Saturday, September 28, 2013

The all-time precedence for Hunter and Bo

Gone are Frank Corrado and Brendan Gaunce, re-assigned to Utica and Belleville, respectively. Meanwhile, the Canucks' original wave of the future, Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen, have both been reduced to the press box with a pair of injuries.

So with four of the Canucks' top prospects out of the rookie derby running, the stage was set for yesterday's report regarding Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk. Despite being the two youngest players among the team's current rookie crop, Bo's London Knights and Hunter's Medicine Hat Tigers were both informed that they'd be without their star players for at least opening night in the NHL.

Shinkaruk's offensive skill has been on full display over the pre-season (feel free to re-live this outrageousness), while Horvat has been a steady presence at centre. In other words, both have come exactly as advertised since their draft. And with one half of this new tandem costing the team one of the best goalies in the league, this is welcome news for Vancouver.

Granted, the Canucks' dearth at centre and Shanahan's most recent misjudgement Zack Kassian's suspension have as much do with this development as the pair's actual play. But credit is due to the 2013 duo for taking advantage of the opportunity.

It is rare in any circumstance that a Canucks prospect cracks the lineup in his draft year -- let alone two. That said, what sort of precedent is there for Canucks rookies cracking the roster immediately following their draft?

Thanks to a rainy afternoon and a storm of Wikipedia-ing, I can elaborate for you exactly the sort of precedence that exists. Down to the last Murray Bannerman.

For mobile users, click on the table to view it properly.

Names like Ryan Kesler (2003), Trevor Linden (1988), Cam Neely (1983) and Stan Smyl (1978) set pretty lofty expectations for Bo and Hunter. Then again, the list is also littered with the likes of Rob Flockart (1976) and Peter Folco (1974). Clearly, the 70's were a time when prospect development wasn't at much of a premium. Only a few years removed from expansion, virtually every pick made the roster following their draft in 1972 and 1973. (Larry Bolonchuk, come on down!)

However, on this side of the 70's and to some extent the 80's, 18-year-olds in the roster are a far rarer sighting -- evidenced by the fact that Kesler was the last one exactly ten years ago.  And the last time two prospects made the roster right off the draft floor? A whole twenty-three years ago, when Petr Nedved and Gino Odjick were kicking off the 90's for Vancouver. (Shawn Antoski also appeared in a couple games, bringing the total to three in 1990-91.) Including Mike Peca's four-game stint with the Canucks in 1993-94, that makes just five Canucks draft picks to make the roster immediately following their draft since 1990.

Five. Over the course of 23 years.

And if you're looking for the standard for Canucks rookies playing in their draft year? It was just before the 90's that Linden began his grip on the franchise, scoring 30 goals and 59 points in 1988-89. Your move, Bo.

Clearly, with a list 44 players long, spanning from Jim Hargreaves to Ryan Kesler, you're hard pressed to find any consistent precedence for the kind of learning curve Bo and Hunter are on. But as far as the modern history of the Canucks go, the novelty is endlessly intriguing. Nonetheless, expectations should be tempered and despite the duo being seemingly slotted in on the third and fourth lines, there is still no guarantee that they won't be in the press box come opening night.

Not to mention that, at this time, their spots remain place-holders for Kassian and to a lesser extent, Schroeder. But a lot can happen in the span of a five-game suspension and a foot injury. It's up to one or both of the rookie duo to force Torts' hand and keep them in the lineup. (You know, a la he who we do not speak of Cody, when Kesler came back from injury in 2011.)

It's clear now that the Canucks' first-round picks can hold their own in the pre-season. So bring on October 3 and the San Jose Sharks. By comparison, those guys are dinosaurs now, anyway.


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