Sports Jeff Paterson: Canucks have ignored the Sedin succession plan at centre long enough

11:45  19 june  2017
11:45  19 june  2017 Source:   The Province

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Jeff Paterson : Canucks have ignored the Sedin succession plan at centre long enough . This team needs help down the middle, and for whatever reasons, has ignored addressing a succession plan for Henrik Sedin for years.

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Whether they trade up, trade down or just stand pat with the fifth overall selection, the Vancouver Canucks have no choice but to come home from this week’s National Hockey League draft in Chicago with one of the top centres in the prospect pool.

Hey, if they leave the Windy City with one of the top defensemen in the draft, too, then Jim Benning and the Canucks’ front office will have had a terrific weekend in terms of speeding up the rebuild.

While Benning has publicly stated his desire to find a power-play quarterback, the organization can simply not ignore the biggest weakness in its system. This team needs help down the middle, and for whatever reasons, has ignored addressing a succession plan for Henrik Sedin for years.

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It’s hardly a secret the 36-year-old Sedins won’t play forever and it’s quite possible next season will be their final go-round in Canucks’ colours.

As it stands now, Bo Horvat and Adam Gaudette represent the best offensive options for the Canucks at centre in the years ahead. Horvat certainly gave hockey fans a glimpse into the future with his 20 goals and 52 points last season, and while Gaudette has made significant strides in his two seasons at Northeastern University, it seems an awfully big ask of a fifth-round pick to slide in and replace the greatest scorer the organization has ever known.

The unsigned Gaudette, who is returning for his junior year in college, is at least a year away. And with all due respect to him, every organization has their own version of Adam Gaudette who projects well, but still has to prove himself as a professional. So it seems beyond comprehension that the Canucks would not look to address such a glaring weakness when they get to the podium with the fifth pick next Friday.

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This team needs help down the middle, and for whatever reasons, has ignored addressing a succession plan for Henrik Sedin for years. As it stands now, Bo Horvat and Adam Gaudette represent the best offensive options for the Canucks at centre in the years ahead.

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Whether it’s Gabe Vilardi, Cody Glass, Casey Mittelstadt or Elias Petterson, it doesn’t really matter. Just grab the guy you like best, put him in the pipeline and show the fan base there is a plan in place to generate offence in the years ahead. Through trades and recent drafts, this regime has done a decent job of amassing wingers — Brock Boeser, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Nikolay Goldobin, Jonathan Dahlen even Jake Virtanen — but those players need someone with skill and vision to get them the puck.

While there may not be a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews up for grabs this year, comparables for this year’s crop includes Ryan Johansen, Mark Scheifele and Nicklas Backstrom. All three of those were 60-point players by their third NHL seasons. The Canucks would sign up for that in a heartbeat. And if that’s what a centre from the top of this year’s draft could deliver, you can start to look three and five years out and see a position that includes Horvat and Gaudette, and with that, at least a glimmer of hope.

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by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks . Fair enough for now. But the longer Daniel and Henrik Sedin stay in the hunt – and there is no reason to believe either will fade away -- the more others around the hockey world will focus on what would truly be a remarkable and now attainable

The big hook, nilsson’s good look. Jacob Markstrom has come a long way in harnessing his emotions. What sedin succession plan ? Jeff Paterson and Jason Botchford have plenty to talk about and that’s without Jim Benning getting a new contract.

In Benning’s first three stabs at the draft, he’s used his top pick on wingers twice (Virtanen and Boeser) and defenceman Olli Juolevi last year. And while the Canucks nabbed centre Jared McCann with a late first-rounder in 2014, it’s clear he wasn’t considered part of the future here and was shipped to Florida as part of a package to land defenceman Eric Gudbranson last spring.

Without McCann though, it really is shocking how little the organization has in the way of offensive centres either with the big club or on the farm. The notion of replacing Henrik Sedin has been kicked around for years, and it’s mind-blowing that it remains an issue for the hockey club today.

That’s why things have to change and that change has to begin next weekend. Would top blueline prospects Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen look good in Canuck uniforms? Sure they would. So get creative and get one of them, too. But the Canucks can’t ignore the gaping hole in the middle any longer and must make that position the centre of their attention in this year’s draft.

Jeff Paterson writes on the Canucks Sundays in the Province. Follow him on social media: twitter.com/patersonjeff. 

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