These promising young defenders are generating hype, but will they be available to the Canucks at 37th overall?
With their early second-round selection, the Canucks are primed to snag a talented player. Many will hope that player is a defenceman, since this is the Canucks most pressing need heading into the draft.
There should be no shortage of talented defencemen available at 37th overall. Between picks 20 and 40, there are about 10-12 defenceman who could are projected to be selected. The Canucks are picking towards the end of that section, but some of those defencemen are bound to slide with the sheer number of prospects bunched together.
This is where Jim Benning has a chance to step in and take a potential rock on the blue line for years to come. The decision won’t be an easy one, but he’s surely hoping one of these first-round projections slides to him at 37th overall. He’s done well with his only two early-second round selections in Vancouver, taking Thatcher Demko at 36th overall in 2014, and Kole Lind at 33rd overall during last year’s draft.
In 2018, is Benning primed to take a defenceman in round two? With the selection of quality defenders that should be available, the chances are high.
This smooth-skating Swedish defender is the only right-shot defenceman to appear on this list. The Canucks certainly need lots of good young defencemen moving forward, but there is a glaring need for such defenders on the right side.
Although Lundqvist wasn’t on many scouts radar prior to 2017-18, the 17-year-old made a name for himself by cracking the SHL full-time. That’s an even more impressive feat considering that he’s one of the youngest defenders in the draft (July 27th, 2000). He was even able to put up some points in the SHL as well, with two goals and three assists in 18 games.
One of Lundqvist’s best attributes is his ability to distribute the puck. Playing on the bigger ice surface does benefit him, but his instincts about knowing when to pinch or risk a cross-ice pass are ahead of his peers. He does play with a bit of risk by pinching often, so his defensive game is still a work in progress.
One of Lundqvist’s most impressive feats was that he didn’t look out of place in a strong league. It should mean that the second round will be as far he might fall. Most outlets have him ranked as a late-first or early-second round pick. In Bob McKenzie’s latest rankings, Lundqvist was ranked right before the Canucks’ second-round selection, at 36th overall.
Will the Canucks look to fill the Russian void left by Nikita Tryamkin by drafting the highest-rated Russian defender?
With the Canucks icing such a weak blue line last season, no one would be blaming you for missing the Big Friendly Giant. If the Canucks were able to snag Alexandar Alexeyev though, it would go a long ways towards filling the void left by Tryamkin.
Alexeyev is also a defender with size, playing at 6’3”, 190 pounds. His size doesn’t diminish his skating however, as Alexeyev excels at both ends of the ice. He uses his size and speed to effectively box out defenders in the defensive zone. In the offensive zone, Alexeyev makes smart passes, and has an absolute rocket of a shot. His ability to create offence was on display this season, as he registered seven goals and 37 points in 45 games.
The fact that Alexeyev has battled multiple injuries over the past two season may slightly hurt his draft stock, which could be one of the reasons why he may fall to the Canucks at #37. Scouts also note that while he’s a well-rounded defender, he doesn’t necessarily excel in any area. Still, there’s lots to like about his game as an 18-year-old.
Although most notable Canadian prospects hail from CHL, more prospects over the years are beginning to make a name for themselves in the CJHL. In the last couple of drafts, Dante Fabbro (BCHL, 2016, 17th overall) and Cale Makar (AJHL, 2017, 4th overall) stand out as talented defenceman to forego the CHL route.
While Tychonick isn’t quite on Fabbro or Makar’s level, he’s still a dark horse to sneak into the first round. Tychonick has had a couple of stellar years with the always talented Penticton Vees of the BCHL, and stood out as one of the best players in the league this season.
Tychonick had 47 points in 48 games this season, and added another 17 points in 14 playoff matches. Although he wasn’t able to help the Vees repeat as league champs in 2017, he established himself as a solid prospect on defence.
Strong skating and great offensive instincts are a big part of Tychonick’s game, but he does take a few too many risks for a defenceman. He should have lots of time to round out his game in the near future. Tychonick is committed to the University of North Dakota next season, a school that’s been good to the Canucks over the years.
Arguably the most-discussed player among these four, there’s only a slim chance that the intriguing K’Andre Miller falls to the Canucks at 37th overall. Miller is a player with a ton of on-ice skills, but the main reason why he would fall to the second round is because he’s an unpolished and raw prospect.
For his size (6’4”, 205 pounds), Miller is an extremely strong skater. Like many bigger players the acceleration doesn’t jump out at you, but his top-end speed is noticeable. He uses that speed and size to separate body from puck, and isn’t afraid to be physical as well.
Miller is also a decent point producer. He wasn’t on the NTDP’s top pairing, but still produced four goals and 16 points in 22 games. His point totals were best among first-time draft eligible defenceman on the team, surpassing the likes of Ty Emberson, Bode Wilde, and Mattias Samuelsson among others.
Although his skill set is tantalizing, Miller can still frustrate some with poor decision making. That could also be attributed to the fact that he didn’t start playing defence until age 15. Does his experience at both positions scream “Dustin Byfuglien” to you? Probably not, so kindly wipe the drool from your mouth.
While it’s unlikely he falls to round two, there are so many differing opinions between scouts for players 20-40 that it is plausible. That’s why Benning would be wise to watch any of these potential sliders in the draft. They might just end of being players who, in a couple years time, teams will regret not taking in round one.