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The dream begins

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
Fireworks on the Canada Day long weekend are a staple in this country.

The Vancouver Canucks got the jump on things igniting the fuse with a show of their own on the floor of the Prudential Center during the opening round of the National Hockey League draft in Newark, New Jersey, Sunday. When the smoke had cleared, Cory Schneider was a member of the New Jersey Devils and the Canucks had landed the ninth overall selection in the proceedings.

The return the Canucks received in exchange for Schneider is open to debate now – and will be for years to come -- but it’s undeniable the Canucks turned their pick into a Grade A prospect in London Knights forward Bo Horvat. Not only did Horvat produce points in the Ontario Hockey League regular season (33 goals and 61 points in 67 games), but he cranked up his production and led the OHL with 16 goals in 21 playoff games.

The 6-foot, 206-pounder describes himself as a two-way centre who has flourished in a London junior program that has in recent years has produced Rick Nash, Corey Perry, David Bolland, Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner, John Tavares and Nazem Kadri.

Horvat was recently invited to Hockey Canada’s summer evaluation camp for next year’s World Junior championship in Sweden. The Canucks will be well represented at that camp as 2012 first round selection Brendan Gaunce will there along with Hunter Shinkaruk, the player the Canucks nabbed 24th overall in Sunday’s draft.

Shinkaruk has been a scoring star for the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers amassing 86 goals and 91 assists over the past two seasons. The Calgary native served as the Tigers captain and will look to follow in the footsteps of Trevor Linden who blazed a trail from Medicine Hat to Vancouver two decades ago.

One of Linden’s teammates in his second tour of duty with the Canucks was Andrew Cassels. In the third round of this year’s draft, the Canucks nabbed Cassels’ son Cole – a right-handed centreman out of Oshawa who scored 15 goals and added 28 assists in his second OHL season.

The Canucks decided to stick with NHL bloodlines using their fourth round selection to take Belleville’s Jordan Subban whose older brother PK won the Norris Trophy this past season and whose other brother Malcolm was a first round selection of the Boston Bruins a year ago. At 5-foot-8, Jordan is an undersized blueliner with terrific skill who finished sixth among OHL defensemen with 51 points in 68 games. He’s also a right-handed shot which is something the Canucks coveted and can certainly find a spot for in their organization.

The Canucks rounded out their busy draft day with three more defensemen: Anton Cederholm, Mike Williamson and Miles Liberati – all of whom fall into the category of longshots who likely need a few years of development before starting their professional careers.

While it will be years before the 2013 draft can be adequately assessed, the fact the Canucks came away with two of the top 24 players adds immediate strength to the organizational depth chart. Along with Brendan Gaunce and 2011 first round selection Niklas Jensen, the Canucks appear to have four forwards in the pipeline that should be able to contribute at the NHL level over the next few years.

The hope is that that quartet will join the likes of 2009 first rounder Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian to form the future of the hockey club. In the salary cap era, youth must be given the chance to flourish at the NHL level so don’t be the least bit surprised to see all of those forwards given every opportunity to make the big club in order to continue their development under new head coach John Tortorella.

Obviously, not all of them will make the team out of training camp in September, but perhaps the emergence of this new crop of fresh faces will push each other and a few of the veterans for spots on the Canucks roster.

After a handful of seasons of using primarily a veteran roster, it’s time for the Canucks to find a way to insert a couple of hungry youngsters into the line-up. But it’s not enough to have those players taking spots on the roster, the team needs some of its prospects to be productive.

The Vancouver Canucks are hoping that Draft Day 2013 unearthed a new crop of talent that will one day play key roles in the success of the organization. The draft is where dreams begin – not only for the players, but for the franchise, too.

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