The Vancouver Canucks have had quite a few top prospects over the past few seasons. The organization has seen most of those prospects go on to play prominent roles in the team’s recent success, including players like captain Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. All three of them helped the Canucks reach the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the run has proved just how important it is for NHL teams to protect their top prospects for their future.
The Canucks drafted Vasily Podkolzin with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Since then, Podkolzin has spent two seasons with the SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
The Canucks were fortunate to have the forward drop to 10th overall. Ranked third overall by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, NHL teams skipped on Podkolzin because they would have to wait two seasons for the Russian to join their team (from ‘Canucks Top 10 Prospects: Vasili Podkolzin’s two-way game is nearly NHL-ready,’ The Province, 10/03/2020). At the end of the current KHL season, the organization will have their opportunity to sign and add him to their roster. Although Podkolzin has recently seen a decrease in playing minutes, general manager Jim Benning sees the forward playing a large role in the Canucks’ immediate future.
“We’d like to get Podkolzin signed after his season. He’s a big body guy that takes the puck to the net and can make plays and goes and gets the puck to make plays. I think his game is going to adapt to the NHL game because of the size and strength and hockey sense. He could be a guy that could end up with Pearson and Horvat.”Benning, on Podkolzin
Podkolzin is the perfect candidate to fill in for Tyler Toffoli in the Canucks’ top-six. His two-way style makes him an ideal linemate with Horvat, whose line usually ends up playing against the opposition’s top players. Podkolzin is an untouchable prospect for the Canucks because he has the potential to become one of the club’s top forwards.
The Canucks followed up their first-round pick of Podkolzin with Nils Hoglander in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Hoglander has risen through the ranks and is the second-best prospect the Canucks have behind Podkolzin. He has spent three seasons with Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League, totalling 42 points in 110 games. The Swedish forward is having his best season so far with 12 points in 19 games.
Hoglander has scored multiple highlight-reel goals since being drafted by the Canucks, including a lacrosse goal from the 2020 World Junior Championship.
Hoglander signed a three-year entry-level deal in April but has two more games (Dec. 10 and Dec. 12) before his loan with Rogle BK expires. He is expected to be at the start of the Canucks’ training camp. Similar to Podkolzin, Hoglander could slot into the team’s top-six next season. The Canucks can also use him on the third line, as The Hockey Writers’ Matthew Zator suggests.
Jack Rathbone slots in as the third-best prospect in the Canucks’ pipeline and the top defensive prospect as well. The Canucks stole Rathbone in the fourth round with the 95th overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
Rathbone has posted 53 points in 61 games through two seasons at Harvard University. The American defenceman brings a similar playing style to Hughes.
“Jack is a dynamic player. He has the ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone, brings good offensive instincts and plays with an edge to his game. We are pleased to have Jack join our roster.”Benning, after signing Rathbone.
The Canucks signed Rathbone to a three-year entry-level deal in July 2020. What makes him an untouchable prospect is that he is one of the few mobile prospects the club has on defence. Rathbone should slot in behind Hughes on the second defence pairing, allowing the Canucks to have a great puck-moving group on the blue line. He will be at training camp before this season and will get an opportunity to show if he can play as soon as next season.
Canucks Could See All 3 Untouchable Prospects in 2020-21
The Canucks need players who will help their forward lines and their defence in 2020-21. What makes all three of these prospects untouchable is they can all jump up onto the main roster and help the Canucks next season. Podkolzin and Hoglander will be useful in the top nine, while Rathbone can play on the left side of the second or third pairing next season.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.