Good post @48MPHSlapShotI think you assessments are fair and accurate. This is exactly the question that Benning is asking himself this season going into the next. What is going to make the Canucks a true contender from the jump that was made last season?
We can go down the list and evaluate the line up and to this point, I think you're bang on with the so-called middle 6 (Pearson, Leivo, Gaudette, Virtanen, Ferland?) Make no mistake, it is great to have players like these on your 3rd line because they can play up your line up in case of injury in the top 6. I would say it is vital if the team isn't going to see a drop off in performance when key people get hurt. Is it possible that one of these players finds some consistency and develops into a full time 2nd line player? Virtanen perhaps but I'm not sure we're getting any growth from the others.
I want to say that all of the core players are still developing and getting better year over year. Horvat is close to his peak but even he is getting better. All other players that Benning has drafted are improving and this is one way the team will improve moving forward. Having said that, I agree with your missing pieces. Ferland was supposed to be top 6 and he has had plenty of difficulty. It is safe to say that if he pans out, it would be a bonus at this point. I'm not holding out a lot of hope. Top 6 potential would be Podkolzin, Hoglander, Lind, Gaudette? and? but all of these players may take years.
Same on D. Ovbviously, it is unknown how long Edler and Tanev will remain effective. Myers is 29 (same age as Tanev) and Benning is betting on him for 4 years after this. Are there players with top 4 potential in the system? Juolevi, Woo, Rafferty? I would say that Briesbois and Sautner are potential bottom pair guys fwiw.
So what does Benning do this summer? I think he tries to find another top 6 forward, one like Ferland was supposed to be. I can't be certain that he's going to do more. There were a lot of changes last year and there is something to be said for stability.