For all the (justified?) boourns the Canucks' scouting staff have to deal with, every now and then they pick up a gem and it goes largely unnoticed.
That is until it's too obvious to ignore. Chris Tanev says hello, by the way.
There's no need to go through the Canucks' woeful drafting record in the past decade. Everything that needs to be said has been spoken. We're still wondering where Nathan Smith is and most of us still have R.J Umberger getting laid out by Brian Campbell bookmarked somewhere on Youtube.
The fact is poor scouting and poor drafting have been an area of concern for this organization and they look enviously around the league, marveling at all the players who successfully graduated from their respective hockey programs.
Even the one real stud the Canucks drafted in 2004 by the name of Cory Schneider had to leave town. We all know how that went.
But not all of scouting is left in the fate of the draft floor.
Eddie Lack was a quiet addition to the organization in April of 2010. Not surprisingly, it was a fellow Swede who noticed his raw talent and skill. Former Canuck and current team scout Lars Lindgren was asked to keep tabs on Jacob Markstrom-- then with Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League. Markstrom was a hot name at the time-- big, fast, technically sound and competitive. Lindgren was joined by perhaps a dozen scouts from various clubs trying to determine if he'd be the next Swedish phenom in net.
But while the others were too busy keeping track of Markstrom, nobody paid much attention to his back-up, a tall, lanky and goofy kid by the name of Eddie Lack.
Nobody that is, except Lindgren.
Despite playing just a handful of games, Lindgren had seen enough. The potential was there. The skillset was there. All he needed was a chance. Lack wasn't on anybody's list and had been passed in the draft after a relatively unexciting junior-level career.
Goaltending is a difficult position to judge. There's really no obvious way of determining if a goalie will pan out the way you expect them to. Some put together excellent junior careers and cease to stop pucks at the highest level. Others develop slower but once they're in form, they become franchise-quality netminders.
Hindsight is 20/20 and as this article is being written, Lack's future seems to be in better shape than his former teammate Markstrom's. Maybe that's what happens when you play in Florida, though.
Regardless, you put their numbers side-by-side and you can clearly see the Canucks unearthed a diamond in the rough with Lack.
Markstrom was drafted 31st overall in 2008 by the Panthers and has yet to cement his role as starter. In fact, he had that opportunity this season after Florida chose to let Jose Theodore walk during the summer.
How did that end up? Well they signed Tim Thomas who had essentially quit the Boston Bruins and hockey all of last year. Yikes.
Markstrom, now with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, is at a crucial part of his career and you can bet GM Dave Tallon is scratching his head over his own mess. If Markstrom was ready, he'd be playing. That's the short of it.
In contrast, Lack has slipped under the radar the past few seasons-- mostly due to a long-term hip injury that kept him out for all but 13 games last year with the Chicago Wolves.
Today, he is Roberto Luongo's backup and has looked solid in all of his four starts for Vancouver this year. His technique is sound, his rebound control is manageable and he endeared himself to Canucks fans when he stood his ground and took a jab at a player who crashed his crease. Checkmarks across the board.
At only 25 years old, there's still room for him to grow-- in terms of size and skill. But shooters can't ignore how big he looks between the pipes. Lack is listed at 6'5, 196 pounds. That's Pekka Rinne territory. Having a natural size advantage is always beneficial as long as you have speed to match-- and there's no lack of agility there.
And it's not like Lack became Roberto's backup by default. The team had options. They even signed Joacim Eriksson this off-season to bring in more competition during training camp and he played quite well. But Lack played better.
Beyond his position, Lack is a likable guy. He's funny, goofy, polite, speaks with a country-style Swedish accent and has his own dance move (seriously!). He genuinely seems to be enjoying his time in Vancouver and seems unfazed by the fact Roberto owns the crease in Vancouver for the rest of his playing days. Instead, he seems eager to learn from one of the game's best and is happy to fit in with a team that has a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Not a bad career so far for a guy who was never supposed to play in the National Hockey League.