The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down!
The two best players in Canucks history were identical red-headed Swedish twins. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how unlikely that was, both because of the confluence of genetics and environment that created the Sedins, but also how they ended up spending their entire careers together on the Canucks.
Brian Burke worked a minor miracle to select both Daniel and Henrik Sedin at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Already holding the third overall pick, Burke traded Bryan McCabe and a 2000 first round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for fourth overall. He moved that pick plus two third-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for first overall, then swapped first and second overall with the Atlanta Thrashers so that he could call both Sedins up to the stage at the same time.
Against all odds, the Canucks once again have a chance to be led into the future by two brothers: Jack and Quinn Hughes.
The Canucks already have one of the Hughes brothers, taking Quinn seventh overall at this year’s draft. Quinn is a dynamic offensive defenceman, the type of point-scoring, puck-moving, top-pairing defenceman the Canucks haven’t had since Paul Reinhart was patrolling the blue line in the late 80’s.
The question is, can the Canucks get both brothers? Jack Hughes is even better than his older brother. He’s an elite playmaking centre, who is nearly a lock to go first overall at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With the 2019 draft taking place in Vancouver, what could the Canucks do to get the first overall pick and select Jack Hughes in front of the hometown crowd?
Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation where the Canucks are bad next season (okay, only partially hypothetical), but the typical Canucks luck holds and they don’t get the first overall pick in the draft lottery. With a top-five pick to trade, what other assets could the Canucks offer to pry away first overall away from whichever team is lucky enough to win it?
The difficulty is that it’s harder to trade for top picks than it used to be. The first overall pick hasn’t been traded since 2003 and the last time a top-five pick was traded was 2008, when the Leafs moved up to take Luke Schenn. Acquiring first overall for the cost of fourth overall and a couple third-round picks, like in 1999, just isn’t going to happen.
In order to get first overall, the Canucks would probably have to give up a top-flight young player in addition to their pick. While the likes of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson won’t even be considered, there are some players that Canucks fans would likely be comfortable seeing moved out to get Jack Hughes. Olli Juolevi, Jonathan Dahlen, Adam Gaudette, Kole Lind — each of these players would be an acceptable price to pay.
That’s probably why it would take more than that. What if, instead, the cost to acquire Jack Hughes started with the Canucks pick plus Bo Horvat?
Horvat became the Canucks’ first-line centre last season, but Hughes has the potential to be one of the best centres in the league. Would you move Horvat, one of the Canucks best young players and potentially the next captain of the team, for a shot at a true franchise centre?
Is that too high a price or exactly the type of bold move the Canucks need to kickstart their rebuild? Would that even be enough?
Perhaps there’s another, more palatable option: a package of draft picks instead of a key roster player. The Islanders infamously offered all of their draft picks in 2012 for the second overall pick, but Columbus turned them down. The Canucks could try that move, but they’d more likely have to start with both their 2019 and 2020 first round picks. It might feel better than moving an established young player like Horvat, but it’s a risk, as the 2020 pick could also be a lottery pick.
If that’s what it would take, would you make the move? Will the Canucks?
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
I’m dropping the gloves with John Vanbiesbrouck and USA Hockey. Vanbiesbrouck’s past use of a racial slur in reference to Trevor Daley has made his appointment as assistant executive director of hockey operations with USA Hockey controversial, particularly since he has never reached out to Daley to apologize and refuses to do so.
24 - The World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops was mostly a good-natured and fun exhibition, but Quinn Hughes still found a way into a lot of scrums, mostly in defence of his younger brother. He ended up with 24 penalty minutes in just four games.
22 - Brock Boeser is lighting up Da Beauty League this summer, leading the league with 10 goals and 22 points in five games. Next best is Brock Nelson with 17 points in six games.