Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Vancouver Canucks Prospects
The 2017-18 season will be remembered as one where the Vancouver Canucks turned the page. It was a final year for the faces of the franchise Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, as the twins retired following the campaign. It was also a year that saw a new star emerge in Vancouver as Brock Boeser scored 29 goals in 62 games before his season was cut short by an injury. Boeser finished second in Calder Trophy voting. The message is clear, the Sedin era has ended and Boeser is leading a new era of Canucks into the future.
The off-season has seen the team bring in veterans to help insulate Boeser, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and the rest of the young Canucks team as they grow into the team’s core. The team added Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle to help lead the next group of Canucks prospects.
2018 Draft Picks: Quinn Hughes, Jett Woo, Tyler Madden, Toni Utunen, Artem Manukyan, Matthew Thiessen
Graduations: Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Tyler Motte, Brendan Leipsic,
Top Prospect: Elias Pettersson
Centre — shoots Left
Born November 12th, 1998 — Sundsvall, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 165 lbs [188 cm/75 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st round, #5 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Pettersson had a fantastic rookie season playing in the SHL with Vaxjo HC. He set new SHL records by a player under the age of 20 scoring 24 goals and 56 points in 44 games. He also set a player record for players under the age of 20 with 10 goals and 19 points in 13 games. All while capturing the SHL championship. Not only did Pettersson take home the SHL Championship but he also brought home some individual hardware in his first season. Pettersson was named Rookie of the Year and Best Foward. He also took home MVP honours for both the regular season and playoffs.
Pettersson is a strong skater. His top end speed and acceleration are both very good, but there is still room to improve as well. The best part of his skating though is his agility and edgework. Pettersson can stop and cut on a dime, and make a number of moves that can help him to get past a defender. His balance and power leave something to be desired, though that is likely due to his slender frame. If he can add lower body strength, he would be better on the boards, and at fighting through checks.
Pettersson has a very good frame but really needs to bulk up. He has very good offensive instincts and makes smart plays with the puck. His hockey IQ is his biggest weapon, as it seems that Pettersson almost always makes the right play with the puck on his stick. Pettersson is very good at give-and-go type plays, dishing the puck and then skating to open ice. He shows off his intelligence by spotting the open areas of the ice and getting himself open to make plays.
His stick handling and puck possession are also extremely good, and he can create plays off the rush or in the offensive zone. He can make plays with the puck while moving at top speed. He also controls the puck well down low, but this is an area where the added bulk will really help him at the next level. Pettersson shows a very good work ethic. He is tenacious in puck pursuit, and with his forechecking, despite his slender frame. Pettersson is also extremely hard to stop if he gets a defenseman one-on-one. He also has excellent vision and passing skills. To top it off, he has a strong and accurate wrist shot and quick release.
Pettersson’s work ethic extends to all three zones. He continues his relentless pursuit of the puck into the neutral and defensive zones. He brings excellent back pressure and supports the defence down low. Pettersson has very good hockey IQ and is rarely caught out of position. At the international level, he has been used on the penalty kill, showing a willingness to block shots as well.
Pettersson is one of the top prospects in the world right now. He has all the skill to be a top line centre in the NHL but is still lacking in physical maturity. At just 19 years old, that could come with time. It would not be a surprise to see him report to camp with some extra muscle on his frame as many prospects start to fill out at his age. Expect Pettersson to be on the Canucks this season. The only question is what position he will play. Jim Benning has hinted that Pettersson will start out as a winger, with the long-term plan of moving him to his natural position of centre.
#2 Prospect: Quinn Hughes
The Canucks drafted Hughes with the 7th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Hughes. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Thatcher Demko
Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born December 8th, 1995 — San Diego, California
Height 6’4″ — Weight 195 lbs [193 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #36 overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Demko took his game to another level in his second pro season with Utica, putting up a 2.44 goals against average and 0.922 save percentage. He was just as strong in the AHL playoffs, with a 0.927 save percentage over five games. Demko even earned himself a call-up to Vancouver and played his first NHL game.
Style and Potential
Demko is already 6-foot-4 and he has the ideal size that NHL teams are looking for in goalie prospects. This size, combined with his ability to cut down angles gives shooters very little to look at. Demko skates well, meaning he recovers quickly and stays with shooters if they try to deke. He also has a strong push giving him very good lateral movement and his puck tracking ability is very solid. He understands where the play is going, anticipates well, and gets across the crease quickly for cross-ice passes and one-timers.
