Since their inception into the WHL, the Vancouver Giants have had a giant-sized impact on the hockey world (pun intended).
They have hosted – and won – a memorial cup, and have helped to develop many top young players. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of a few former Giants and their current whereabouts in the hockey world.
Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros was a personal favorite of mine in Vancouver. He came over from Slovakia without much fanfare, but was the Giants most dominant defenseman from the first game he played. His shot and offensive skills translated well to the North American game, and he picked up on the physicality very quickly. It was very obvious right away that the Senators drafting produced another late first-round steal. Meszaros had a terrific rookie season in the NHL, and would have contended for the rookie of the year in any other year not featuring Crosby, Ovechkin, or Phaneuf. He has struggled a bit more recently in Ottawa and is an RFA this off-season. There are rumors going around that the Senators are shopping him around, but with Wade Redden leaving this summer, moving Meszaros appears to be an unlikely scenario for the Senators.
Milan Lucic. Lucic became a household name after his play in the first round against Montreal in these playoffs. His developmental curve has been extremely steep and his upside is pretty intriguing. He has a hard; heavy shot, and underrated passing skills. If he can get his acceleration to an acceptable level, the Bruins have a dominant 25-goal power forward guy for the future. In Vancouver, he was a fan favorite because of his hitting for the most part. It was not until his last year where he emerged as a scoring threat. He was a menace during the Giants Memorial Cup win, and one shift in particular against the Medicine Hat Tigers – where he destroyed two Tigers with enormous hits – enshrined him in Giant history.
Marek Schwarz. The acrobatic Schwarz had a short stay in Vancouver. He played 56 games back in 2005, posting decent numbers. His inconsistency and fundamentally weak play has not been corrected like the Blues expected when they drafted him in 2004. He looks to be starting next season in the ECHL, thanks to the wealth of goaltender prospects in the Blues system. While it is too early to declare Schwarz a complete bust, his development has to be extremely troubling.
Cody Franson. Franson had two spectacular seasons with the Giants (55 and 51 points, respectively), and put up over 11 goals and 25 assists with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season. His first pass has been NHL-quality for a while; he just needs to gain some consistency in the defensive end. He projects as a solid top-four guy, and his passing ability will get him a lot of assists, even at the NHL level. The Predators are extremely deep on defense, but they may move a Suter or Zidlicky this off-season to make some room for Franson to earn a spot with the pro club.
Gilbert Brule. Brule had a dominant WHL career and the majority of the hockey world assumed he would take the NHL by storm. His ferocity and skill was a unique combination that earned him some comparisons to a young Jeremy Roenick. In nearly 150 career NHL games, he has only 12 goals to show for it. He is in the AHL with Syracuse right now, and barring a great playoff run, will start there next season as well. The Canadiens were criticized by many for passing on Brule to take a goalie at the fifth spot in the Crosby draft of 2005. While Price has struggled a bit lately, the Habs – and Brule – have shown why that was an extremely astute decision.
Mark Fistric. Fistric was somewhat of a surprise first-round selection, as many questioned whether he could improve his skating enough to be a presence at the NHL level. Dallas developed him conservatively, and they are in the midst of reaping the rewards. He has been extremely solid and is having a breakout in these playoffs, playing key minutes for a Dallas team that looks damn near unbeatable. Fistric was a defensive rock in the WHL, and looks to be on his way to developing into the same for Dallas. Fistric’s early selection may show other teams why it is beneficial of drafting defensive d-men early, even if their offensive upside is next to nothing. The Canucks took Taylor Ellington last year early in the second round, and it looks like Luke Schenn will be a high first round pick in this draft.