Going into the 2021 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks appeared to be in the position to select someone in the first round for the first time since 2019. Unfortunately, they never made the pick as then-general manager (GM) Jim Benning pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, a 2022 second-round pick and the 9th overall pick in 2021 to the Arizona Coyotes for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland. The Coyotes then went and selected Western Hockey League (WHL) superstar Dylan Guenther.
Now, barring another ill-advised trade involving their first-round pick, new GM Patrik Allvin will be making his first selection as a member of the Canucks front office later today (July 7) in Montreal. With his newly-established team of executives comprised of Émilie Castonguay, Cammi Granato, and Derek Clancey along with his player development squad of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson and Mike Komisarek, he will venture out and make his picks which include:
- No. 15
- No. 80
- No. 112
- No. 144
- No. 176
- No. 208
So what will the Canucks do at this year’s draft in Montreal? Let’s look at the 2022 Draft class, Vancouver’s draft slots and more to find out.
Canucks’ Prospect Pool
As I mentioned off the top, the Canucks have not drafted anyone in the first round since 2019 when Vasily Podkolzin was selected 10th overall. He is now a full-time NHLer and they still have no other blue-chip talent to speak of since then. Trades that brought J.T. Miller (that one worked out), and Ekman-Larsson/Garland (still waiting on that one), have arguably helped the team compete, but still have produced only one playoff appearance, and that was a weird one during the pandemic. If they hope to build a life beyond Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, they need to start adding more to their prospect pool.
Without a first-rounder last year, the Canucks added Belarusian 2021 U18 standout Danila Klimovich in the second round ahead of 2022 WHL Player of the Year Logan Stankoven, which in hindsight looks really bad. Klimovich may have had a decent stint in the American Hockey League (AHL), but he was no Stankoven who recorded 45 goals and 104 points with the Kamloops Blazers.
Beyond that, Benning and company proceeded to select five more players including Aku Koskenvuo (137th), Jonathan Myrenberg (140th), Hugo Gabrielson (169th), Connor Lockhart (178th) and Lucas Forsell (201st). To their credit, all but one (Gabrielson) had standout seasons in their respective leagues with Myrenberg, Lockhart and Forsell finishing with career years. However, they are not sure-fire prospects to make a difference in the NHL.
When you look at the top-10 prospects in the system going into the 2022 Draft, it lacks a lot of things. As it stands right now, Jack Rathbone, who was a fourth-round pick, is the Canucks’ top prospect. In fact, there is only one (Klimovich) who was drafted in the second round or earlier. You don’t have to be a prospect expert to know that’s not good.
Basically, the Canucks’ biggest needs in the pipeline are quality right-handed defencemen (or defence in general), potential top-nine centers and more skill throughout. In other words, everything they can get their hands on. In fact, it would be good if they could acquire more picks in the top 96, well at the very least, a second-round pick – which they don’t have at the moment. So, who could they select? Let’s take a look.
Canucks’ Options at No. 15
As my colleague Tony Wolak usually does for the Detroit Red Wings in his draft previews, we’ll focus on prospects who could be available at No. 15. Some could be chosen ahead of Vancouver’s spot, although that is currently up in the air, especially with a class as unpredictable as this one has turned out to be.
Adam Kierszenblat and I have been releasing draft target pieces for the Canucks over the last month or so. Here is how I would rank the players projected to be available around 15 based on their potential and fit within the organization.
- C Jonathan Lekkerimaki
- LW Liam Ohgren
- C Marco Kasper
- C/LW Frank Nazar
- LD Denton Mateychuk
- RD Ryan Chesley
- LW Brad Lambert
- C Noah Ostlund
- LD Owen Pickering
- C Conor Geekie
Some of these players might not be available when the Canucks pick at 15, especially Kasper, who appears to be rising up the draft boards including Corey Pronman’s, who put him eighth overall in his latest mock draft over at The Athletic (from ‘2022 NHL Mock Draft: Juraj Slafkovsky goes No. 1 in Corey Pronman’s final mock of the season’, The Athletic, 7/6/22).
