Get ready for a long wait once the 2020 NHL draft gets underway.
With the Vancouver Canucks 2020 second round pick gone in the Tyler Toffoli trade , and their 2020 first round pick likely gone to New Jersey because of the J.T. Miller move made during the last offseason, the Canucks are left with a bleak amount of draft capital for the upcoming draft.
This isn’t the worst thing in the world. Both returns on the trades have worked out great and the Canucks have one of the best young cores in the league already. There’s an argument to be made that Miller was the best player for Vancouver this season and while Toffoli only got ten games in before the suspension of the season, he did score ten points during that time.
Of course with Toffoli being an unrestricted free agent there is the possibility that he leaves and only a couple months after the deal the Canucks have nothing to show for the draft pick and solid prospect that they had to give up, but no one could have seen this pandemic incoming and Benning, or anyone else in the organization, cannot be faulted for that.
So now the Canucks are left with their first pick in the upcoming draft being in the third round. While it’s important to keep prospects in the pipeline at all times, just look at how the Canucks poor drafting under Gillis affected the ensuing rebuild, the Canucks clearly feel like their current group of young players allows them to afford these moves.
Vancouver does have an impressive amount of young talent. Even if you were to remove their prospects that have graduated to the NHL, Canucks fans should be looking forward to players like Nils Hoglander, Vasili Podkolzin, and Jack Rathbone hopefully cracking the roster and making an impact in the next few years.
However, just because the Canucks will be without their top two picks doesn’t mean it will be impossible for them to find impact players in this draft. In recent years they have had success with some of their later picks. Some fans may scream about Judd Brackett’s impact, and point to his oncoming departure as a reason why the Canucks will draft poorly this year, but that’s a discussion for another time.
So, the Canucks need to find a diamond in the rough, an impact player that every other team will get two chances to draft. It will not be easy.
However, from early consensus rankings I've found some players that could be late-round gems for the Canucks and who they should take a long look at. Let me introduce them to you.
Brandon Coe, RW, Ontario Hockey League
Brandon Coe finished the season as the 35th ranked North American skater by Central Scouting and there are a lot of things to like about his game. To begin, he has a big frame as he stands 6’3” and weighs 185 pounds and he uses it well.
Coe scored 25 goals and had 32 assists in 60 games, and while there are plenty of OHL players with more eye-popping stats, Coe’s numbers are more impressive because of the team he played for. North Bay was the worst team in the OHL and they had only 38 points in 62 games with a 17-41-4 record.
Coe was second on his team in scoring as a 17-year-old and he was only three points behind team leader, 19-year old Luke Moncada in two less games. Coe was the third overall selection in his OHL draft class and his most impressive attribute may be his skating for his size.
In addition to his skating, one of Coe’s biggest strengths is his hockey IQ. Smart players who can skate will find ways to contribute and are always welcome on any team and it’s no different with Coe.
Surround Coe with a few more guys that can finish and he will be sure to see an increase in his production. He would be a great addition to the Canucks prospect pool as a potential middle-six forward down the road.
Michael Benning, RHD, Alberta Junior Hockey League
First thing that Canucks fans will notice is the last name. Let’s get this out of the way: yes this is Jim Benning’s nephew. However, let’s put that aside and take an objective look at what Benning could bring to the Canucks.
Benning finished the 2020 Central Scouting rankings as the 57th ranked North American skater and won the award for best defenceman in the Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues. He had 75 points in only 54 games this season, 14 more points than any other d-man in the league and he did it as a seventeen year old against players ranging from 16 to 21 years old.
Benning is on the smaller side, listed at 5’10” and weighing in at around 174 pounds, but as Quinn Hughes showed Canucks fans this season size can be an overrated attribute when you have the skill to make up for it. Do not twist this into Benning playing like Hughes. Benning plays a calmer game as he makes the right play the majority of the time and uses his intelligence to keep the puck and make the play he wants to.
He reads the game well and is mobile for a defenceman, perfect for the direction that the NHL is headed.
It's inevitable that the comparisons to Cale Makar will be made. I’ve seen the headlines and there will only be more of them as we get closer to draft day. The two play the same position and put up extremely similar points-per game-numbers during their time in the AJHL. During their first season in the league they each were at about one point-per-game before their second season where they each scored 75 points in 54 games.
Benning shouldn’t be expected to be Cale Makar. His skating is not on the same level nor does he share the goal-scoring ability that Makar has shown at all levels. However, Benning could be a good option in the third or fourth round to add to the Canucks defence prospects.
Zion Nybeck, LW/RW, J20 SuperElit (Swedish U20 Junior League)
The Canucks have a long history of talented Swedish forwards and winger Zion Nybeck could be next. Nybeck is another player that is on the smaller side as he is 5’8” and weighs around 175 pounds yet that doesn’t stop him from doing anything as the aspect of his game that scouts most compliment is his relentlessness on the puck.
Nybeck did not make Bob McKenzie’s mid season prospect rankings and was the 29th rated European Skater in Central Scouting’s year end rankings.
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Nybeck led the SuperElit league in scoring this season as he had 27 goals and 39 assists in 44 games. He is a good skater that has a nose for scoring goals and was compared by Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet to current Canuck prospect Nils Hoglander.
The Canucks are definitely stronger up front compared to on the back end so Zybeck would be adding to the assets in the Canucks forward pool. Nybeck can play both wings so his versatility would be welcome.
Watch Nybeck score two goals in this SuperElit game above. On the first one, he does a great job of reading the play and then taking advantage of the mistake to put the puck in the net before the goalie has a chance to react. On the second goal, it’s Nybeck with a good back check that turns the play around before he scores on a tight angle.
Adding Nybeck to Podkolzin and Hoglander as winger prospects would give the Canucks a great pipeline in that position. The Canucks would have many dangerous scorers and elite depth to backup their stars and put pucks in the net. Nybeck could be the move if the Canucks wanted to go this route.
Any of these three players would be good prospects that would lessen the blow of missing out on the talent available in the first two rounds. They would be great additions to the Canucks prospect pool and help keep the pipeline stocked full.
The Canucks took a risk when they traded their top two picks and now they need to find a gem in later rounds to make up for it. All three of these players could be solid contributors down the road and let the Canucks see some results from the 2020 NHL Draft.