So, which players are going to make a dent in the Canucks dwindling prospect pool?>
As a team that is trying to transition from a rebuilding franchise into a legitimate playoff contender, Jim Benning and his crew have a whole lot on their plate in order to successfully improve the club’s overall state. The Canucks have a good amount of young talent on their roster, but the overall depth of the team continues to be the biggest achilles heel for a franchise that is up so tight against the salary cap.
In this article, we’re going to examine which players the Canucks should draft over these next couple of days, in order to not only improve the team’s prospect pool, but also to brighten the future of a club that is ever so desperate for any brightness at all after a disappointing 2021 campaign. As a template for which players might be available for every time the Canucks pick throughout this draft, we’re going to be using the mock draft on lines.com/drafts as a template to determine which avenue Jim Benning should take with each of his selections.
1st round - 9th overall pick: Kent Johnson (C/LW)
While the best-case scenario for the Canucks would be to have one of the big 4 defensemen fall into their lap at 9, the most likely outcome is that they end up having the chance to select local product, Kent Johnson.
Hailing from North Vancouver, BC, Johnson brings many attributes that could be the perfect complement for the Canucks young core. He has a crisp playmaking ability, which combined with his high hockey IQ, makes him a force to be reckoned with in the top 6 of any team. (Sound familiar?)
Kent Johnson is the type of player you should be aiming for with a top 10 pick.— Power Of The Towel (@powerofthetowel) July 20, 2021
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It is this talent of making quick high percentage plays, that allowed Johnson to tally 101 points in 52 games in the BCHL last year, and 27 points in 26 games as a rookie in the NCAA this year.
The only potential red flag here is the fact that Johnson predominantly played last season on the wing and spent barely any time playing in the middle. Of course, the same was said about Pettersson, and how did that turn out? If the Canucks can pull of the same magic with Kent Johnson, it would be a huge win for a team that is lacking in true center prospects.
2nd round - 41st overall pick: Chase Stillman (RW)
The son of long-time former NHLer Cory is a player who definitely has ice in his veins. As a 16-year-old with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, Stillman tallied 34 points in 58 games with the Sudbury Wolves, before being loaned to Denmark as well as playing a key role on the Canadian U-18 squad this past season.
A player you can play in any situation, Stillman has the drive and compete level to be an effective two-way player. Whether it be on right wing or left wing, Stillman’s tenacity combined with his hustle make him a commodity that every team desires to have in their lineup in any situation at all.
The 35th ranked North American skater for the #NHLDraft, Chase Stillman of the @Sudbury_Wolves, compares his style of game to those of the Tkachuk brothers.#MeetTheFuture | @KubotaCanadaLtd pic.twitter.com/78hOVkEbmo— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) July 15, 2021
5th round - 137th overall pick: Topias Vilen (LHD)
As a team that lacks blue line depth whether it be in terms of their active roster or their prospect pool, the Canucks should definitely explore adding to their D-depth when the later rounds of the draft roll around. Topias Vilen of Finland is one such player they should target.
Having already completed a decent campaign in Finland’s top tier league, Liiga, Vilen is a steady and reliable presence in his own zone who does a really nice job in terms of positioning and preventing key scoring opportunities. While he doesn’t bring too much in terms of offense, Vilen’s calm collected play on his own end makes him a safer bet as a potential NHLer down the line with the Canucks.
5th round - 140th overall pick: Oliver Suni (RW)
Despite being passed over in the 2020 NHL draft, Suni is a safe bet to be selected in the mid to late portion of the draft this season. After an OHL stint last year which saw Suni tally 32 points in 43 games with the Oshawa Generals last year, Suni has moved on to play in Liiga in Finland where he would be playing for Lukko next year.
A big-bodied player who is quite good along the boards and in the dirty areas, Suni is definitely a low-risk option for the Canucks to select with one of their later picks.
6th round - 169 overall pick: Zack Stringer (LW)
Playing as a hometown boy with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, Stringer has compiled a couple of decent seasons already scoring 34 points in 48 games as a rookie, and 14 points in 23 games as a sophomore. The type of player who every coach lives to have in the lineup, Stringer’s biggest attribute is his positional play, which allows him to be a force in the defensive zone in absolutely any situation as well as translate some of that play into offense in the opposing zone,
6th round - 178 overall pick: Aidan De La Gorgendiere (LHD)
Another local boy hailing from Abbotsford BC, the 19-year-old De La Gorgendiere has all the tools to be a steady defensive D-man in the NHL down the line. Already with three seasons in the WHL under his belt playing with the Saskatoon Blades, he has consistently shown that he is a player you can rely on in your own zone. On top of that, his decent amount of offensive ability should make him an intriguing target for the Canucks with one of their later picks.
7th round - 201 overall pick: Aku Koskenvuo (G)
“You can never have enough good goalies.” While there is no set rule of thumb for anything regarding the management of the team, there are certain elements that every general manager tries their best to follow. One example of this is always taking the best player available in the higher rounds regardless of position. Another one is too try your best to find a bonafide future NHL goalie through the draft rather than via trade or free agency.
It is essential to at least draft one goalie every other draft because you can never be sure which goalie may just turn out to be the perfect hit, a strategy the Canucks have implemented themselves over the last few years. With the Canucks’ final pick of the 2021 draft, they should consider selecting Finnish goalie, Aku Koskenvou.
Standing at 6”4, Koskenvou definitely has the frame, but his level of poise between the pipes certainly makes him an intriguing bet to perhaps have a future in the National Hockey League. Set to play for Harvard University’s NCAA team in 2022, Koskenvou is on the right path to develop and if all goes well, he can definitely earn an NHL ELC sooner rather than later.
Let us know in the comments what you think of these picks. Should the Canucks follow a similar template for all their selections or should they try something different?