Demko plays a butterfly style and is extremely hard to beat down low due to his long and quick legs. He is so big that even when he does go down he can still take up a lot of the upper portion of the net. Demko has really improved his rebound control over his time with Boston College and Utica. He is very good at staying square to the puck, even when does give up rebounds. This usually puts Demko in a good position to stop any second chance opportunities. He also has a quick glove hand.
Demko handles the puck well, another aspect that many teams like in a modern goaltender. He helps his defencemen by being able to retrieve dump-ins and make smart outlets. On the power play, he can catch the other team on a line change with a long pass to a forward.
The Canucks goaltender of the future will likely play another season in the AHL with the Utica Comets. This is not a bad thing, as he needs playing time in order to continue to develop. Demko is a year or two away from making an NHL impact but should be worth the wait.
#4 Prospect: Olli Juolevi
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 5th, 1998 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 182 lbs [188 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st round, #5 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Juolevi returned to Finland and spent a season with TPS Turku. He put up seven goals and 19 points in 38 games, playing against men in the top Finnish league. He also added two goals and seven points in 11 playoff games. Juolevi was strong at the World Juniors with a goal and four points in five games.
Juolevi’s strong two-way game is based on his skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions and good acceleration. His pivots are crisp and his edgework is very solid. This allows him to quickly transition from offence-to-defence or vice-versa. This skating allows Juolevi to cover a ton of ice, and to be able to join the rush, or make pinches at the blueline and still get back defensively. Adding core strength would allow Juolevi to improve his balance and be stronger on the puck, as well as better at winning battles in the corners.
Olli Juolevi helps to quarterback the power play with good skating ability, a powerful slap shot, strong wrist shot, and very good passing skills. He has excellent vision and the shows the smarts to make the smart play, whether it is in running the point on that powerplay or in starting the rush out of his end of the rink. Juolevi walks the line well and opens up passing and shooting lanes with his agility and poise with the puck on his stick. He understands how to keep the puck low and on net in order to maximize his teammates’ ability to get tip-ins, screens, and rebounds. In addition to making good breakout passes, he has the skating and puck handling skills to avoid the forecheck and start the play that way as well.
Juolevi has a well-developed defensive game, with strong positioning and being tough to beat one-on-one. He is very strong at protecting the middle of the ice, using his good footwork to keep himself between attacking forwards and the net. He forces opponents to the outside against the rush and keeps those cycling the puck to the boards. Juolevi has a quick stick and uses it to poke the puck off of opponents sticks and to cut down on passing lanes.
He isn’t one to throw big hits but is willing to be as physical as necessary to defend against the cycle and to clear the front of the net. He could stand to bulk up a bit, which would help him to be stronger on the puck and better at board battles when he moves to the next level and faces bigger and stronger opponents.
It was hoped that Juolevi would come to training camp and earn a spot on the Canucks blueline. However, he has undergone off-season back surgery. While the Canucks believe he will still be ready for training camp, it remains to be seen how this will affect his summer training, and if he will be 100% to start camp. Coming back from surgery, it might make sense for Juolevi to start the season in the AHL, and then be called up once he is back at 100%.
#5 Prospect: Jonathan Dahlen
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born December 20th, 1997 — Ostersund, Sweden
Height 5’11” — Weight 180 lbs [180 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #42 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Traded to the Vancouver Canucks, February 2017
Dahlen had a huge season for Timra in the Allsvenskan. He put up 23 goals and 44 points in 44 games. He also added eight goals and 14 points in 10 playoff games. Dahlen was named Allsvenskan Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year. His efforts helped Timra earn promotion back to the SHL. Dahlen also played two regular season games for Utica, picking up a goal and an assist. He had one assist in four playoff games.
Dahlen is not the fastest skater, but his speed isn’t bad either. It is currently above average and has been improving over the last couple of years. He is working to make his awkward, choppy stride into a more fluid one. There is still a bit more work to do and he could see his speed really improve as the technique comes together.
Dahlen has outstanding agility and edgework though. Even without elite speed, Dahlen is able to beat defenders one-on-one with his good stickhandling skills, and his ability to quickly change directions or change speeds. He could stand to work on his balance and not be pushed around as much in battles along the boards. This may come just from increased muscle mass.
