Since Jim Benning became General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks in 2014, the organization has definitely changed. The Canucks have been to the playoffs only once and have had five first-round selections. Although Benning has made some moves to set them back, he has definitely a massive part of their recent success. Here are Jim Benning’s best moves as Vancouver GM.
To see Benning’s worst moves during his Canucks tenure click here.
5. Tanner Pearson Trade
Jim Benning remedied one of his worst trades as GM with one of his best. After two and half seasons with the club, it was obvious that Erik Gudbranson just was not working out. The heavy defenseman had yet to even post 20 points in his 139 games played. If you pair that point total with a dismal -48 rating, you could tell based purely on statistics, among other things, that it wasn’t a good fit.
If Benning was able to dump his $4,000,000 cap hit for a late-round pick, fans wouldn’t have lost any sleep. However Jim Benning didn’t just dump Gudbranson for nothing, he took a calculated risk in the form of Tanner Pearson. Pearson was having an off-year, he was a -15 rating and with just 15 points in over 60 games, he was dealt for the second time that season. Pearson provided Vancouver with slight cap relief, with a salary of $3,750,000 per year. However, his real value came when stepped on the ice. Pearson put up 12 points for Vancouver in the final 19 games. This year Pearson is sitting at a similar rate and is on pace to be a 40-point guy.
4. Drafting Gaudette
It is a well-known fact that Jim Benning excels in scouting and drafting young talent – something that Vancouver has lacked for a very long time. Taking Adam Gaudette at the end of the fifth round in 2015 was a late-round steal by Benning. Gaudette would improve dramatically while playing for Northeastern University, even winning the Hobey Baker Award in 2018. Gaudette would go on to post a fairly unimpressive 12 points 56 rookie games last season. With this being said, Gaudette would once again prove people wrong by starting this year with 8 points in 13 games. If Gaudette can continue to improve, this choice could even move higher up on this list.
3. JT Miller Trade
On draft day 2019, J.T. Miller was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third-round pick and a conditional first-round pick – fans were not happy. The supporters of the team did not understand why Benning would give up a first-round pick for a guy who played on Tampa Bay’s third line. It only took a handful of games for Canucks fans to change their tones. Miller joined Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser creating the ‘Lotto Line’ which has put up some very impressive numbers. Pettersson has been sitting well above a point-per-game, whereas Boeser and Miller have been hovering right around the point-per-game mark.
Although the lines have been shaken up from time-to-time due to recent Canucks struggles, Miller still is impressive. He currently sits at 22 points in 23 games. At age 26 Miller has room to grow. He also has the ability to play on the top line at this stage in his game. Miller is inked to an inexpensive $5,250,000 for three years after this one. So far, this trade has definitely paid off for Jim Benning.
2. Drafting Boeser
In the same 2015 draft that Adam Gaudette was snatched up in the fifth round, Vancouver would gain a star winger late in the first round. Jim Benning would select Brock Boeser with the 23rd overall selection. In the following seasons, Boeser would far-and-above exceed expectations. He became the runner-up for the Calder Trophy in the 2017-18 season and is now a mainstay on Vancouver’s top line.
The biggest question when it comes to Boeser is how durable he can be. Boeser has missed upwards of 10 games each season. If Brock Boeser can finally stay healthy for an entire year we could see some huge advancements in his point totals and his overall gameplay. In conclusion, Jim Benning found an absolute steal at pick 23 when he drafted this sharpshooter.
1. Drafting Pettersson
Jim Benning was able to find a few steals when he selected Adam Gaudette and Brock Boeser, but nothing compares to his 2017 selection. Elias Pettersson’s draft selection at 5th overall was more than just a steal, it was absolute robbery. At the time, reactions were fairly mixed with no one seeming overly excited or disappointed by the selection – that would change VERY soon…
Pettersson would begin the next year blowing all expectations out of the water in Europe. The young Swede put up impressive numbers and exciting highlight real plays.
Fans had built an ample amount of anticipation going into the 2018-19 season. Pettersson delivered on all the hype built in Europe. He electrified Rogers Arena all season long posting 66 points in 71 games. His performance earned him the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the best rookie each season. Pettersson is currently sitting at 28 points in 23 games this season and playing a better all-around game compared to last season. Jim Benning found a franchise player in what was considered a “weak” draft class.
Jim Benning has molded the Vancouver Canucks into a young, highflying team with a ton of potential. Although he has made some questionable moves in the past, Benning’s accomplishments outweigh his downfalls. It will be exciting to see how far this youthful team can go with Jim Benning at the helm.
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