Canucks expect openness, conviction from scouts ahead of draft

‘Jim (Rutherford) appreciates opinions based off hard work. And he appreciates honesty and a willingness to stand on your opinions.’ — Ryan Johnson, Canucks senior director of player development and Abbotsford GM.

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Show up prepared and speak with conviction.

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That was the message to amateur and professional scouts when the Vancouver Canucks’ new hockey operations department conducted a series of crucial and constructive meetings earlier this month.

It’s always a daunting trek to the National Hockey League draft and free agency in July, especially with a new voice at the hockey helm. Continuing to establish a culture in the boardroom full of new faces is as imperative as ensuring it’s a staple in the locker room next fall with new players.

Jim Rutherford started the process when he was named the Canucks president of hockey operations in December. With an open-door policy and open mind in how he could help reshape a franchise that has often lacked direction, he was determined to add diversity and promote based on merit.

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He wanted strong and educated voices to be heard. It was the same at the draft meetings.

Whether the Canucks retain their 15th-overall selection for the July 7-8 draft in Montreal, move up or down or trade the pick, Rutherford needed scouts to sell their research.

The Canucks require depth on the back end and scoring help up front and they could pick by position. Or, they could take the traditional best-player-available route.

The Canucks general manager, Patrik Allvin, likes the best-player option because rosters can change over the years as they can positional demands.

Still, scouts could have argued that a trio of defensemen for this draft could help alleviate a depth problem and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

There’s Pavel Mintyukov of Saginaw (OHL), Kevin Korchinski of Seattle (WHL) and Owen Pickering of Swift Current (WHL), who bring different skills and might be in play when the Canucks make their announcement.

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Mintyukov, is a raw 6-foot-1 ½, 192-pound left shot. The Moscow native is good in transition, defends well, anticipates in the offensive zone and projects as a second-pairing staple at the NHL level. He had 62 points (17-45) in 67 games this season and could go anywhere from 10th to 20th.

Korchinski is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left shot. He won’t wow you, but the Saskatoon native is calm and there’s no panic in his game. That allows the smart play and tape-to-tape transition passes. He had 65 points (4-61) in 67 games with the Thunderbirds. He could go from No. 12 to No. 25.

Pickering is a 6-foot-5, 179-pound left shot who moves well and uses reach and range to transfer over into good offensives. He’s a project and managed 33 points (9-24) in 62 games this season. He could go from No. 13 to No. 36.

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Then again, there could be a player ranked in bottom half of the first round worth the commitment such as centers Marco Kasper (Rogle, BK Angelholm, Swedish Hockey League) or Connor Geekie (Winnipeg, WHL).

“It’s a hard process to prepare for the draft, but you have to do the work and be able to have opinions — right or wrong — and there’s no wrong in predicting and projecting where a guy is going to be,” said Ryan Johnson, the Canucks senior director of player development and assistant general manager of the American Hockey League affiliate in Abbotsford.

Johnson had a seat at the meetings and knew what Rutherford was looking for in the lobbying for any draft prospect.

“It has to be based off work and not a guess,” stressed Johnson. “You have to talk to players and coaches and teammates and the encouragement there (for scouts) was do the work and be convicted. Speak up. Sitting on a fence does no good.

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“Jim appreciates opinions based off hard work. And he appreciates honesty and a willingness to stand on your opinions.

“I’ve seen it done very differently over my time and it’s the same with the pro groups — what does it look like and how do we want it to look? I was interested to see the process. Obviously, it’s different but good to see how it’s implemented and brought to the group.”

Johnson was already navigating a difficult off-ice season in Abbotsford that was affected by severe flooding in the area and a rash of COVID-19 cases on the roster. Then came the firings and hirings in Vancouver and a new boss in Rutherford, whose three-time Stanley Cup champion resume could intimidate.

However, what quickly developed was mutual admiration. Rutherford, 73, lauded the full-plate professionalism of Johnson, 45, that expanded to take on salary-cap and other responsibilities.

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“I have the utmost respect for Jim,” added Johnson. “I appreciate hard work. He has impressed me in so many ways, just spending time with him and picking his brain from him and watching how he does things on a daily basis. ”

Rutherford had an open-door policy and open mind in how he could reshape a franchise that has often lacked direction.

He was determined to add diversity and promote based on merit. The addition of Allvin, assistant general managers Derek Clancey, Emilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato speak to his vision of him.

Having the legendary Henrik and Daniel Sedin present as special advisers to Allvin, and Doug Jarvis functioning as a senior adviser, speaks to the value he places on those with considerable experience and expertise in the game.

What that means for Johnson is encouraging. Rutherford leans on him a lot and wants to tailor the right role in the organization.

OVERTIME— Canucks center Juho Lammikko captured world hockey championship gold Sunday as Finland defeated Canada 4-3 in overtime. He had two assists in the tournament.

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