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Top 10 picks in Canucks history

by Colin Hope / Vancouver Canucks
The NHL Entry Draft is the time of year when optimism runs high and NHL teams, GMs and fans collectively hitch their wagon to an 18-year-old.

Some first round picks handle the pressure that comes with their high-selection, while other's stumble and the draft is the pinnacle of the NHL career. With the 2013 Entry Draft is less than a week away, we've combed through the hundreds of Canucks selections and put together a list of the Top 10 Canucks Draft Picks.

10.) 1980 - 7th round 133rd pick - DOUG LIDSTER

Canucks Stats: Games 666 (9th), Goals 65(4th D), Assists 242 (2nd D), Points 307 (4th D)

Trophy Case: 4x Babe Pratt (1984-85 - 1986-87, 1990-91), Fred J. Hume (1984-85)

Ironically, Doug Lidster may best be remembered by Canuck fans for the two goals he scored against the Canucks as a member of the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, but for over a decade the Kamloops native patrolled the Canucks blueline. Lidster first joined the Canucks after the 1984 Olympics and the smooth-skating defenceman was soon placed in charge of the Vancouver powerplay. By 1986-87, Lidster was in complete control of the man advantage, taking a powerplay unit that was the second worst in the NHL in 1984 (19.49 per cent) to sixth overall, converting at a 23 per cent pace. Lidster set a defensive scoring record that year with 63 points, on 12 goals and 51 assists, a record still in place 27 years later. He would remain with the Canucks until the summer of 1993, never scoring less than 20 points in a season, before he was traded to the New York Rangers.

9.) 1980 - 9th round 175th pick - PATRIK SUNDSTROM

Canucks Stats: Games 374 (38th), Goals 133 (18th), Assists 209 (18th), Points 342 (16th)

Trophy Case: 2x Cyrus McLean (83-84, 84-85) Cyclone Taylor (83-84), 2x Viking Award (83-84, 88-89)

It’s fair to say the Canucks have had their share of success with Swedish twins, if only taking into account the Sedins, but the original Scandinavian sibling success story belongs to Patrik Sundstrom (his brother, Peter, played for the Rangers, Captials and Devils). Taken in the second to last round of the 1980 Draft, Sundstrom quickly proved that his lowly draft position did not reflect his offensive skillset. The following year Sundstrom took home Top Forward honours at the 1981 World Junior Championships on the strength of a seven goal perfomance as he led the Swedes to the Gold Medal. As a 20 year-old, Sundstrom cracked the Canucks roster in 1982-83, scoring 23 times and recording 46 points. In his second season Sundstrom came into his own, doubling his offensive output with a 38-goal, 91-point campaign, setting a Canucks single-season scoring record which would stand for a decade. He was voted the top Swede in the NHL by his fellow players, earning the Viking Award for his sophomore season efforts, in addition to the Cyclone Taylor Award as Canucks MVP. Sundstrom led the Canucks in scoring for the second consecutive season in 1984-85 with a 68 point season. He continued his solid play for two more years, until the New Jersey Devils made an offer then-GM Pat Quinn simply couldn’t refuse and Sundstrom’s Canucks career came to a close. In return for the Swedish sniper Vancouver received future cornerstones: Kirk McLean, Greg Adams and a 2nd round pick.

8.) 2003 - 1st round 23rd pick - RYAN KESLER

Canucks Stats: Games 578 (14th), Goals 157 (13th), Assists 193 (20th), Points 350 (15th)

Trophy Case: Selke Award (2011), 3x Selke finalist (2009-2011), NHL All-Star Game (2011), Cyclone Taylor (2008-09)

