Canucks 2022 NHL Draft Target: Denton Mateychuk

Now that the Vancouver Canucks have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time to look ahead to the 2022 NHL Draft which takes place in just a couple of months on July 7 (first round) and July 8 (rounds 2-7). Barring a dramatic lottery jump, they will most likely choose 15th (depending on where they finish) which has produced players like Erik Karlsson, Al MacInnis, Ryan Pulock and Erik Brannstrom in the past.

Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide

I am picking out the defencemen because that’s the biggest need in the pipeline right now. It also happens to be the position of my first 2022 NHL Draft target for the Canucks, Moose Jaw Warriors rising star, Denton Mateychuk.

Denton Mateychuk’s Scouting Report

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mateychuk has all the tools to be a top-pairing defenceman in his prime. Now I know what people are going to say, “yes, but he’s not a right-shot!”. While the Canucks desperately need more of this attribute in their organization, if he is still on the board when they are selecting at 15th overall, they have to pick him. His potential is just that good. Ranked all over the place from as low as 29th by Bob McKenzie to as high as 8th by Elite Prospects, he could be available when they step up to the podium on July 7. In this case, I hope that I’m wrong and that he falls to 15th instead of where I have him ranked at 10th in my latest rankings.

Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Zator’s Top 96 April Rankings

Starring for the Warriors in the Western Hockey League (WHL), Mateychuk lit up the competition this season to the tune of 13 goals and 64 points in 65 games, which was good for fifth among defencemen behind Kevin Korchinski (more on him in a future target profile), Chad Nychuk, Clay Hanus and Olen Zellweger. Combined with his mobility, vision and intelligence from the point, he’s everything you want in an NHL defender, especially in the modern game which is based on speed and skill.

Like Sean Raggio said in a recent THW prospect profile, “He’s quick and eager to join the rush, and isn’t a stranger to carrying the puck over the blue line. He has the ability to carry the puck into the zone and establish control for his team. He doesn’t shy away from heading into dangerous areas, and has the vision and creativity to make a play and move the puck into those areas to open teammates, or get a shot on goal.”

Denton Mateychuk Moose Jaw Warriors
Denton Mateychuk, Moose Jaw Warriors (Nick Pettigrew / Moose Jaw Warriors)

Mateychuk also boasts some of the best playmaking and passing skills of the defencemen in this draft class. As described by SMAHT Scouting’s Austin Garrett, who exclaimed, “If one were to make a highlight video of Mateychuk it would almost certainly be riddled with “how did he even see that guy!?!?” passes. His passing vision and creativity is at an elite level, especially in his controlled entries and exits. He is able to identify passing lanes at an elite level, and is able to manipulate defenders with his skill to open up passing lanes himself.” Now isn’t that something the Canucks need more of in their defence corps?

I have often stated that the Canucks need more Quinn Hughes‘ in their lineup. While Mateychuk isn’t Hughes in his skating, edges and shiftiness, he does possess the elite passing and ability to lead the rush and enter the zone with control. How many times have we seen Hughes do this? Beat the forecheck with a precise pass or skate it into the offensive end without much effort at all. Mateychuk has those attributes too, which is one of the many reasons we will be seeing him lead an NHL blue line one day.

A lot of people point to his size (5-foot-11) as being a reason not to select him, but I disagree. Examples: Hughes and Cale Makar, two of the top point-getters and defencemen in the NHL right now. I think that’s all that needs to be said on that point.

Mateychuk’s Fit on the Canucks

With the Canucks’ future on defence filled with uncertainty and hopefuls in Jett Woo and late-round picks Jonathan Myrenberg, Hugo Gabrielsson, Joni Jurmo and Toni Utunen, they need to add another blue-chip defenceman to their pipeline at some point. Jack Rathbone is probably the only sure thing they have right now and he was also a late-round pick. With the season he is having in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Abbotsford Canucks (10 goals, 40 points in 37 games), the pressure will be on to hit that top-four potential in the NHL.

Jack Rathbone, Vancouver Canucks
Jack Rathbone, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even if Rathbone hits his ceiling, he’s only one man. Top prospect pools have at least four or five of these coming up (see Los Angeles Kings), so adding a player like Mateychuk would go a long way in shoring that particular weakness up. After two straight years out of the first round, they need to get this one right, and he would definitely be a good start.

If Mateychuk was selected by the Canucks, he would slot in as their top prospect above Aidan McDonough and Danila Klimovich. Why? His ceiling. Projected as a high-end offensive defenceman that has the capability of becoming an elite two-way defender in his prime, he could be the most exciting defender to come into their system since Hughes in 2018.

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No, Mateychuk does not fall under the “right-shot” column, but that shouldn’t matter. Some of the best teams in the NHL have star defenders on different pairings driving the collective bus on defence. With the amount of offensive skill the Canucks have up front right now and heading into the future, they need defenders like Hughes and Mateychuk to maximize their success. So to answer the question of fit, the latter would fit like a glove.

Canucks Need To Add More Blue-Chip Prospects, Regardless of Position

This fact has been beaten to death over the last few months, but it’s worth mentioning again, that the Canucks have not had a selection in the first round since they chose Vasily Podkolzin in 2019. Yes, they got soon-to-be 100-point man J.T. Miller for one of those picks and sparkplug Conor Garland for the other, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they lack blue-chip prospects in their system right now. Missing out on guys like Dylan Guenther was a high price to pay for what could only become short-term success.

Vasily Podkolzin Vancouver Canucks
Vasily Podkolzin is still the last player the Vancouver Canucks selected in the first round, and that was back in 2019 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Considering the Canucks have a new regime in place, this year’s first-round pick should become their first blue-chipper in three years. Unfortunately for them, that’s only one in a cupboard that will take a long time to replenish. That said, you have to start somewhere, and selecting a defenceman like Mateychuk would be a massive first step in doing that.

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