The Vancouver Canucks currently own the 79th selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, but this exact pick has actually been traded on three separate occasions. First, it went to Vegas for Nate Schmidt. Then Vegas sent it to Ottawa in the Evgeni Dadonov trade before making its way back to Vancouver from Ottawa in exchange for Travis Hamonic.
Historically, the 79th selection has produced some strong NHL talent. From Cody Franson to Brayden Point, there have been 13 players in NHL history to play over 100 games after being picked 79th overall. Here are three players that the Cancuks should be eyeing with the pick.
Kirill Dolzhenkov — Left Wing
NHL Central Scouting: 22nd (EU Skaters)
One area of concern for Canuck fans when it comes to the team is players who have great size and know how to use their stature to their advantage. Well, let us introduce 6-foot-6, 236-pound Russian winger Kirill Dolzhenkov. This season, with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of the MHL in Russia, he scored 14 goals and registered 28 points in 33 games. He also found some success in the playoffs, registering eight points in 19 games and helping Krasnaya Armiya Moskva make it to the league finals.
Where Dolzhenkov thrives is his ability to use his size not just to protect the puck but also to get the puck off the opponent. He has a long reach that allows him to knock the puck off his opponents, and his physical stature makes it very difficult for the opposition to get the puck off him. He dominates the board battles and has a strong shot that can handcuff goaltenders. He also has strong offensive awareness and knows where to get to in the offensive zone to create chances. Lastly, he is not the fastest player out there but has decent speed and acceleration for his size. The Canucks should be looking to add grit this offseason, and the big Russian may be the way to go.
Fabian Wagner — Center/Right Wing
NHL Central Scouting: 27th (EU Skaters)
Fabian Wagner is a two-way winger who can play center that registered 38 points in 43 games for Linköping HC J20 of the J20 Nationell league in Sweden. Alongside Canucks 2021 fifth-round draft pick Jonathan Myrenberg, he helped Linköping HC J20 to Gold in the J20 Nationell league. He was also part of Sweden’s Gold Medal-winning team at the U-18s this past year.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Outside of his playmaking, there are a few things that stand out when it comes to Wagner. First is his speed and acceleration. He can blow by defenders on the forecheck and can move the puck up ice in a timely manner. The other is his shot. While he does not shoot the puck as much as one would hope, he has an accurate shot and can pick corners on goaltenders. He is a project piece as there are aspects of his overall game that need he needs to improve, but he could turn into a draft-day steal if put in the right development program.
Jordan Gustafson — Center
NHL Central Scouting: 43rd (NA Skaters)
Jordan Gustafson is a special talent out of the Seattle Thunderbirds program in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 58 games this season, he registered 23 goals and 52 points on a stacked Thunderbirds team currently playing in the WHL’s Western Conference Final. During the first 14 games of the 2022 WHL playoffs, he had 12 points along with a 52.6% faceoff win percentage.
One aspect of Gustafson’s game that doesn’t get discussed enough is his penalty-killing ability. He currently plays on the top penalty kill for Seattle and has shown he belongs, whether it is winning board battles or blocking shots. Most importantly, he knows how to clear the puck out of the zone with precision and doesn’t blow the zone early, causing odd-man rushes the other way.
Overall, he is a consistent two-way player with high offensive upside who doesn’t make many mistakes. He is the perfect project player that could develop into a strong two-way forward at the NHL level.
Plenty of Options at 79
The Canucks are in a good spot at 79. There are plenty of prospects, including the three mentioned, that will be available if and when Vancouver makes their third-round selection. The Canucks have had some third-round luck in their history, including Alex Edler, Peter Schaefer, and of course, fan favourite Stan Smyl. With the new management group in place, fans should feel at ease knowing whoever they select will be best for the team moving forward.
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Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.