Taken 23rd overall in perhaps the deepest, most talented NHL Draft classes of all-time in 2003, it took Ryan Kesler some time to be recognized as a premier player in the NHL, but there is no denying he was one of the best picks in Canucks franchise history. The Livonia, Michigan, product began his career developing the smaller, often over-looked facets of professional game: winning faceoffs, shot-blocking, penalty killing and sound defensive positioning. His tenacity and responsible play was first recognized in 2008-09 with his first of three Selke Award nominations. By 2011, Kesler added one of the most potent wrist-shots in the game to his arsenal, becoming bona-fide star. The former Ohio State Buckeye broke the Canuck record for goals by a centre, lighting the lamp 41 times while adding 32 assists for his highest scoring season of his career. More remarkable was his defensive play not only didn't dip, but actually improved with Kesler taking home his first Selke Trophy. Kesler made his first All-Star Game that season and was a major force behind the Canucks drive to the Stanley Cup Final. His performance in the Western Conference Semi-Final versus Nashville was the birthplace of ‘Beastmode’ after he recorded a point in 11 of the Canucks 14 goals in their six game series victory.

7.) 1974 - 5th round 59th pick - HAROLD SNEPSTS

Canucks Stats: Games 781 (6th), Points 195 (9th D), Penalty Minutes 1446 PIM (4th)

Trophy Case: NHL All Star Game (1977, 82), 4x Babe Pratt (1977-80, 1981-82), Fred J. Hume (1978-79)

Say the name Harold Snepsts around Vancouver and the first image that pops to mind for Canuck fans minds is a wild-haired, bruising defenceman with the most legendary moustache this side of the Rockies. But Snepsts was much more than the moustache that most remember him for. Drafted in the 5th round of the 1974 NHL Draft, Snepsts was not the most polished of defenders, but his tireless work-ethic and tough-as-nails demeanour earned him a spot on the Canucks roster in 1974-75. In 1977 Snepsts was the lone Canucks named to the All-Star Game played at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Thunderous choruses of HAARRR-OOLLDD rained down from the crowd for much of the night. He was named the Babe Pratt award winner as the Canucks top defenceman four of the next five seasons, but truly left his mark on the franchise during the in 1982 Stanley Cup run. While Richard Broduer was receiving most of the ink in the headlines for keeping the puck out of the Canucks net, it was Snepsts who was making it nearly impossible for opponents to even get close to it. Snepsts, much like Trevor Linden years later, was traded away in an incredibly unpopular move, leaving as the franchise’s leader in games played and penalty minutes. Snepsts returned to Vancouver for two more seasons in 1988, and in 2011 was the fourth member inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour.

6.) 1994 - 1st round 13th pick - MATTIAS OHLUND

Canucks Stats: Games 770 (7th), Goals 93 (1st D), Assists 232 (4th D), Points 325 (1st D)

Trophy Case: NHL All-Rookie Team (1997-98), NHL All-Rookie Team (1997-98), 4x Babe Pratt Award (1997-98, 2000-01, 03-06), NHL All Star Game (1999)

Mattias Ohlund’s transition to the NHL and the North American game was not nearly as easy as it may have seemed. The 21-year-old Swedish defenceman joined a Canucks team in the middle of a complete overhaul in 1997-98. Faces of the franchise such as Trevor Linden, Kirk McLean, Martin Gelinas, Gino Odjick and Dave Babych were all traded away, but Ohlund flourished. He finished his first season tied with Jyrki Lumme for the defensive lead in points with 30, earning the first of his four Babe Pratt trophies as the Canucks’ top defenceman. Ohlund’s massive frame contributed to his hitting prowess and combined with his heavy shot and clean passing game earned him a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team and saw him finish second in Calder Trophy voting. The 6-foot-4 blueliner continued to improve his play over the next decade with the Canucks, registering 20+ points in every season while being given the task of shutting down the opposition’s top players on a nightly basis. By the time Ohlund’s Canucks career was finished, he had seen the team go from basement dwellers looking to change their identity in 1997, to Northwest Division champions, while himself becoming a face of the team in addition to becoming the highest scoring defenceman in team history.

