Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Vancouver Canucks Pick Options.
So now we know – kinda – where the Vancouver Canucks pick will be in 2023. There wasn’t a whole lot of doubt this year, and eleventh is where they were expected to finish.
“The Vancouver Canucks Pick…”
Okay, Charlie, not so fast. Just because we know where they’re slotted to pick doesn’t mean we know who they’re getting. For starters, they have ten teams ahead of them with some say in the proceedings.
There are few blessings with losing the draft lottery, but at least the Canucks didn’t play themselves out of a top-three pick with their late-season win streak. Vancouver’s odds of moving up in the draft were extremely remote, but some folks out there just can’t help themselves.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) May 9, 2023
But for those folks who are retaining their sanity, the eleventh spot this year is very interesting. There are a lot of different situations that can emerge, depending on who’s there. It’s still high enough that we can talk about a few specifics.
Let’s start with a lot of fans’ personal nightmares: the Vancouver Canucks pick is traded away.
Before you throw whatever device you’re reading this on out the window, hear us out. The Canucks are a team with very specific needs, positionally speaking, and those might not be met at eleventh overall.
There are a couple right-side defencemen who are likely to go relatively high, and if both are gone? Or maybe one is gone, but the organization thinks the other isn’t quite the right fit, stylistically speaking.
Well, the Canucks also need centres – but centre is a high-value position for everyone. The best are certainly gone by the time the Canucks make their selection. Maybe Zach Benson makes it all the way to Vancouver – there are few 5’9″ NHL centres – but probably not.
Still, Benson might be viewed as a winger, and a highly skilled one at that. It could be that the Canucks’ draft list has a half-dozen names still on it in this fourth-tier group, so they move down a few spots, adding another mid-level pick.
Could be worse. No one picked that late is likely to jump straight to the NHL after all. Getting another dart to draft someone you like just as much is hardly a bad thing.
Did I say the last option was a nightmare? Sorry, I meant this one. Patrik Allvin decides that the Vancouver Canucks pick is worth more as a defensive centre and some shed salary.
Breathe, Canucks fans, breathe.
This is just a re-apportioning of the salary cap. Yes, it can be costly, but we know now that the team has no intention of a rebuild. So. An option is filling out the ranks with a penalty-killer at centre. Given that it’s a first-round pick and a player going back, it should be a pretty decent guy.
Maybe it’s Brock Boeser, maybe it’s Conor Garland, maybe it’s Anthony Beauvillier. That salary is someone else’s problem now, and in return, Vancouver gets an actual penalty killer. Just try forgetting that was supposed to be Curtis Lazar‘s job last year. They’re better at it now, right?
Okay, leaving those behind scenarios at the break of day, they are most likely to use the selection. What is the Vancouver Canucks pick going to look like at eleventh overall?
Most likely is that the big names are gone and several imperfect choices remain. That’s fine, in most years that happens a lot sooner than it will in this one. But, I think, the Canucks do have preferences.
The most obvious choice: David Reinbacher. He’s a right-side shot with good size who plays a physical game. Probably not going to be the #1 defenseman for your team, but on a team with Quinn Hughes that’s fine.
In Case of Emergency: The Canucks might select the other high-rated, right-side defenceman in Axel Sandin Pellikka. He’s a smaller, skilled player who kind of replicates Hughes’ skill set, though with a lower ceiling. Still, it’s hard to turn down skill, especially at RHD.
This is a bit tricky, because it’s going to rely on other picks. Every team has their own preferences, and every list is going to look different. If the Canucks are lucky enough to have someone they rate high available, they’ll go for it. But we’re going to have to guess who that might be for now.
Nate Danielson isn’t a completely unreasonable wish this far out. Good size, good mind, and looks like he’ll be at his best as a solid, two-way centre. Right-handed shot, which is an added bonus, and already used as a match-up centre.
If not him, a similar player should be available in Calum Ritchie, though Ritchie might be more defensively-minded than Danielson at this point. Again, good size, good mind. Very good passer, too, according to our prospect-watchers.
On the Side
If the Canucks decide to go for a winger, there will be plenty to choose from. Out of all those available – or likely to be – scoring is in no short supply. There are a half-dozen who can simply hammer the puck from the side. If there is a bias for Vancouver, they might lean to the left.
Colby Barlow is the captain of the aptly-named Owen Sound Attack. Barlow is a grinder, loving the boardwork and the netfront fights for position. He’s piled on goals, but by the time he reaches the NHL he might be better placed as a classic “shift-disturber”.
It could be that size dominates all – within reason – and the Vancouver Canucks pick Matthew Wood. Wood’s already 6’3″ tall, and while he needs to fill out a bit, he’s a strong puck defender with a solid wrister. He does, however, need to work on his foot speed.
On the plus side, Wood can play centre, if the Canucks are so inclined, and he’s produced even as the NCAA’s youngest player.
Might Be A Dreamer
We mentioned the off-chance that Zach Benson might be around by the time the Vancouver Canucks pick rolls around, and it’s for the obvious reason: he’s 5’9″. But seriously, there’s an amount of skill there that you just don’t walk away from if it falls in your lap.
A bit more of a roll of the dice is the suddenly-fashionable Dalibor Dvorsky. His emergence is all part of Slovakia’s return as a hockey power over the past few years, and his power game would be a very welcome addition.
The last of these we’ll mention is the most Makes-You-Blink-But-It’s-Possible choice. Winger Matvei Michkov is an absolute, top-end prospect. His skill is widely regarded as second only to Connor Bedard, and he played his first KHL games as a 17-year-old.
The drop, of course, is all about his nationality. There is going to be a ludicrous amount of pressure put on him to sign a longer-term deal with SKA St. Petersburg. But even if he doesn’t, his current deal keeps him in Russia through 2025-26.
With Vancouver insisting they are looking to improve now rather than in three years, it’s as hard to see him being the Vancouver Canucks pick as it is seeing him drop to eleventh. Most teams drafting high are in no condition to turn down talent, and most aren’t pushing for the playoffs the next year.
The Vancouver Cancks Pick…
We don’t know. But given the wide range of options, it’s certainly going to be someone. Probably.
The bottom line is that unless the team gets wildly lucky and has a player of Michkov’s or Benson’s calibre drop into their laps, there is no grand slam, obvious pick at eleventh overall. A few players might be quicker to the NHL than others, but if so it’s only by a year or two.
Given this management group’s past actions, it’s not out of the question that the pick is moved. That wouldn’t be popular, but it is possible. And because of that, we’re going to have plenty to talk about between here and Nashville.
Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports