Now that the Vancouver Canucks officially hold the 15th overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft, we can really dive into who they could be targeting in the first round on July 7. They could entertain dealing someone like J.T. Miller or Brock Boeser for a top-10 selection, but for now, they only have one pick until the third round, so they better make this first-rounder count.
Before the clock starts ticking on the draft in July, the Canucks coverage team here at The Hockey Writers will be profiling potential targets at 15th overall. The fun has already started with Denton Mateychuk and Conor Geekie. Next up is our first Swede in Liam Öhgren, part of the tremendous J20 Djurgardens trio that includes Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Noah Östlund.
Liam Öhgren’s Scouting Report
Like most Swedes, Öhgren’s work ethic is what stands out among his various strengths. Along with that, he is a very well-rounded player, capable of impacting the game not only with his offence but his defence as well. Playing primarily on a line with fellow projected first-round picks Lekkerimäki and Östlund, he ripped up the J20 Nationell with 33 goals and 58 points in 30 games and was equally dominant at the U18 World Championship with three goals and nine points in six games, as he helped lead Team Sweden to a gold medal.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Boasting an enviable combination of speed, hands, playmaking and hockey IQ, Öhgren can score goals just as well as he can set them up. His shot is also very underrated as Peter Baracchini pointed out in the Swedish deep dive episode of The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner. Ranked all over the place from 39th by McKeen’s to 16th by Elite Prospects, he is somewhat of a polarizing prospect. It might have something to do with his production at the senior level in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) where he only had two points in 25 games. He seems to be able to dominate against his peers but not against stronger and more mature competition. However, that shouldn’t deter teams from drafting him, including the Canucks, as the production at higher levels will come in time.
The complete package Öhgren possesses should be too good to pass up, especially for a team like the Canucks. Swedish general manager Patrik Allvin and long-time scout Thomas Gradin have probably seen a ton of video and live look-ins of Öhgren, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is already on their radar. Not to mention Lekkerimäki, Östlund and defenceman Calle Odelius (maybe not at 15th) for that matter, who all should be available by the time they step up to the podium.
Öhgren’s Fit on the Canucks
Now that Elias Pettersson, Nils Hoglander and Vasily Podkolzin are full-time NHLers, the Canucks could use a player of Öhgren’s ceiling in their system. While some scouts hesitate to call him a potential first-line winger, his skill set lends itself to becoming, at the very least, a solid two-way bottom-six winger who can generate 30-40 points a season. That’s a very conservative projection though, as I believe he could develop into a top-six winger in his prime with a ceiling of 70-plus points. Just look at these hands and tell me he doesn’t have the potential to do that.
The Canucks have done well with drafting Swedes in the past, so if they do indeed select Öhgren, I have no doubt that he will succeed under the watchful eye of Gradin and the Sedins in the front office. Given his work ethic, speed and mature two-way game, he has everything he needs to succeed in the modern NHL that is based on pace and puck possession. Even if he doesn’t hit first-line status, he will still be someone that can contribute in the middle-six with how smart he is in all zones on the ice.
All in all, I don’t think Canucks fans will be disappointed if Öhgren is the one the franchise walks away with once the first round comes to a close in July. Especially if he can gain chemistry with Pettersson on the top line and become what Mitch Marner is to Auston Matthews in Toronto, an elite playmaking winger that can set him up for 40-plus goals a season. Now wouldn’t that be a great encore to the previous dynamic duo of the Sedin twins?
Canucks’ Forward Group is Thin Beyond Klimovich & McDonough
It’s been said time and time again, but the Canucks lack talent in their forward group beyond Danila Klimovich and Aidan McDonough. While both of them might make it to the NHL one day, they are far from sure things. That means Allvin and his re-structured scouting department need to find some elite talent to add to the organization, not only from the 2022 Draft but from future ones – especially 2023 – as well.
With the previous regime repeatedly striking out in the first round (Jake Virtanen and Olli Juolevi, just to name a couple), Allvin and his staff need to right the ship and start building the Canucks forward prospect group back to the level when it had Pettersson, Boeser and Bo Horvat knocking on the door. That’s easier said than done, but drafting a player like Öhgren would be a great start to the next era of Swedes joining the blue and green and by extension the next core to succeed the current one led by Pettersson.