If you look at a lot of mock drafts and rankings, you see a plethora of players being projected to go 15th to the Canucks. It’s a crazy time of year, so we really don’t know who they are targeting. Although, given the rumors around Vancouver, it seems the Swedes from Djurgardens, Ohgren, Ostlund and Lekkerimaki are generating the most buzz. This is really no surprise given who is running the front office and the voices involved in player development.
As for who represents the best fit and overall ceiling of those three, it’s clearly Lekkerimaki. However, he likely will be gone before the Canucks are on the clock at 15. After him, it has to be Liam Ohgren, who plays a very mature game for his age and can do it all from scoring goals to setting them up. He also has tremendous hockey IQ and vision, similar to Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Prospects to Target in the Third Round
Moving into the third round, the Canucks should choose the next-best player available according to their needs of centermen and defencemen who can play the right side. Although, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take a swing on wingers with skill or left-side defence if they have a higher ceiling than their counterparts on the right side. Here are just a few targets they should be looking at with their 80th overall pick:
- RD Christian Kyrou
- RD Noah Warren
- LD Simon Forsmark
- C Bryce McConnell-Barker
- LW Reid Schaefer
- C Nicholas Moldenhauer
- C Adam Ingram
- RD Kasper Kulonummi
- C Aleksanteri Kaskimaki
- C Logan Morrison
Allvin mentioned in his media availability on Wednesday that the Canucks are not focusing on a particular position, and that they have to hit on picks outside the first round. That means, if they don’t acquire a second-round pick, this is where the magic will have to happen.
Out of the four blueliners listed above, I want to focus on Kyrou and Warren, two right-handed options that may or may not be available when the 80th pick is on the clock. Both offer different things as Kyrou is a creative offensive defenceman while Warren plays a very responsible two-way game that could pair well with Hughes in the future. I put Kyrou first because of the mobility and potential for offence, which the Canucks need a lot more of from their defence moving forward.
As for the forwards, let’s hone in on centerman Bryce McConnell-Barker. Now, depending on how the second round shakes out, he might be gone when the middle of the third round comes up. But, considering he is ranked by some to go around the 80th selection, he should be a target of the Canucks.
McConnell-Barker possesses a lot of attributes that will make him a good middle-six center one day. From his work ethic and competitive spirit to his hockey IQ and all-around awareness, he might turn out to be the third-line center fans have been waiting for since Manny Malhotra donned the blue and green.
Canucks Targets for the Fourth Round & Beyond
As the draft starts to enter the fourth round and beyond, darts start being thrown by GMs as they hope to hit a bulls-eye on at least one of their later-round picks. The Canucks have gotten lucky here in the past, but that doesn’t mean anything now since we don’t have any draft history to draw upon with this new group running the front office. You can probably bet on a few Europeans (particularly Swedes) though. So, with that said, here is my board for the rest of the draft.
- C Kocha Delic
- RD Zach Bookman
- RW Marek Hejduk
- RD Ludvig Jansson
- C/RW Ben King
- RW Ludwig Persson
- C Fraser Minten
- RD David Spacek
- RD Jack Sparkes
- RW James Hardie
Here, I want to focus on blue-collar center Kocha Delic and point-machine Zach Bookman. First, Delic, who fought tooth and nail to play hockey last season that he traveled halfway across the world to find opportunities in Europe, only to have the pandemic get in the way every time. A postseason player if there ever was one, his work ethic, motor and sound defensive game should be on the radar of the Canucks when they get down to the fourth round. As I said in his prospect profile, he will be a key player for a Stanley Cup champion one day.
Then there’s Bookman, who absolutely ripped through the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) with the Brooks Bandits recording a mind-blowing 21 goals and 102 points in 55 games – as a defenceman. His skating and offensive instincts alone should get the blood pumping for a team looking for more speed and skill in their pipeline, not to mention defenders that can play the right side.
2022 Draft Will Signal the Direction for Drafts to Come
As I mentioned earlier, fans and experts don’t know what direction the Canucks will take with their draft strategy…yet. Once the draft comes to a close with the 225th pick on July 8, everyone will have a better idea of player preferences, countries the new front office likes, and more, as the first draft under Allvin and his staff will be in the history books.
Related: THW’s FREE 2022 NHL Draft Guide
So, sit down and grab some popcorn and your favourite beverage Canucks Nation, it should be a fun and interesting ride as the 2022 Draft is now only a few hours away.
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.