The Vancouver Canucks entered the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery with the ninth overall pick and left with exactly what they came in with. The last time they chose ninth was back in 2013 when they selected current captain Bo Horvat after they traded backup goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.
Coming into the lottery, the Canucks held a 5.4 percent chance of winning the first-overall selection. After making it to the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and nearly knocking off the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games, they will be selecting in the top ten for the fifth time in the last seven years. Over those five drafts, they have Vasily Podkolzin (2020 – 10th overall), Quinn Hughes (2018 – 7th overall), Elias Pettersson (2017 – 5th overall), Olli Juolevi (2016 – 5th overall), and Jake Virtanen (2014 – 6th overall) to show for it.
Canucks Have a Strong History at 9th Overall
Over the 51 drafts the Canucks have been a part of, they have selected ninth three times with Bo Horvat (2013), Cam Neely (1983), and Bob Dailey (1973) taking center stage as the picks. Of the three, Horvat is the only player that has had significant success with the Canucks. Although, if you look at NHL careers, Neely is hands down the most successful player they have ever drafted.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
As a trio, they have 628 goals and 1,333 points in 1,287 games with Neely leading the way with a Hall of Fame career and 694 points in 726 games overall. If that’s not a strong history, I don’t know what is.
Canucks Have Plenty of Options Despite Not Winning the Lottery
Despite the Canucks’ continued bad luck with the lottery, they will still get the opportunity to add yet another blue-chip prospect to their pipeline. With the top ten full of elite potential, fans should still be excited to watch the 2021 NHL Draft, as there is plenty of talent to be had around ninth overall.
So, who will become the Canucks’ 50th first-round pick? To give you some idea, let’s take a look at some of the rankings from across the NHL Draft and prospect community.
- Matthew Zator (THW) – C Kent Johnson
- Andrew Forbes (THW) – G Jesper Wallstedt
- Peter Baracchini (THW) – G Jesper Wallstedt
- Josh Bell (Sporting News) – C Kent Johnson
- Bob McKenzie (TSN) – C Chaz Lucius
- Corey Pronman (The Athletic) – RW Nikita Chibrikov (from ‘2021 NHL Draft prospect ranking: Dylan Guenther rises in Corey Pronman’s updated ranking’ – The Athletic – 3/29/21)
- Sam Cosentino (Sportsnet) – C Mason McTavish
- Mike Morreale (NHL.com) – C Chaz Lucius
- McKeen’s Top 32 (April Ranking) – RW Fabian Lysell
- Smaht Scouting Top 32 (Winter Ranking) – C Aatu Raty
If you go by the ten rankings above, it appears the Canucks will be going for a center, as all but four sources chose a pivot to go ninth overall. Of the four centermen listed, I am most intrigued by Kent Johnson as he’s a great skater with a penchant for playmaking and appearing on the highlight reel. He’s also versatile enough to play the wing and both special teams along with being an excellent two-way player. Oh, yes, he’s also from nearby North Vancouver.
With the puck on his stick, Johnson is a very dangerous player. He is a very good skater and can pick up speed in the neutral zone and attack open lanes with ease…Johnson is also responsible on the defensive side of the puck as well. He hustles back to help put his defenders when the puck transitions the other way and has good defensive positioning.Matthew Sheridan – The Hockey Writers
Dynamic Swede Fabian Lysell also made an appearance on that list, which would be a major coup for the Canucks if he was still available at nine. Similar to current star Elias Pettersson, he is a highly skilled and creative forward with a bright future in the NHL.
Lysell is an offensive dynamo with excellent awareness and the ability to hurt you offensively. His greatest asset lies in his skating abilities as he has a very smooth stride and quick movements when navigating the ice. He has great speed to evade and blow by the opposition and moves the play very quickly when the puck is on his stick. He has great balance and edges that allows him to maneuver easily in difficult situations.Peter Baracchini – The Hockey Writers
Be it Lysell, Johnson, McTavish, Lucius, or even former first-overall favourite Aatu Raty, the Canucks will be adding some significant skill to an already strong prospect pool. In the end, everyone should be walking away happy once the dust settles on July 23rd.
Canucks Need More Talent Down the Middle
The 2021 NHL Draft will be full of uncertainty. While there is some consensus at the top of the draft with a group of franchise defencemen dotting the top five, there will definitely be some surprises before everything is said and done. The Canucks could do with an elite defenceman or two, but I believe there is a glaring need at center ice, especially after Horvat.
The Canucks do not have a budding star down the middle, that’s just the truth. If they get the opportunity to add a player like Johnson, Lucius, or McTavish, they should take it. Although, it’s going to be very difficult to pass up Lysell if he’s available too. In the end, this year’s draft will be very interesting to watch, not just from a Canucks’ standpoint, but the NHL as a whole. All I have to say is, strap in and enjoy the ride!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.