1. (2) Nicklas Jensen, RW, 7.5C
Drafted, 1st round, 29th overall, 2011
With the trade of Cody Hodgson, Jensen has become the organizations top prospect. It was a busy year for the highly-skilled Dane. He had a so-so second season in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, recording 58 points in 57 regular season games to go along with another five points in six playoff games. He represented Denmark at the World Juniors where he recorded another half-dozen points and to finish things off, he appeared in eight games (regular season and playoffs) for the Canucks AHL affiliate in Chicago and potted another six goals.
Jensen has an appealing blend of speed, smarts and skill and with those traits, he appears to be tailor made to play the puck-possession style that the Canucks like to play. With Vancouver in need of secondary scoring, Jensen could advance relatively quickly.
2. (NR) Zack Kassian, RW, 7B
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2009 (BUF)
Kassian was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL trade deadline in a deal that saw Cody Hodgson go the other way. His rookie pro season had a few bumps in the road, but he excelled in the AHL (he was named to the AHL All-Star team) and played 27 games with the Sabres before being dealt to Vancouver. The Canucks acquired him for his physical presence more than anything, and while he provided that at times in the 17 regular season and four playoff games he dressed in, he appeared to have trouble adjusting to his new surroundings. However, the big and powerful winger is blessed with a tremendous amount of potential and has all the tools to become a top-six scoring forward.
Kassian should be a lot more comfortable in Vancouver next fall and if the Canucks develop and deploy him properly, a breakout season could very well be on the horizon.
3. (4) Eddie Lack, G, 7C
Signed as a free agent, April 6th, 2010
Another one of Vancouver's astute free-agent prospect signings, Lack didn't disappoint in his second full season in North America and continues to be a fixture as a top-five prospect for the Canucks. He played in a few less games than his rookie pro season, but his numbers this year were nearly a carbon copy of what he did the year before. He won 21 games and posted a scintillating 2.31 goals against average, .926 save percentage, and four shutouts. Unfortunately for Lack and the Wolves, they were eliminated in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
A tall and agile goaltender with cat-like reflexes, Lack appears to be ready for a backup gig at the NHL level and given the uncertainty between the pipes in Vancouver, that chance should come next season.
4. (5) Jordan Schroeder, C, 7C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2009
Though his numbers weren't eye-popping, Schroeder made slow and steady gains in his second season in the AHL. He dressed in all 76 games for the Wolves and finished tied for second on the team in goals (21) and third in points (44). While his size is always going to be a knock against him, he is blessed with a tremendous amount of natural skill and has a great feel for the game at the offensive end of the rink. He's getting close, but a little more AHL seasoning probably wouldn't hurt. Vancouver's up-tempo attack seems to suit his style of play. When he does eventually get a chance to perform at the NHL level, he's going to need to be put in a role that will suit his offensive skill-set.
5. (3) Chris Tanev, D, 6.5B
Acquired as free agent, May 31st, 2010
Tanev rode the Chicago-Vancouver shuttle a few times during the season, but towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, he quietly established himself as a regular for the Canucks and appears to have turned the corner in his development. In 34 games for the Wolves, he recorded 14 assists and he dressed for 25 regular season games with Vancouver, recording two helpers. He also appeared in all five of Vancouver's playoff games. Tanev isn't likely to become a star, but he is confident with the puck on his stick and has great hockey sense. He doesn't panic under pressure and always seems to make the right play. Tanev should find himself a regular spot in Vancouver next season as a steady third pairing defenseman.
6. (6) Anton Rodin, RW, 7C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2009
There were a few bumps along the road, but Rodin grew more and more comfortable as the year wore on. In 62 games for the Wolves, he recorded 10 goals and 17 assists. Rodin is good player at both ends of the rink, but definitely has a little bit more of an offensive bent to his game. That being said, his strong hockey sense and smarts help make him an effective player with out the puck on his stick.
Headed into his second year of AHL play, Rodin could be in line for a big bump in production. He has the skills to be a second-line player down the road. If he doesn't pan out in that role though, he should still be able to make it as an above-average third line winger.
7. (8) Kevin Connauton, D, 7C
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall, 2009
In his second pro season, Connauton continued to make slow and steady progress as a prospect. He lead all Wolves defenseman in scoring with 13 goals (seven of which came on the power-play) and 20 assists in 73 games. He was also named to the AHL Western Conference All-Star team and recorded the hardest shot in the skills competition at just under 100 mph. His defensive play is still a work in progress, but he was minus-three this season compared to minus-11 a year ago.
Connauton's offensive skill-set should play well at the NHL level and he's inching closer and closer to making that jump. His upside is that of a number four/five defenseman with the ability to quarterback a power play.
8. (12) Alex Grenier, RW, 7C
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2011
In his first full year in the QMJHL, Grenier exploded for 25 goals and 39 assists in 64 games and followed it up with a 16 more points in 17 playoff games for the Halifax Mooseheads. A tantalizing raw package of size and offensive skill, Grenier is a bit of a late bloomer as he did not step foot into junior hockey until last season when he was 19. Now 20, the next step for Grenier is to ply his trade at the AHL level which he should get a chance to do next season. He should continue to rise up the Canucks prospect ladder as he fills out his frame and learns how to use his size to his advantage. A potential second-line power-forward in the making.
9. (9) Patrick McNally, D, 7C
Drafted, 4th round, 115th overall, 2010
McNally made a big splash as a freshman for Harvard by finishing fourth in team scoring with an impressive 28 points in 34 games, en-route to being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. He was a big reason why the Crimson's power-play clicked at just over a 27 percent clip. McNally's strengths are his skating, vision, and puck skills. He is still a little raw defensively and needs to continue to bulk up and fill out his frame, but those are things he can work on before he turns pro. McNally is still a few years away, but his long-term upside is very high.
10. (18) Joseph Labate, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 111th overall, 2011
Perhaps one of the most intriguing prospects in the organization, Labate is far from a finished product, but he oozes talent and upside. He just completed his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin after dominating the Minnesota High School ranks in his draft year. He recorded a respectable five goals and 15 assists and appears poised for even bigger things going into his sophomore season for the Badgers