Dahlen is an impressive offensive talent. He may be a bit undersized, but he has all the skills scouts look for when it comes to an offensive forward. He has an excellent array of shots, including a good wrist shot with a quick release; a hard slapshot; and a quality backhand. He has the soft hands to make moves on defenders and get himself the open space to get a shot off, as well as the hockey sense and the elusiveness to find open spots in the defence where a teammate can hit him with a pass.
Dahlen can also play the role of playmaker, with excellent vision and hockey sense, and the talent to slide the puck through small openings or flip a saucer pass to a teammate. He can stand to be more physical and play a bit less of a perimeter game going forward though and get to the more dirty areas of the ice.
Jonathan Dahlen’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He has a tendency to fly the zone early as he looks to drive offence through the transition game. He also can get caught out of position when he starts to puck watch and stops moving his feet. A good coach will need to work with Dahlen on these issues.
Dahlen will head to Canucks camp looking for a job. Competition for spots is fierce, but he could crack the lineup with a strong showing. The question for the Canucks becomes where to play him. Do they look at having him in the NHL on the wing, ala Petersson, or do they give him big minutes as a centre in the AHL? Some AHL time to adjust to smaller ice, work on his skating technique, bulk up, and play a bit better defensively could be of value. Dahlen has high-end potential, but there are still some areas of his game that need to be ironed out.
#6 Prospect: Michael DiPietro
Goaltender — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born June 9th, 1999 — Amherstburg, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 201 lbs [183 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round, #64 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
DiPietro’s numbers dropped in 2017-18 vs his draft year, but this was largely a result of playing behind a weaker Windsor team than the previous campaign. DiPietro continued to show that he is one of the best goalies in the OHL, and many nights was the only reason that the Spitfires were in games. He was the team MVP and the Spits would not have made the playoffs without him, even if a 0.910 save percentage isn’t flattering. He put up a .934 in six playoff games.
Skating and Talent Analysis
DiPietro is slightly undersized compared to most of the goalies who have been drafted in recent years. He makes himself look bigger by coming out of the crease far and cutting down angles. Excellent skating ability allows DiPietro to play out of his net while getting back quickly on dekes, as well as moving across the crease laterally. Playing an aggressive hybrid style, DiPietro is very athletic. He uses his quick legs to take away the bottom of the net, as well as a good blocker and glove upstairs. His rebound control is also very good for an 18-year-old, as he swallows up pucks or deflects them into the corners.
DiPietro has excellent puck tracking ability, as well as excellent lateral movement. He can track cross-ice passes and seems to be in position before the puck arrives. He does a very good job of keeping his shoulders square to the shooter. DiPietro also gets himself back in position quickly, coming up square to shooters, and making himself big for rebound attempts. His legs are strong, giving him a good push on moving side to side.
DiPietro is calm and composed in net. During the Spitfires championship season, there were times when Windsor has dominated the play, and he did not see many shots. Despite that, he maintained good focus and was ready for the next shot. There have also been times when Windsor had a mish-mash lineup due to injuries that year, or this season when the lineup was depleted by graduations and trades and he faced a lot of shots and odd-man rushes against. He did not get flustered and maintained his poise in the net. Dipietro often came up with big saves, keeping Windsor competitive. He recovers quickly after giving up a goal. He composes himself quickly and is ready to face the next shooter.
DiPietro is several years away from being NHL ready. He is scheduled to return to Windsor for the 2018-19 season but is a major trade chip for the rebuilding club. Expect to see him moved to a contender sometime between now and the January OHL Trade Deadline. DiPietro will also compete to start for Team Canada at the 2019 World Junior Tournament in Vancouver/Victoria.
#7 Prospect: Adam Gaudette
Centre — shoots Right
Born October 3rd, 1996 — Braintree, Massachusetts
Height 6’1″ — Weight 184 lbs [185 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 5th round, #149 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Gaudette finished his junior season at Northeastern winning basically every individual award there is to take home in NCAA Hockey. He took home the prestigious Hobey Baker Trophy after leading the country in goals (30) and points (60) in just 38 games. He also was a first-team All-American. Following the campaign, Gaudette signed an entry-level contract with the Canucks and played in five NHL games. He is still looking for his first NHL point.