5.) 1978 - 3rd round 40th pick - STAN SMYL

Canucks Stats: Games 896 (4th), Goals 262 (4th), Assists 411 (5th), Points 673 (5th), Penalty Minutes 1556 (3rd)

Trophy Case: 3x Cyclone Taylor (1979-80, 1982-83, 1985-86), 2x Cyrus McLean (1979-80, 1982-83)

Vancouver hockey fans knew what the Canucks were getting when they selected Stan Smyl from the New Westminster Bruins 40th overall in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft - a skilled and hard-nosed, albeit undersized winger, who wasn’t afraid to back down from all-comers. Smyl was also a winner. His Bruins team played in three consecutive Memorial Cup finals, becoming the first team to win in back-to-back years, with Smyl taking MVP honours in 1978. The 5-foot-8 winger joined the Canucks the following season posting solid numbers on the “Kid Line” with fellow rookies Thomas Gradin and Curt Fraser, but it was in 1979-80 that Smyl truly arrived. Smyl became the first player in the history of the NHL to lead his club in goals (31), assists (47), points (78) and penalty minutes (204). ‘Steamer’, as he was affectionately known, was remarkably consistent point producer and frequent visitor to the sin-bin, scoring 60+ points while spending at least 100 minutes in the sin-bin for each of the next seven seasons. Smyl was named captain ahead of the 1982 Stanley Cup Playoffs and with a point-per-game performance took his club to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history. Smyl would captain the Canucks for the next nine seasons before handing the reins off before his retirement in 1991. At the time of his retirement Smyl was the Canucks franchise leader every major statistical category: goals (262), assists (411), points (673) and games played (896). His #12 was the first sweater to be officially retired by the team.

4.) 1989 - 6th round 113th pick - PAVEL BURE

Canucks Stats: Games 424 (32nd), Goals 254 (5th), Assists 224 (14th), Points 478 (7th)

Trophy Case: Calder Trophy (1992), 3x Cyclone Taylor (1992-94, 1997-98), 4x Cyrus McLean (1992-95, 1997-98)

No Canuck had the ability to lift 18,000 fans out of their seats faster or with more consistency than Pavel Bure and unlike the players listed ahead of him on this list, he wasn’t selected in the first three picks. Heck he was still available after the third round! How was it even possible Bure, the most entertaining and naturally gifted player the Canucks have ever had, was still available 113 picks into the 1989 draft you might ask? While most teams believed Bure to be ineligible for the ‘89 Draft, the Canucks’ top scout, Mike Penny, discovered, while rifling through near-incomprehensible Soviet game sheets, that Bure had played a couple exhibition games, thus making him draft eligible at 18 years of age. From his first shift ‘The Russian Rocket’ ignited the Canucks fan base, ending his rookie campaign with 30 goals taking home the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He doubled his goal scoring the next season in 1992-93, finding the back of the net 60 times while also breaking the 100 barrier, setting new Canucks franchise records. His breathtaking speed and seemingly insatiable hunger to score created a whole new legion of Canucks fans following many years of struggling seasons. Bure reached the 60 goal,100 point plateau again in 1993-94 and lead the Canucks in playoff scoring with 31 points in 24 games on their Stanley Cup run. The ‘Rocket’ was grounded in the next several years, hampered by knee injuries but once again found his form in his last season as a Canuck in 1998-99 when he scored 51 goals and 90 points before being traded to the Florida Panthers. Bure retired in 2003 with the third highest goal-per-game ratios in NHL history and in 2012 was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

3.) 1999 - 1st round 2nd pick - DANIEL SEDIN

Canucks Stats: Games 906 (3rd), Goals 291 (3rd), Assists 467 (2nd), Points 758 (2nd)

Trophy Case: Art Ross Trophy (2011), Ted Lindsay Trophy (2011), NHL First Team All-Star (2011), NHL Second Team All-Star (2010), 3x Cyrus McLean(2006-07, 2008-09, 2010-11) , Cyclone Taylor (2010-2011), Viking Award (2011)

