wisconsin, where he has committed to playing this fall.
In a recent interview with Kevin Wey of McKeen’s Hockey, LaBate explained revealed the strengths of his game.
“I'm a big centerman,” LaBate told Wey. “I'm 6-foot-4. I try to use my body well. I'm good on the faceoff draws. I bring an offensive touch to my game. I can play tough, but I can also play a finesse game, too. I've good hands and I've got a good shot that I can get off well, and I feel like players can play well off of me.”
On the flip side, LaBate said there are many avenues he’s like to improve on in the seasons to come.
“Always working hard, eating a lot a more, trying to gain the strength to go with my tall frame. Stops and starts in the defensive zone. There's a lot of little, quick guys out there and I'm a bigger guy, so I've got to keep up with them. I feel like I do it well, but you can always improve on stuff.”
If you’re thinking LaBate sounds like a real meat and potatoes kind of guy, you’re right. His Draft Prospect Card has Chicken, broccoli and potatoes listed his favourite home-cooked meal.
Ludwig lands in Van
After spreading their picks around the world from Denmark and the Czech Republic before heading home to North America with a Canadian and an American, the Canucks used three of their last four selections on players from Sweden.
Forward Ludwig Blomstrand was the next player on the board for Vancouver going to the Canucks 120th overall.
The native of Uppsala, Sweden, the capital of the fourth largest city of Sweden, is another lanky player at 6-foot-1 and 198-pounds.
Following a seven point (3-4-7) season for Blomstrand with Djurgarden Jr. of the Swedish Junior Elite League, Elite Prospects said the 18-year-old has “potential to become an excellent role player” because he “has great size and wheels and works really hard” and “gets involved in the rough stuff.”
I couldn’t dig up much more on Blomstrand, but keep in mind Thomas Gradin’s track record of scouting out Swedish players. Nuff said.
Corrado a Canuck
Google Frank Corrado and the first listing you get is for a lawyer in Wildwood, New Jersey.
That is not the Frank Corrado the Canucks took in the 5th round, 150th overall.
The jury has come back with a positive verdict for Toronto-born defencemen who stands at 6-feet and tips the scale at 190-pounds.
According to a Sudbury Star article by Ben Leeson posted on Corrado’s fan blog, it’s unlikely Corrado knows he’s been drafted as he planned on spending the day golfing.
"I'm excited to see what's going to happen, sure, but I'm not going to go to the draft or watch it. I'm just playing golf that day,” Corrado told Leeson.
Although overlooked by NHL Central Scouting on its preliminary and mid-term rankings, Leeson said Corrado earned a spot on the final list for an impressive second half to the 2010-11 season that saw him collect four goals and 26 assists in 67 games with the Sudbury Wolves.
Corrado’s final ranking was 155, so in the end he jumped five places to land with the Canucks.
The perfect Pathrik
Vancouver’s sixth round selection, the 180th overall pick, was used on Pathrik Westerholm, a Swedish center from Karlskrona.
Westerholm spent the 2010-11 season with Malmo Redhawks, collecting 21 points (8-13-21) in 34 games, prior to that he played two years with Malmo Jr. of the Swedish Junior Elite League where he had 58 points (29-29-58) in 60 games.
Elite Prospects had the following to say of Pathrik, twin brother of Ponthus Westerholm.
“A skilled offensive player. Good hockey sense and is the more noticeable goal scorer of the two. Passing and shooting game is good and so is his puck handling. Cycles the puck often with his brother. The question has been raised if he can be a productive player without his twin.”
A new Henrik
Fans were hoping for a new set of Swedish twins in the organization, but the Canucks passed on Ponthus and instead drafted Henrik Tommernes at 210th overall.
Tommernes, 20, is the oldest player taken by Vancouver; he appeared in 47 games, collecting 20 (3-17-20) for Frolunda in 2010-11.
Dubbed The Best Young Free Agent Defensemen in Sweden by Two for Blogging, Tommerness is touted as the definition of an offensive defenceman.
Since I can’t read Swedish to see if any of his fellow countrymen back this up, we’ll again rely on Elite Prospects for some input.
“A mobile, offensively skilled defenseman, Tömmernes is a very good skater and playmaker from the back end. Has terrific hockey sense, so his defensive game is solid as well. Often gets his point shots through the traffic in front of the net.”
And that concludes the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Despite having low selections in every round, the Canucks made some savvy picks and you can expect to see many of these skaters at Vancouver’s prospects camp in a few weeks.