Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden feels the organization might target a skilled forward with its first pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, currently No. 6.
In an interview with the Global News last month, Linden acknowledged how thrilled the organization is to be selecting No. 6. It is the highest draft slot for the Canucks since choosing Daniel and Henrik Sedin with the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in 1999.
"The fact the top of the draft is thin on defensemen … it would appear there are good, big power forwards available," Linden said.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning told The (Vancouver) Province that during the NHL Scouting Combine last month he was especially impressed by two Western Hockey League players with Vancouver roots, Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice and Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen.
"Reinhart is a real smart guy and he had these measured answers," Benning told the newspaper. "Halfway through the interview I said: 'It's just like talking to your dad [former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart].'"
Benning and Paul Reinhart were teammates for two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.
Sam Reinhart, a Vancouver native, had 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games. He also played for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship and went to training camp with Canada's World Championship team.
In order to have a shot at Reinhart, however, the Canucks likely will have to move up several spots in the draft. Considered to be the smartest of any draft-eligible prospect, Reinhart is No. 3 on Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters.
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon has said he would be willing to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft if the price is right. One trade chip Benning could use is center Ryan Kesler, who has asked to be traded, according to Elliotte Friedman of CBC.
The Canucks, according to the team's website, interviewed 64 prospects at the Combine, spending approximately 20 minutes with each player.
"Those top-end kids were really good and really impressive," Benning said. "If you like the player and they come in and have a bad attitude or the personality doesn’t match up, you get nervous. But that didn't happen at all."
Virtanen, who is from Abbotsford, British Columbia, had shoulder surgery 10 days before the start of the Combine. He didn't participate in any of the fitness testing and is expected to be sidelined another 4-6 months. Virtanen, considered the prototypical power forward, is No. 6 on Central Scouting's list. He had 45 goals and 71 points in 71 games this season.
When Benning was named the team's general manager in May, he stressed the importance of building an organization that "needs to play an up-tempo, fast-skating, skilled game."
One of the strengths of Virtanen's game is his skating; he was one of the fastest skaters going forward and backward in testing at the Top Prospects Game in January.