Ex-NHLer Gagner key in developing better Canuck prospects
NHL team's director of player development makes sure top kids are kept on track
ELLIOTT PAP, VANCOUVER SUN
PUBLISHED: FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2009
VANCOUVER - Mike Gillis didn't have all the answers when he assumed command of the Vancouver Canucks 15 months ago, so he raised this question: How can the team better develop its draft picks?
He first convinced owner Francesco Aquilini to triple the money for player development - it's about $1 million now - and then went out and hired former client Dave Gagner to run the new program.
Gillis gave Gagner his own budget and the ability to bring aboard nutritionists and other specialists, whatever he needed, to push the draft picks along. One year into it, the GM said they are still tinkering.
"We're evaluating things, so it's evolving and I think we're still aways away," Gillis explained this week during the team's prospects camp that concluded Friday. "One of the things we've talked about a lot is drafting kids who allow us to have a plan with them. Not just a plan when they finish where they are playing, but a plan from the moment we get them, and an ongoing relationship with their [current] team.
"We don't want to have guys in places where we don't really have a whole lot of influence over what they're doing."
This is where Gagner kicks in. As director of player development, he has been entrusted to monitor all the drafted players, communicate regularly with them, watch them play, either in person or on tape, and visit with them, preferably once a month or at least every six weeks.
During the off-season, Gagner has the ability to bring players into his London, Ont., facility for personally supervised workouts. Cody Hodgson, major junior player of the year in 2008-09, was a dream pupil and will continue to spend three days a week this summer with Gagner. Others like '07 first-rounder Patrick White and '08 second-rounder Yann Sauve are considerable works in progress.
"Overall, I think the first year went really well," said Gagner, who helped develop his own son Sam and send him to the NHL at age 18. "You're able to communicate with kids easily. They all have their phones so I text them quite often, at least on a weekly basis, and the communication I've had with every prospect has been really good.