Patrik Allvin is a calm, collected and calculated general manager.
He will listen to reason and work in concert with his scouting staff to reach an NHL first-round draft strategy for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday in Nashville.
Brian Burke was an intimidating former Canucks GM. He brought a bully-like bravado to the draft floor and used a prickly power of persuasion to get his way.
It resulted in legendary manic maneuvering to land Daniel and Henrik Sedin second- and third-overall respectively in the 1999 draft.
Burke labelled that fist-round prospect pool “a dog’s breakfast” and told Postmedia a lack of depth was the determining factor to securing the Sedins.
“Teams are reluctant to trade those high picks and the Sedins deal really hurt the market because it came out so well for Vancouver,” he stressed. “You’ve seen very little movement with the top pick since then.
“That’s because (1999) was the worst first round in the history of the draft. That’s the only reason teams were willing to move picks.”
Burke was right.
Centre Patrik Stefan was the first overall pick and bombed out after six unproductive seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers. Best of bunch was well-travelled winger Martin Havlat at No. 26 to the Ottawa Senators. He had six seasons with at least 20 goals and a career-high 77 points (29-48) with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2008-09 season.
What does all that mean today?
Allvin and Burke are connected by a common managerial thread because owning a first-round draft pick means being open for business.
The 2023 draft is one of the strongest in recent memory. And regardless of the rankings — Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson and Will Smith top most elite boards — there’s a buzz about high-risk, high-reward Russian winger Matvei Michkov.
The Montreal Canadiens select fifth, and that is where the draft could really start. Having two first-round picks provides some insulation, and the explosive Michkov is tempting because he possesses the second-best offensive skillset after Bedard.
However, he is tied to an KHL contract for three more seasons and the political climate in Russia is always a player-transfer concern. The Canadiens could try to move up and snag Carlsson or Smith, or they could shop the pick, move down to add another first-round selection to the one they have at No. 31.
They could also stand pat and make a safer pick in centre Ryan Leonard.
What could this mean for the Canucks?
The list of players they covet with the No. 11 pick who could still be on the board includes defencemen Tom Willander and Dmitri Simashev, and forwards Dalibor Dvorsky, Nate Danielson and Colby Barlow.
There is also forwards Zach Benson, Matthew Wood and Oliver Moore to consider.
However, if the Canucks really covet somebody who could be gone in Leonard and Dvorsky — or see Michkov as a special talent worth the wait — it will take a leap of faith and parting with several assets. Allvin could also move the pick in a trade package to improve his club now.
“I’m trying to get involved in conversations and see what’s best for us short-term and long-term,” Allvin said during his pre-draft address last week. “As it sits now, we’re very excited about the potential player we’re going to get.
“There are a couple of defencemen that have potential to be really good, and we’re probably looking for those who can kill penalties. There are a lot of calls regarding the pick and trading up, and if there can be a more intriguing player that we can get at No. 11.
“I was told by Brian Burke that you can always move up in the draft.”
Yes, you can, but you’re going to pay.
Fantilli, Carlsson and Smith would have been in consideration as the first-overall pick if not for Bedard. That means moving up comes at considerable cost for a club to part with what could be a future first-liner.
Michkov is held in high regard by scouts. Moving from No. 11 to No. 5 could mean surrendering the Canucks’ first-round pick, a current roster player and top prospect and maybe more. Would Michkov be worth the cost and the wait?
NHL prospects scout Shane Malloy and Brad Allen, director of scouting for HockeyProspect.com., have Michkov ranked fourth overall.
“If he was North American born, he might be at No. 2 based on his skillset,” said Malloy. “His ability to create offence in a half-court game is so dynamic, and he’s a pure talent.”
Allen said the irony is that Michkov has had better seasons than the 20 points (9-11) he put up in 27 games in 2022-23 while on loan to HK Sochi of the KHL. He’s under contract to SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
“He got injured early this year trying to create separation and couldn’t — and that’s one of the defining drawbacks — but he makes up for that by being a remarkable talent and incredibly intelligent player in some respects,” said Allen.
“He could end up being right behind Bedard in scoring rates. They just do it differently.”
‘Nobody is leaving with these kids except me’
The art of the deal that led to securing the Sedins in the 1999 draft is steeped in intrigue.
Monday marked the 24th anniversary of the great heist in Boston. Burke’s peers, press, patrons and long-suffering Canucks faithful were stunned by his determination after an uncommon willingness for the stubborn Irishman to listen to reason.
Scout Thomas Gradin deserves the credit for convincing his boss that the twins were worth the effort .
Here’s how Burke authored a defining moment in Canucks draft history:
1. HELLO BOB, IT’S BRIAN: The Canucks had the third overall pick, but quietly got the fourth from Chicago GM Bob Murray.
“We got it a week before the draft, but we didn’t tell anybody,” said Burke. “I didn’t file the trade until the Friday before the draft. It was a first-round pick (Pavel Vorobiev in 2000) — the extra pick we got in the (Pavel) Bure deal — so we felt we could spring for a first and then (trade) Bryan McCabe. It was a very expensive trade, but we felt the twins were worth it.”
2. THE DUDLEY DO-RIGHT: Tampa Bay held the first overall pick, which meant Burke had to convince GM Rick Dudley to part with it. It was tough.
“I had some difficult and profane conversations with him,” said Burke. “I told him: ‘Nobody is leaving with these kids except me.’ And finally, I told him we had two of the top four picks (third and fourth overall) and he said that hadn’t come across yet. I said it was registered a couple of hours ago.”
3. ‘I WAS GOING TO GET FIRED’: Burke didn’t put the pieces in place the night before the draft.
“I went to bed that night thinking I was going to get fired,” he said. “It was 2:30 in the morning and we both swore at each other and hung up.”
4. THE BIG BOLT JOLT: Persistence paid off. The Lightning gave the Canucks the first and third overall picks in exchange for the fourth, 75th and 88th selections.
“Now we had No. 1 and No. 3 and I didn’t want to go up there (to the podium) twice,” said Burke. “I said to Atlanta (GM Don Waddell): ‘You’re a brand new team and do you want to draft first overall? Go up there first and be the stars of the show, but you’ve got to give me your pick.’
“We got the pick.”
The Thrashers would select Stefan first overall.
5. MAD SCRAMBLE, FINAL HURDLE: Burke had the pieces, but assistant GM Dave Nonis had to complete them before the draft because there are were no timeouts in the first round.
“It was like, ‘Davey, you’ve got to get these deals done,’” recalled Burke. “He did and I went up and told the twins you’re coming to Vancouver.
“I didn’t know which one was which. I held out the sweaters and Danny took his. That’s why they wear 22 and 33 — they were second and third overall.”
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