The Canucks and their fans knew they would be getting a pretty good asset come draft lottery day, but there’s always a feeling around Vancouver that the team should push for more, and not be settled with what they have.
That feeling came naturally after the team ended up with the fifth overall pick, despite higher odds than almost every other team to pick in the top-three. But the truth is, there’s still lots for Canucks fans to be pleased about with what they now possess. Fifth will be the highest the team has picked at the NHL draft since 1999, when they chose Daniel and Henrik second and third overall.
But there’s mixed feelings about just what the Canucks should do with their first round selection. Do they look to acquire the best player on the board (probably a forward), address the need for a top-end defenseman, or try and swing their pick for a different selection, albeit higher or lower?
Option 1: Drafting a Forward
After the big top-three players in the draft, the lines get a little blurry on who goes where, but Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matthew Tkachuk project to be the next-best forwards available.
Dubois, a 17-year-old, posted 99 points with Cape Breton this season in the QMJHL, and added 112 penalty minutes and a plus-40 rating in 62 games. The 6’3″, 203-pound Dubois can play center or the wing, and has been called by some as the most complete player in this year’s draft.
Tkachuk, meanwhile, is a skilled left winger who has an edge to his game, similar to Jake Virtanen. The son of Keith Tkachuk had 107 regular season points in the OHL, playing on a line for the ages with Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak in London. Tkachuk also has 16 goals and 33 points in only 14 playoff games, as the Knights begin play in the OHL Final on Thursday.
— Satiar Shah (@SatiarShah) May 2, 2016
They likely aren’t NHL ready like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi may be, but there’s elite quality in both Dubois and Tkachuk. Jim Benning and the Canucks may also see a purpose to shoot for the skilled forward Alex Nylander, or the big bruising centerman Logan Brown at fifth overall.
Option 2: Drafting a D-Man
The need for the Canucks to bolster the amount of defense prospects in their system is evident, and they may look to take the best blueliner available at No. 5.
Finnish defender Olli Juolevi may be the most intriguing of defense prospects in the draft; he was ranked as the fifth-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. The 18-year-old Finn has put up impressive offensive numbers from the back end with the London Knights, in his first season playing away from his home country.
Juolevi could reasonably be drafted in the top-five, and the consensus is that he could go as high as fourth overall.
Jim Benning on Olli Juolevi: “He’s a safe, steady player. He plays a little bit like Nicklas Lidstrom. He reads the game so well. ” #Canucks
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) May 1, 2016
Apart from Juolevi, 18-year-old Jakob Chychrun is another solid puck-moving defenseman who has garnered attention from scouts all season. Mikhail Sergachev is also bound to get a look as a top-end defenseman. Both of these OHL blueliners will in part give the Canucks more to consider heading towards June’s entry draft.
Option 3: Trade up, trade down?
Good is what the Canucks have at fifth overall, but there’s reasons to think that Vancouver could have a more ideal draft situation.
Of course, they won’t be picking in the top three as they had hoped.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) May 2, 2016
Should the Canucks look for a way to nab third overall from the Blue Jackets, or second overall from the Jets? After Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi are both almost certainly NHL-bound next season. It’s not every year that all of the top-three projected picks are in this category.
You could also consider the option that Vancouver trades down from fifth overall, which could allow them to still pick in the top-10 and add another asset. This would be the more likely route particularly if the Canucks feel the need to choose a defenseman. Maybe one of Tkachuk or Dubois is the best player available when No. 5 rolls around, and the Canucks have their plans set on a blueliner like Chychrun or Sergachev – two excellent prospects, but not likely top-five material.
Benning, in his usual honest self, reiterated to The Province that the Canucks plan to take the best player available with the pick they have on draft day.
“If we think a player is going to be a No. 1 line player — over a first-pairing defenceman — then we’ll take the forward. But if the forward is going to be a second- or third-line player, and the defenceman can be a top-pairing guy or a top-four guy, then we’ll look to take the defenceman,” Benning said.
So the Canucks organization won’t settle for less than what their top-five pick is worth. You can bet in this long offseason for Vancouver that these options around their first round pick will be explored a fair bit.
— Colton Davies (@ColtonnDavies) May 3, 2016
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.