OTTAWA – The last time Yann Sauve listened for his name to be called in a draft, his wait was nowhere near as long as this.
Sauve, a former first-overall pick in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, had to wait well into the second round of the NHL draft Saturday before the Vancouver Canucks scooped the Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman up with the 41st selection.
The native of Rigaud, Que., admitted it was getting a bit tough hearing all the names go before his. When it did go, however, it was music to his ears on a day Canucks staff honoured the memory of deceased defenceman Luc Bourdon by wearing lapel pins in the shape of electric guitars – one of Bourdon’s passions.
“I told myself not to have any expectations,” the six-foot-two, 209-pound Sauve said. “It was pretty frustrating for me last night, but now I’m in Vancouver so I’m pretty happy. It’s a dream come true.
“Growing up, my favourite team was the Montreal Canadiens, but now it’s the Vancouver Canucks.”
Described as a stay-at-home defenceman, Sauve hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations placed upon him when he went first overall in the QMJHL process two years ago. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked at 29th among North American skaters.
“We got him at a place we were comfortable with it,” Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said. “He’s a big kid, a good upside, he skates well.
“We weren’t going to take him earlier, but we were happy to get him there.”
In his second season with the Sea Dogs, the 18-year-old had six goals and 15 assists and 92 penalty minutes in 69 games.
He found notoriety in the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game when he fought Steven Stamkos, whom the Tampa Bay Lightning made the first overall pick Friday night.
An indication of where he’s headed may be in the player he models himself after steady Montreal Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek.
“I like his game and I think I can play my game like him,” Sauve said. “I’m pretty good defensively and I can play offence and carry the puck.”
On Friday, the Canucks selected centre Cody Hodgson from the OHL’s Brampton Battalion in the first round, 10th overall.
Gillis said the Canucks may not be an instant hit, but like their long-term potential.
“If we can get 500 NHL games out of both of them, I’ll be pretty happy,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity to swing for the fences and I think there’s an opportunity to hit really good doubles and if you get a good double, you might get a home run out of it if you develop that player correctly.
“I’m not disappointed getting a double with these picks.”
The Canucks had just five picks in this year’s draft and Gillis admitted they were in the market to make deals, including trying to land his former client Mike Cammalleri from the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, but didn’t want to pay too big a price.
“I didn’t want to give up any more picks from this year … so we tried with picks from next year, but it just wasn’t going to work,” said Gillis, who also ruled out moving any roster players.
They didn’t select again until the fifth round, where they took Prab Rai from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds at 131st overall.
A centre from Surrey, B.C., Rai had 20 goals and 45 assists in 72 games last season. Unhappy with his playing time, Rai walked away from the Prince George Cougars during the 2006-07 season and demanded a trade, but that didn’t sour the Canucks on him.
“We interviewed him and we were comfortable with it,” Gillis said. “His issue was he wanted to be in a position to do more. I don’t mind players that wanted to do more.”
In the sixth round, at No. 161, they took centre Mats Froshaug and their final choice was goaltender Morgan Clark from the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels in the seventh round, 191st overall.
The final two picks were a little off the beaten path. Froshaug is a native of Oslo, Norway who played with Sweden’s Linkoping juniors last year and wasn’t ranked by Central Scouting. Clark was born in Toronto, but hails from Highland Village, Tex.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said both Hodgson and Sauve can expect to be given a fair shot of making the team in the fall.
“I really believe talent has no age and if a kid’s ready to step in and contribute and can play, we’re going to keep him,” Vigneault said. “It all depends on what they do once they get to camp. Some guys are close, some guys are three, four, five years away. That’s the way it always is.”
That put an end to Gillis’s first draft since taking over the GM’s chair from Dave Nonis and left a question mark over the future of the Canucks’ scouting staff – including chief scout Ron Delorme expressed his desire to stay on – now that Gillis will have time to put his own people in place if he elects to.
– With files from Pierre LeBrun and Darren Desaulniers.