The other half of the Canuck’s 1999 Draft Day heist was Daniel Sedin and like his brother he has steadily improved his play year after year becoming one of the most consistent goal-scorers in Canucks history. Daniel broke into the NHL alongside his brother and made a near-instant impact, tying the Canucks second game of the season with just a minute remaining in regulation. He would go on to finish second in rookie scoring reaching the 20 goal plateau of the first of eight times in his career thus far. By 2006-07 Daniel had become a point-per-game player but, like his brother, truly realized his potential in the 2009-10 season. Despite missing 18 games with a broken foot, he still recorded 85 points, good for 12th in the NHL (but the third highest PPG behind Henrik and Alexander Ovechkin), while helping his brother win the Hart and Art Ross Trophies. Daniel cemented Henrik’s league leading point on a legendary through-the-legs goal on the last game of the season, a goal that was voted the play-of-the-year by TSN. The next season Daniel matched Henrik’s award winning season with one of his own. Leading the NHL in scoring with 104 points, Daniel and Henrik became the first brothers to lead the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons, with Daniel being voted the most outstanding player by his fellow NHLer’s, winning the Ted Lindsay Award, becoming the second Canuck (Markus Naslund - 2002) to have won the prestigious award.

2.) 1988 - 1st round 2nd pick - TREVOR LINDEN

Canucks Stats: Games 1140 (1st), Goals 318 (2nd), Assists 415 (3rd), Points 733 (3rd)

Trophy Case: 2x NHL All-Star (1991, 1992), NHL All-Rookie Team (1988), King Clancy Award (1996-97), 4x Cyclone Taylor Award (19889-89, 1990-91, 1994-96), 2x Cyrus McLean Trophy (1990-92)

Exactly 20 years passed from the day Trevor Linden first pulled a Canucks sweater over his head when he was selected 2nd overall in the 1988 draft to the day he said he would never wear it again, when he retired on June 11, 2008. In the two decades between, no player embodied what it meant to be a Canuck more. Linden joined the Canucks after leading the Medicine Hat Tigers to back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships and brought that winning attitude to a struggling Canucks team, leading the team in goal scoring (30) on his way to an NHL All-Rookie team selection. He was one of three players to wear the captain’s C in his sophomore season, before he was made the sole captain the year following at the age of 21, the youngest player in Canucks history to be made captain. Linden’s rugged style of play combined with his natural goal-scoring prowess (he averaged 30+ goals for the next four seasons) made him a fan-favourite throughout Vancouver. His finest moments were saved for the playoffs, specifically the Canucks improbable 1994 Stanley Cup run. Linden had 25 points in 24 games, including a two-goal performance in Game 7. Linden retired in 2008 as the Canucks all-time leader in games played, points and assists. His number 16 was retired and sent to the rafters of Rogers Arena later that year.

1.) 1999 - 1st round 3rd pick - HENRIK SEDIN

Canucks Stats: Games 940 (2nd), Goals 182 (10th), Assists 610 (1st), Points 792 (1st)

Trophy Case: Hart Trophy (2010), Art Ross Trophy (2010), 1st Team All-Star (2010, 2011), 3x NHL All Star (2008, 2011, 2012), 5x Cyrus McLean (2008-2010, 2011-13), 2x Cyclone Taylor (2009-10, 2011-12), Viking Award (2010)

No Canucks draft picks had higher expectations than Henrik Sedin and his brother Daniel when the twin brothers from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, were taken 2nd and 3rd respectively in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Some last minute wheeling and dealing by then-Canucks GM Brian Burke put the Canucks in position to take the offensively gifted duo, who had just split the Golden Puck Award as the top players in the Swedish Elite League as 18-year-old’s. Henrik made his Canucks debut a season later in 2000 with a 29 point season and increased his offensive output in each of the next six seasons. By 2008 Henrik’s mesmerizing passing abilities were being recognized league wide as he was selected to his first of three All-Star Game appearances. The 2009-10 season was Henrik’s finest marking his arrival as the NHL’s premier set-up man; he became the first Canuck to win the Art Ross Trophy by leading the NHL in scoring with 112 points (his 83 assists led the NHL, something he would do for the next three seasons), also breaking a Canucks franchise record. He was also awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP and selected to the NHL’s First Team All-star (an honour he received again in 2011). He was made team captain following the award-winning 2009-19 season, leading the Canucks to their first of back-to-back President’s Trophies as well as Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

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