The Vancouver Canucks enter the 2023 NHL Entry Draft holding the 11th overall selection. Historically, this pick has produced some strong NHL talent, including Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Gabriel Vilardi and Lawson Crouse.
The hope is whoever Vancouver selects can become an impact player for the foreseeable future, with one of those possibilities being Brandon Wheat Kings center Nate Danielson.
Danielson’s Scouting Report
Danielson is the type of prospect that any team would be lucky to add to their organization. He is an intelligent two-way center that can make an impact at both ends of the ice. When the puck is in his own zone, he reads and reacts to the play and is able to break up passes thanks to his stick placement and body position. He was also a major part of the Wheat Kings’ penalty kill that finished with the third-best road kill rate in the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season. A player that ensures his defensive responsibilities are finished before he jumps in the transition game, he has developed into one of the best shutdown centers available in this year’s draft.
In the offensive zone, Danielson is a very patient player, often looking for open teammates as he sets up along the wall. He isn’t a player that is going to make a high-danger cross-ice pass but rather one that will pass the puck back to the point so the rest of the offence can reset. He also demonstrated how strong of a forechecker he is as he would break up the opposition’s transition attempts out of the zone and then use his strong puckhandling and skating skills to cut to the net and create a scoring chance. Despite not having the most talented team surrounding him, as Brandon did miss the playoffs this season, the Wheat Kings co-captain led the team with 33 goals and 78 points, showing just how dangerous he can be in the offensive zone.
As the season went on, Danielson continued to get better as he did everything in his power to keep Brandon in the WHL playoff race. While, as mentioned, he did not get the chance to participate in the postseason, his hard work didn’t go unnoticed as he jumped from 13th to seventh on the NHL Central Scouting’s North American Skaters list from the midterm point to the final rankings. A prospect that can virtually do it all and has a proven track record of success on special teams, he would be an excellent selection by the Canucks at 11 in this year’s draft.
Why the Canucks Should Be Interested
The Canucks should consider drafting Danielson because the way he plays matches the play style head coach Rick Tocchett is looking for in his players. He is a physical forward who is great along the wall, understands where he needs to be positionally, and is reliable at both ends of the ice. While there may be players with higher ceilings available at 11, where he is development-wise currently shows the Canucks would be getting a player who has the potential to be a solid NHLer for a long time.
Related: Nate Danielson – 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile
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Vancouver should also be interested in Danielson because they do not have any high-end right-handed centers in their prospect pool or on their team. Yes, Linus Karlsson has a lot of potential, but he is already 23 and hasn’t played an NHL game yet. Outside of him, the only intriguing prospect is Connor Lockhart, but he is only 20 and has a lot of development left before he becomes a consideration at the NHL level. While the Canucks do need to improve their organizational depth on the blue line, building up their right-handed center depth with high-end prospects seems like the better use of the 11th overall selection.
Why the Canucks May Stay Away
The main reason Vancouver would pass on Danielson if he is available is that they want to improve their right-shot defensive depth. Both David Reinbacher and Axel Sandin Pellikka project to play big minutes at the NHL level and would instantly vault to near the top of the Canucks prospect pool rankings if selected. Vancouver is also desperate to find a long-term partner for Quinn Hughes on the back end and may be envisioning one of these two prospects for the highly coveted role.
There is also the possibility Vancouver picks another forward even if he is available because other prospects have higher ceilings when it comes to potential. While Danielson may be one of the most complete players in the draft, there is a possibility he develops into a third-line center at the NHL level. There are going to be some extremely talented offensive players available at 11, which could make the decision very difficult for the Canucks.
Based on the prospects projected to be available at 11th overall, Danielson makes the most sense from a Canucks perspective. He is also considered very close to NHL-ready, meaning if developed properly, could be in the lineup sooner rather than later. As mentioned, he fits the type of style Vancouver wants to play and is the calibre of player that rarely is available outside of the top ten.