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06-29-2009, 02:11 AM
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Article on Connauton and Anthony from Gillis and Gradin. Also, Gradin has been made our associate head scout. Rejoice.

Pair of picks from later rounds has Gillis & Company excited

Team’s high on one late bloomer and a comeback case

One day after feeling they stole a diamond with the 22nd pick of the National Hockey League entry draft, the Vancouver Canucks figure they unearthed some gems in later rounds Saturday in Montreal.

The Canucks addressed an organizational need by drafting three defencemen on Saturday, but general manager Mike Gillis and associate head scout Thomas Gradin were excited about two picks in particular.

With their third-round pick, the Canucks chose Edmonton defenceman Kevin Connauton, a late-bloomer from Western Michigan University who was passed over in last year’s draft.

And in the seventh round, Gillis traded minor-leaguer Shaun Heshka to the Phoenix Coyotes for the draft pick that allowed the Canucks to choose Saint John, N.B., winger Steven Anthony.

“We made that deal specifically to get Anthony,” Gillis said. “He has had a couple of hiccups, but he scored incredibly high on our intelligence testing and our character assessment.

“We felt he was most definitely worth a seventh-round pick to get him into our group and work with him.

Gillis said Anthony, who is 6-2 and had 48 points in 67 games last season in the Quebec League, rededicated himself to hockey after a suspect work ethic saw him slide off the draft radar.

“I think he just made some common teenage errors on judgement in terms of training and other things,” Gillis said. “But he’s really made some positive steps. He really was over the top in some of our testing areas.”

Gradin said Connauton could become a smaller version of Alex Edler, the mobile, crisp-passing Swede the Canuck scout discovered in a Third Division men’s league prior to the 2004 draft.

“Connauton is a guy who has already played one year of college and is a year older than most guys,” Gradin said.

“He’s a very good skater and his puck-moving abilities are really, really good. He might be the biggest sleeper, even though he was our third pick.”

On Friday, the Canucks chose University of Minnesota centre Jordan Schroeder, an offensive dynamo who was ranked fifth in North America by NHL Central Scouting but slipped to 22nd due to his size of 5-8 and 178 pounds.

Gillis said he was pleased with the cross-section — they took two wingers, three defencemen, one centre and a goalie — of players drafted by the Canucks.

“They’re all players that we targeted and liked,” he said.

Gradin added: “Five years from now, we’ll know how they turned out to be.”

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