Ranking the five best draft picks in Vancouver Canucks history

Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin (22) and Henrik Sedin (33) skate past each other during first period NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Edmonton on Saturday, April 7, 2018. (Jason Franson/CP)

The draft history of the Vancouver Canucks is mixed, but the team has selected some franchise pillars who went on to have amazing careers in Vancouver.

And in recent years, they’ve added a few more who could go on to have the same, including Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes.

To celebrate their 50th NHL season, Sportsnet picked out the five best draft picks in Canucks history. This ranking is based on longevity with the team, where they were taken on the draft board and their overall impact on the team and city.

Honourable mentions

With apologies to the young players mentioned above, who all have a ways to go with the team before factoring into this list, here are a trio of names who just missed the cut:

Doug Lidster, D, 7th round (133rd overall), 1980

One of several defencemen chosen in the later rounds by the Canucks, Lidster spent 10 seasons with the team, amassing 65 goals and 242 assists in 666 regular-season games.

Lidster’s time with the Canucks came to an end before the 1993–94 season when he was traded to the New York Rangers. In a cruel twist of fate, he helped the Rangers defeat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final later that year.

He earned another ring with the Dallas Stars in 1999 before his retirement from the NHL.

Harold Snepsts, D, 4th round (59th overall), 1974

A fan favourite during his time in Vancouver, Snepsts logged 35 goals and 160 assists in 781 games for the Canucks. The latter statistic ranks eighth among all players to represent the franchise.

Snepsts wasn’t the flashiest player, but fans loved him for his physicality and durability on the ice. His 1,446 penalty minutes ranks fourth all-time in franchise history and second among team defencemen.

Alex Edler, D, 3rd round (91st overall), 2004

Swedish players, more often than not, tend to perform well in the Lower Mainland. Alex Edler is no different.

Edler, a third-round pick in 2004, is one of the longest-tenured Canucks and a record holder at that. He’s currently in his 14th year with the team and is the franchise leader in games played (816) and points (369) among defencemen.

Injuries may have affected his game over the last few years, but few blueliners have been as solid as Edler.

And without further adieu, here’s the top five:

5. Mattias Ohlund, D, 1st round (13th overall), 1994

Arguably, no Canucks defenceman has been as reliable in every facet of the game as Mattias Ohlund. But he was the one who nearly got away.

Ohlund was drafted in 1994, but he was not inked to an NHL contract for nearly three years and was set to re-enter the draft in 1997. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed the Swedish defenceman to a five-year, $10-million offer sheet before the Canucks matched it.

That paid off for the Canucks because Ohlund was the franchise leader in goals and points for a defenceman until Edler broke both records last season. He also racked up 770 games, third all-time among players in his position, and regularly logged 20 minutes of ice time.

Ohlund never really had a career-defining moment for the Canucks, mainly due to the team’s shortcomings in the playoffs (or outright lack of qualification). However, he and Ed Jovanovski formed a magnificent partnership. But Ohlund was the unsung hero due to Jovanovski’s flash.

In many ways, Ohlund provided that creative freedom to Jovanovski because he always knew that the Swede would be able to cover for him, not to mention completely nullify the opponent’s best player.

Ohlund was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed a long-term contract, but the latter stages of his career were hampered by debilitating knee injuries.

4. Stan Smyl, RW, 3rd round (40th overall), 1978

Possibly the first true Canuck great that was drafted and developed, Stan Smyl always played with a chip on his shoulder, a major reason why fans loved him.

Standing at five-foot-eight, Smyl was never the tallest on the ice, but he was always a tireless player during his time in Vancouver. Those efforts landed Smyl in the top 10 in voting for the 1982–83 Frank J. Selke Trophy.

Smyl spent all 13 of his NHL seasons with the Canucks, contributing a total of 262 goals and 411 assists in 896 games.

Currently, Smyl serves as a senior advisor in player development for the Canucks.

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3. Trevor Linden, C/RW, 1st round (2nd overall), 1988

Does anyone deserve the title of “Mr. Canuck” more than Trevor Linden?

A former captain and team president, Linden is one of the most beloved figures in Vancouver sports. Fittingly, No. 16 spent 16 seasons with the Canucks, producing 318 goals and 415 assists in 1,140 games — all of those numbers rank in the top three in franchise history.

Linden’s line with Greg Adams and Pavel Bure was responsible for some of the greatest moments in Canucks history, too. Most of them occurred in the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, be it Bure’s goal in Game 7 of the first round versus the Calgary Flames or Adams’ overtime winner to knock out the Toronto Maple Leafs and seal Vancouver’s place in the Stanley Cup final.

But without Linden, an excellent two-way centre who regularly potted 30 goals every season, that line may not have prospered as well as it did.

Just as important, Linden remains a fantastic ambassador for the city and is a staple in the community through the Trevor Linden Foundation.

2. Pavel Bure, RW, 6th round (113th overall), 1989

Arguably the most exciting player in franchise history, Pavel Bure is the biggest draft steal the Canucks ever pulled off.

Bure slipped to the sixth round in 1989, largely due to the uncertainty surrounding his NHL eligibility and his desire to leave CSKA Moscow, but general manager Pat Quinn pounced despite those risks, and, boy, was it worth it.

Even though Bure had a fractured relationship in his seven seasons with the Canucks, he always performed on the ice.

Look no further than 1992–93. One year after winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year, Bure produced an astounding 60 goals and 50 assists that season. He followed it up with another 60-goal campaign, with 47 assists, to help the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Final.

That post-season, he registered 31 points in 24 games, nearly resulting in the team’s maiden title.

In total, Bure had 254 goals and 224 assists in 428 games with Vancouver. He was a polarizing figure after his infamous holdout, but fans seemed to forgive and forget during his jersey retirement.

1. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, C/LW, 1st round (2nd and 3rd overall), 1999

The phrase “Henrik to Daniel” is synonymous in Vancouver. Heck, their last game was capped off with a Henrik-to-Daniel sequence. You just can’t have one without the other, and that’s why both Sedin twins belong together at No. 1.

On the ice, they dazzled spectators and opponents alike. Both twins won the Art Ross. Henrik earned the Hart Trophy in 2010 and Daniel followed that up with the Ted Lindsay Award in 2011.

Just take a glance at the stats pages of their past linemates, and it’s evident how brilliant they were. Anson Carter was a 30-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career after spending one season with the Sedins. Pavol Demitra rediscovered his form with the twins, Taylor Pyatt set career-highs with them, and, of course, Alex Burrows formed a lethal trio with the Swedes.

The overall accomplishments speak for themselves. The Sedins are the franchise leaders in almost every notable category. They led off the ice with their philanthropic efforts. And their countryman, Pettersson, is doing his best to ensure he can, in a way, follow their lead.

Even in retirement, the Sedins are still influencing their peers.

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