Gaudette has good speed and acceleration. He can go wide on a defender and change speeds. If he gets a step on a defender he can accelerate to the front of the net and has the powerful stride to fight through checks at the NCAA level. He will need to keep improving before being ready for the NHL but is well on his way. While he was quite skinny when drafted, there have been noticeable improvements in his upper and lower-body strength over his college career. He wins battles on the boards and can fight through checks on his way to the net. Given the jump in opponents from college to pro, he might need even a little more strength at the next level.
Gaudette plays a gritty game. He gets to the front of the net, establishing position and creating havoc. He also loves to drive the puck with the puck on his stick. Gaudette is not afraid to fight for position, or battle for the puck in the corners. Strong on the puck, he protects well down low and can play the cycle. He also has a heavy wrist shot and good release.
Gaudette can also be a playmaker, with good vision and decision making skills. He sees the ice well and can make passes through tough areas, including saucer passes. He can also make plays on his backhand. Gaudette is a good stick-handler and uses his ability to protect the puck to extend plays. His strong skating and quick changes of speed and direction open up passing lanes.
Gaudette has shown a solid two-way game. He has good positioning, cutting down passing lanes, and is willing to block shots. He is also not afraid to support the defence down low and defend against the cycle game. Gaudette’s gritty game and willingness to compete is a real asset in his own end of the rink. Once a turnover is created, he transitions the puck quickly up the ice.
Gaudette will also be involved in the battle for spots at training camp. As he is a little older and more physically mature than Dahlen, this may give him a leg up this year. Even if sent down to the AHL, expect Gaudette to see time if injuries occur. He is not far away from being NHL ready.
#8 Prospect: Kole Lind
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born October 16th, 1998 — Shaunavon, Saskatchewan
Height 6’1″ — Weight 178 lbs [185 cm / 81 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #33 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Kole Lind had a strong season for the Kelowna Rockets, putting up 39 goals and 95 points in just 58 games. He was also a star in the playoffs with three goals and eight points in four games, despite the Rockets being swept in the first round. Following the season, he had his introduction to AHL hockey, getting in six games with the Comets and picking up an assist.
Lind is a very good skater. He has very good top end speed and excellent acceleration. He can beat defensemen to the outside, drop his shoulder, and drive the puck to the net. Lind also has very good edge work and agility. His turns are sharp and crisp, and he picks up speed with effective cross-overs. He could stand to add some real muscle to his lower body though. The difference between being a very good skater and an excellent one is his strength on his skates and ability to fight off checks. Lind is very skinny right now, and some added muscle will help him to fight through hooks and holds, to establish a position in front of the net, and to win battles on the boards.
Lind is equally adept at both scoring goals and setting them up. He has an excellent wrist shot. It is accurate and powerful, and he gets it off with a quick release. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer. Lind has a knack for finding the soft spot in the defensive coverage and ripping his slap shot by the goaltender. He also has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the goal line.
Solid stick handling and good puck protection skills allow Lind to extend plays and helps his teammates get open. He could be even better in the cycle game with added muscle. When he gets an opening, Lind is able to feather a pass through a tight opening and land it on a linemates tape.
Lind works hard in the defensive end of the ice, but his game continues to be a work in progress. He is certainly more than willing to engage defensively and to battle for loose pucks, but his lack of upper-body strength again becomes a concern. He could also stand to work on his positioning without the puck. Like many young players, he takes some chances and tries to leave the zone early looking to get the transition going from time-to-time. However, it is not a chronic problem and should be fixable in time.
As a late birthdate, Lind is eligible to play in the AHL this season. He struggled with the pace of the game in his late-season audition with Utica, but that is not uncommon for a player who has had a long season in junior hockey. Expect him to hit the ground running this fall. Lind is probably a couple of years away from the NHL.
#9 Prospect: Jett Woo
The Canucks drafted Woo with the 37th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Woo. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Jonah Gadjovich
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born October 12th, 1998 — Whitby, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 209 lbs [188 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #55 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Gadjovich put up 25 goals and 23 assists for 48 points in 42 games with the Owen Sound Attack this season. He added two goals and four points in nine playoff games. He was also a member of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, picking up two goals and an assist over the seven-game tournament, and helping to earn a gold medal.
Gadjovich has size and skills but has an issue with his skating. His start-up and acceleration are a bit clunky, and he really needs to work on that. Once he gets going the speed isn’t as bad, but it really takes a while to reach that top end speed. This means winning races to loose pucks and other short burst actions can be an issue. He has decent agility and edgework and can get by a defender in one-on-one situations. Gadjovich has good lower-body strength and balance. He is strong on the puck and cycles effectively. If there is an encouraging sign here, it is that his skating is much better than it was when he entered the OHL. It has improved steadily over the course of his junior career.
