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Gabriel Vilardi: Prototypical Benning Pick?

Flint Firebirds v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

The 3rd featured player for our 2017 Entry Draft looks to be a player that has many of the same attributes that previous picks have had in Windsor Spitfire Center Gabriel Vilardi. If you look at the pre-draft scouting reports on Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser you will see a quick shot, good sized frame, and above average speed. This doesn’t suggest that the criteria is that straightforward for the Canucks brass, but an observer could theorize there’s a priority on these attributes.

The Basics

Position: C

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 192 lbs.

Shoots: R

Team: Windsor (OHL)

The Kingston, ON native was the 2nd pick in the 2015 OHL draft and has done nothing but build on it to ensure that he is in the conversation for being a top selection in this year’s NHL draft. In 49 regular season games, Vilardi amassed 61 points (29g-32a) on a high-powered Spitfire team that is hosting this year’s Memorial Cup. The Windsor roster includes top end prospects Mikhail Sergachev, Logan Brown, Jeremy Bracco, Sean Day, Logan Stanley, along with recent Canucks free agent signee Jalen Chatfield and one of the top draft eligible netminders in Michael DiPietro. Having all of this talent might mean that some scouts question Vilardi’s talents on their own, but he has definitely benefited from being able to develop with great mentorship. That mentorship extends beyond the rink, as Gabe’s older brother (Frank) was a member of the Plymouth Whalers/Flint Firehawks franchise, where he served as an alternate Captain for one season.

Vilardi is an incredibly young draft prospect, as his August 16th birthday makes him as much as 11 months younger than some of the other players who have first year eligibility (Nolan Patrick was 4 days from being 2016 eligible). Gabriel has been looking to become an NHL player for many, many years, here’s the 11 year old version of himself showcasing how he works on his shot.

Much like Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren, Vilardi saw his season derailed by medical issues. A knee injury sustained during selection camp prevented the Kingstonian from participating in the Ivan Hlinka tournament. This set back was followed up by an emergency appendectomy. These bad-luck incidents hindered his draft stock, although a strong Mem Cup run will most definitely help solidify Vilardi’s place as a likely top 5 pick this season.

At his best, Vilardi can really take over a game. He’s blessed with a long reach and great hockey IQ which allows him to have the time and space to make plays. His speed isn’t exceptional, and many have described it as ‘deceptive’ which should translate to making him a solid player at the next level.

Much like Nico Hischier, there is no consensus as to who Vilardi compares most closely to, but if you were to ask Gabe himself, he’d tell you he emulates former Spitfire legend John Tavares. Scouts and fans tend to believe a fair comparative would be Marian Hossa or Jason Spezza.

If the Canucks end up with the 3rd pick this year, and Hischier and Patrick are off the board, is this the player you want to fuel the rebuild?