It was a goal that ended one of the most thrilling World Junior tournaments in recent memory.
Despite a valiant effort from Czechia to tie the game 2-2 in the third, Dylan Guenther’s second goal of the game led Canada to their 20th gold medal at this tournament.
If only it wasn’t so bittersweet for Canucks fans.
Canucks fans watching Guenther get the OT gold medal winner pic.twitter.com/wZ8RYFHlU4— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 6, 2023
As you well know, Guenther was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 draft — which is the pick Jim Benning traded to the Arizona Coyotes in a package for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland.
Although both players showed some flashes to help us forget about the lopsided nature of the deal last season, that hasn’t been the case in 2022-23.
Ekman-Larsson’s declining foot speed, poor defensive positioning and his propensity for turning the puck over have all been absolute killers for the Canucks. He’s currently 31 years old and under contract for four more seasons at a $7.26 million cap hit.
The Athletic pegs his market value at $1 million flat based on his play, and that meets the eye test. He’s a true third-pairing defenceman who’s instead playing closer to 21 minutes per night.
Conor Garland made the most of his opportunities in 2021-22, tying JT “8 Milly” for the team lead with 47 even-strength points.
However this season, his ice time has plummeted and he’s only on pace for 13 goals and 38 points.
Guess who’s on pace for more points over a full 82 games?
19-year-old Dylan Guenther.
Although he’s been a healthy scratch on occasion in Arizona, Guenther has three goals and 11 points in 21 games. That puts him on pace for 11 goals and 42 points over a full 82 games.
The fact that Guenther is already outscoring Garland — despite being seven years younger and an NHL rookie — should hammer home just how badly the Canucks lost this deal.
Revisiting the 2021 draft
There’s been some talk about how the Canucks might not have drafted Guenther with the 9th overall pick.
Of course, that’s plausible. This team has made some obvious draft floor blunders before.
However, there was a clear top-nine heading into the draft. Before they traded the pick, the discussion circled around how the Canucks were in a good spot because they’d be able to draft whichever player slid to the bottom of that top nine.
Well, wouldn’t you know, that player was Guenther.
And hey, the Coyotes did select him at 9th overall.
Lighting up the World Juniors doesn’t guarantee NHL success.
But hey, it’s certainly better than watching your team’s prospects wither under the World Junior spotlight (Jonathan Lekkerimaki, anyone?).
Here’s a look at the top three goal scorers from the 2023 World Junior Championship.
Wouldn’t you know, both Guenther and Logan Cooley are members of the Arizona Coyotes organization.
And, the Coyotes also have a decent shot at landing Connor Bedard as well.
Say what you want about the moribund state of that franchise, but they are stockpiling futures, and they could soon have three of the most dominant players in their age group by the summer.
In Vancouver, we’ve already watched the sophomore Seattle Kraken bypass the Canucks. How much would it hurt to watch Bettman’s Coyotes follow suit?
But hey, the Canucks did eke out a win against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Thursday night. Perhaps you should read about that to lighten your mood, because thinking about the future of this team currently isn’t a feel-good task.