Gadjovich is a power winger, who plays a north-south style of game. He gets to the front of the net, scoring his goals by one-timing passes from teammates, tipping in shots, as well as pouncing on loose pucks and burying rebounds. He has a very good wrist shot and quick release, which he can let go from the slot or from the face-off dots. Gadjovich also has a good one-timer.
He is a gritty player who gets assists through winning battles in the corners, protecting the puck on the cycle, and dishing to teammates. Gadjovich isn’t the most creative of players but he is effective. His long reach and good stickhandling help him to protect the puck on the cycle and extend plays for teammates.
Gadjovich’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. The effort level cannot be questioned. He works hard to get back in his own zone and helps support the defence down low. He also battles for loose pucks in the corners. Gadjovich’s active stick helps to cut down passing lanes. However, he can work on his positioning. He can get out of position by chasing the puck too much and leaving his man. This over-aggressive nature can be fixed with maturity and good coaching.
Another late birthdate from the Canucks 2017 Draft Class, Gadjovich is also eligible to head to Utica. Power forwards can take some time, and Gadjovich will get that. The Canucks can afford to be patient while he works on improving his foot speed and defensive play.
Sleeper Prospect: Petrus Palmu
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 16th, 1997 — Joensuu, Finland
Height 5’6″ — Weight 172 lbs [168 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 6th round, #181 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Palmu went back to his native Finland and spent a season with TPS Turku in the SM-Liiga. He had a great season leading all rookies in both goals (17) and points (36) in 59 games played. The efforts earned him the league’s rookie of the year award. In the playoffs, Palmu put up four goals and six points in 11 games.
Undersized players usually need to be really strong skaters to overcome that lack of size. This is certainly the case for Palmu. He has very good speed and reaches it in just a few steps with his excellent acceleration. If he gets a step on a defender he can drop his shoulder and cut to the net. Palmu is shifty with excellent agility and edgework. He has a low centre of gravity and is built very solid, making him tough to knock off the puck and allowing Palmu to battle in the corners and in front of the net.
Palmu can do it all in the offensive end. He has an excellent wrist shot and isn’t afraid to use it. His shot has power and Palmu’s lightning-quick release can fool goaltenders. He also has the soft hands to finish in close to the net, deking goalies, pouncing on rebounds or converting tip-ins.
Palmu is also an excellent playmaker. He uses his skating and puckhandling skill to back off defenders and open up passing and shooting lanes. Palmu sees the ice extremely well and can feather a pass through tight areas. He controls the pace of the game, speeding it up or slowing it down as necessary to create chances.
Palmu works hard in the defensive end, helping out with backpressure and supporting the defence down low. However, his lack of size can be a liability as he is overpowered by bigger and stronger forwards. There is not a lot that Palmu can do here other than to try and become elite in his positioning and anticipation. He’s good, but not at the level needed to overcome the lack of size yet.
It would appear that Palmu is set to return to North America this season. Expect him to see time with Utica where he will look to continue to put up impressive numbers. Palmu’s biggest issue continues to be his lack of size, but he has been overcoming that throughout his career. This will be one more challenge.
In Demko and DiPietro, the Canucks have the best goaltending prospect depth of any team in the league. To that group, they took a late round flyer on Matthew Thiessen in this year’s draft.
With Hughes, Juolevi, and Woo, the Canucks are starting to fill out their defence group, but simply need more numbers at the position. Guillaume Brisebois is a legitimate prospect and Ashton Sautner has played a handful of NHL games. Further down the depth chart, Jalen Chatfield, Jack Rathbone, Evan McEneny, Toni Utunen, Kristoffer Gunnarsson, and Matthew Brassard represent long-shots at the position.
Upfront, Pettersson is an elite talent, while Dahlen, Lind, Gaudette, Palmu and Gadjovich are intriguing prospects. The Canucks added Tyler Madden, an interesting two-way centre prospect in the draft. Artem Manukyan is another intriguing pick. Lukas Jasek made a splash in his introduction to Utica, but the sample size is small. Further down the system, Zack MacEwen provides depth.
The Canucks system continues to grow and is approaching the top tier of NHL prospect groups.
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