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The pressure is on Jim Benning.
The Canucks have missed the playoffs in four-straight seasons and Benning is entering the final year of his contract. While Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has publically preached patience, that patience could quickly run out, particularly with the emergence last season of Elias Pettersson as a bonafide star.
On top of that, the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is in Vancouver, with Canucks fans expected to fill Rogers Arena on Friday night, watching in nervous excitement to find out who Benning will take with the tenth overall pick. He’s hit home runs with one of his top-ten picks in Elias Pettersson, and appears to have another in Quinn Hughes, but Jake Virtanen and Olli Juolevi seem to be, at best, bloop singles. This is a pick that Benning needs to get right.
What will Benning do with the pick?
He has several options, and I don’t just mean the prospects that will be available. With the pressure on, Benning could go multiple different directions with the tenth overall pick.
1 | Trade up
Benning has already said that he won’t trade up at the draft, as he’s comfortable with the quality of players that will be available at tenth overall. That said, would he really turn up the chance to pick Bowen Byram, the consensus top defenceman available, if the right offer came along? Or Alex Turcotte? Maybe even Trevor Zegras?
It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Byram is a possibility: the Chicago Blackhawks, picking third overall, could go with centre Alex Turcotte after picking three defencemen in the first round in the last two drafts. The Colorado Avalanche have promising prospects on defence in Cale Makar and Conor Timmins, so could see value in trading down to still get an impact forward at tenth overall and pick up an extra pick or two along the way.
It's an unlikely scenario, but not an impossible one. Of course, the Canucks could also trade up to draft someone like Philip Broberg, which would, in my opinion, be a big mistake.
2 | Trade down
If the Canucks want a defenceman at the draft, and there’s good reason to believe they do, their best bet might be to trade down from tenth overall into the teens or twenties, where several quality defencemen are expected to still be available. By doing so, they could add more picks to be made in front of their hometown fans and build more depth into their prospect pool.
With the talented forwards available at tenth, however, it would have to be one sweet deal for it to make sense.
3 | Trade for a veteran
With the pressure on to make the playoffs and several immediate needs on the Canucks roster, Benning could make a splash at the draft by not picking in the first round at all. The Canucks have been involved in a similar splash by a host city, trading Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall pick in 2013, with the draft in New Jersey.
The Canucks particularly need a top-pairing defenceman, with reports that contract negotiations have broken down with Alexander Edler. To get that caliber of player, it might take the tenth overall pick, though the Canucks might be more willing to part with their 2020 first-round pick to get a deal done.
4 | Trade for a prospect
Any player the Canucks pick at tenth overall is likely going to be at least a year away from making the NHL, barring a particularly impressive training camp. WIth that in mind, the Canucks might want a prospect with a quicker path to the NHL to give them some more immediate help. Is there a deal to be made for a top prospect that is about to break through to the NHL?
We’ve already seen a similar deal, with the New York Rangers trading two draft picks for Adam Fox, one of the top defencemen in the NCAA last season. A deal involving the tenth-overall pick would have to be for an even more impressive prospect, but it’s worth considering.
5 | Use the pick
This is the easiest and probably best path for the Canucks, who have to keep the focus on the future despite the pressure on Benning. The Canucks could get a fantastic forward prospect at tenth, such as the creative and hard-working Peyton Krebs, the goal-scoring phenom Cole Caufield, the jack-of-all-trades Matthew Boldy, or the speedy and skilled Alex Newhook. There’s even a chance that an elite talent like Vasili Podkolzin or Dylan Cozens slips to tenth overall.
Getting the right player with the tenth overall pick might not make the Canucks any better next season, but it could set them up for a very successful future.
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
A tap of the stick to the Canucks for hosting their training camp in Victoria this year, as well as a preseason game in Abbotsford. While a little inconvenient for some fans (and members of the media), it does give fans in other areas of BC an easier way to see their favourite team in person.
I’m dropping the gloves with the Canucks’ 50th anniversary jersey reveal. Not for the jerseys themselves (though I’m not fond of the heritage third jersey), but because it was done with so little fanfare.
6 - The Canucks have picked tenth overall six times in their history. They haven’t found any stars there, with Garth Butcher having the longest tenure with the Canucks after getting picked at tenth.
82 - According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the salary cap next year could be around $82 million, lower than the projected $83 million it was expected to be. That could put the crunch on some teams close to the cap and present an opportunity for teams with cap space like the Canucks.