Welcome to the 2021 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1997. Seven staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, Kent Basky, CanucksAbbyFan2, Markus Meyer, Noah Strang, Harsunder Singh H ) and two outside writers (Daniel Gee & Cam Robinson) cast votes for the project.
Before we start the list, however, let’s get to the notable omissions.
Merely nine months after we posted the 2020 Edition of the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, there are some drastic changes to the list.
While the same players remain at the top of the rankings, there is turnover throughout. This is highlighted by some of the notable omissions on the list below.
In total, the Canucks have eight players from our 2020 list are no longer with the organization. Even among the four players who missed the cut by just turning 25, two of them are new to the team, while one was a 2021 trade deadline acquisition. Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of turnover.
Four Canucks who just missed being eligible
1. Conor Garland
Turned 25 on March 11th, 2021
2020-21 Stats: 49 GP, 12-27-39
If Garland was eligible for this list, he would basically be a lock for the #4 spot on the list behind the Canucks three young superstars.
During his third NHL season in 2020-21, Garland was arguably the Coyotes' best skater on the roster. The diminutive winger plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s increased his offensive production in every season so far to date, despite playing with a lack of talented players.
Now that he’s with the Canucks, the expectation is that he can score at a 60+ point rate over a full 82 games.
2. Matthew Highmore
Turned 25 on February 27th, 2021
2020-21 Stats: 42 GP, 3-4-7
There isn’t a lot of flash to Matthew Highmore’s game, but there’s a good chance that he can carve out a role for himself with the Canucks in 2021-22.
Among the barrage of replacement-level forwards playing for the Canucks towards the tail end of last season, Highmore arguably seemed most capable. He does have some speed to his game, and he’s fairly responsible at both ends of the ice.
The coaching staff also seemed to like his performance, gifting him an average of 15:22 per game during 18 contests with the Canucks. Highmore won’t receive that much ice time this season, but he has a leg up on a fourth-line role heading into training camp.
3. Zack MacEwen
Turned 25 on July 8th, 2021
2020-21 Stats: 34 GP, 1-1-2
Like Highmore, MacEwen is a fringe NHLer who finds himself narrowly missing the Canucks 2021 Top 25 Under 25 list. In 2020, MacEwen finished 10th in our rankings after a ‘19-20 season in which he became a full-time NHLer.
Many expected MacEwen to continue solidifying his place in the NHL, but like most Canucks, he regressed last season. He plays hard, but doesn’t seem to have the trust of the coaching staff. Right now, a guy like Highmore is ahead of him on the depth chart heading into training camp.
4. Brady Keeper
Turned 25 on June 5th, 2021
2020-21 Stats: 1 GP, 0-0-0
This hard-nosed, right-shot defenceman just signed a two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks after spending most of the 2021 season on the Florida Panthers taxi squad. Although he’ll begin his Canucks career in Abbotsford, he’s a player who could work his way up a depth chart that doesn’t boast a lot of talented right-shot defencemen.
Eight players from our 2020 list who are no longer with the Canucks
5. Adam Gaudette
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #5
2020-21 Stats: 40 GP, 5-6-11
After cracking the top five on our list nine months ago, former Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette no longer finds himself with the Canucks.
Gaudette showed promise in 2019-20, scoring at a second-line rate during even-strength play. However, his production plummeted in 2020-21, and he continued to struggle defensively. Shortly after Gaudette was reportedly patient zero of the Canucks massive COVID-19 outbreak, the centre was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matthew Highmore.
6. Jake Virtanen
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #7
2020-21 Stats: 38 GP, 5-0-5
Somehow, Virtanen’s drop-off in play was even more dramatic than Gaudette’s. The Abbotsford native went from a fan favourite during the “Shotgun Jake” phenomenon, to out of the NHL in a matter of 12 months. His NHL career could be over, as he’s reportedly received a contract offer to play in the KHL.
7. Kole Lind
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #12
2020-21 Stats: 7 GP, 0-0-0
Kole Lind took another step forward in the AHL in 2020-21, earning a call-up to the Canucks in the latter half of the season. However, he failed to impress, and ended up being selected by the Seattle Kraken during their expansion draft in July.
8. Jalen Chatfield
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #20
2020-21 Stats: 18 GP, 0-1-1
It’s impressive that Chatfield, who was ranked 20th among 38 eligible Canucks under 25 years old last season, played in 18 NHL games. He had some good moments, but often looked overmatched at the NHL level. Chatfield was a Group 6 UFA this offseason, and he ended up signing with the Carolina Hurricanes.
9. Petrus Palmu
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #27
2020-21 DEL Stats (Germany): 37 GP, 9-13-22
Petrus Palmu’s career with the Canucks was virtually over when he bolted back for Europe at the end of 2018. Palmu recorded one assist in 12 games with the Comets before returning to Finland’s top hockey league.
The diminutive Fin went unsigned by the Canucks during the offseason, after his three-year entry-level deal expired.
10. Mitch Eliot
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #32
2020-21 AHL Stats: 26 GP, 0-4-4
Mitch Eliot was a depth defenceman for the Utica Comets after signing with the Canucks as an undrafted free agent in December, 2018. He recently signed an AHL deal with the Rochester Americans, Buffalo’s AHL affiliate.
11. Jake Kielly
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #33
2020-21 Stats: 7 GP, 3.62 GAA, .878 SV%
After signing with the Canucks in April of 2019, Kielly only appeared in nine AHL games for the Utica Comets, posting an uninspiring .885 save percentage. Kielly is currently a free agent.
12. Ethan Keppen
2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Ranking: #35
2020-21 AHL Stats: 7 GP, 0-1-1
The Canucks fourth-rounder in 2019 has been a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing in only seven games since March 2020. He went unsigned by the Canucks this offseason, although he was inked to an AHL-only contract with the Abbotsford Canucks.
Despite signing in Abbotsford, the status of Keppen’s contract means he’s “technically” no longer a part of the organization. That could change for the 20-year-old but for now, he’s an omission from our 2021 rankings.