Canucks’ 2017 Draft Class Best in Benning Era

In the 2017 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks selected eight players. After a poor 2016 Draft class, the club pulled off one of the best drafts in the Jim Benning era. Although only two picks have played in the NHL, the class is pretty promising for the team’s future. 

The Canucks had an additional second-round pick, which originally belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They acquired the pick as compensation for the team hiring former Canucks’ coach John Tortorella.

First Round: Elias Pettersson

The Canucks hit a home run with their first pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. With the fifth overall pick, they selected Elias Pettersson. There were rumblings the club would take the Swedish forward or Cody Glass, and they went with the former and haven’t looked back since. 

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks Elias Pettersson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

After being drafted, Pettersson dominated in his final SHL season with the Vaxjo Lakers. He was named Rookie of the Year, Forward of the Year, and Most Valuable Player. Vaxjo finished as the SHL champions, while Pettersson was named SHL Playoff MVP. 

Once he arrived in the NHL, he continued his dominance, as he scored 28 goals and posted 66 points to win the Calder Trophy. Pettersson hasn’t slowed down as he has 153 points in 165 games. Not only has he proven to be a great pick for the Canucks, but he is arguably the best player from the entire 2017 NHL Draft. Pettersson leads the draft class in goals (65), assists (88), and points. 

Second Round: Kole Lind

The team’s first second-round pick in 2017 came at 33rd overall, and they chose Kole Lind. Since being drafted, Lind has proved to be a promising depth forward who can potentially play on the wing in the top-six as well. 

In the season after being draft, Lind posted 39 goals and 95 points in 58 games with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. Since then, he has spent the last three seasons with the Utica Comets. In the 2018-19 season, he posted five goals and 17 points in 51 games but improved the following season, posting 14 goals and 44 points in 61 games. To continue his progress, he has transitioned to playing centre this season and has looked great. He has five goals and has posted eight points before suffering a facial injury.

Lind was cleared to play by Canucks’ doctors at the start of April and has been assigned to the team’s taxi squad. The team has had to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak, with 17 players on the protocol list. With that said, once the team returns to action, there is a chance to see Lind play with the main club this season.

Second Round: Jonah Gadjovich

The pick the Canucks acquired from the Blue Jackets as compensation for Tortorella was used to select Jonah Gadjovich at 55th overall. After being drafted, Gadjovich scored 25 goals and posted 48 points in 42 games in his final OHL season with the Owen Sound Attack. 

During his time with the Comets, he has shown his goal-scoring ability. In his second season, he scored 13 goals in 38 games, and now in his third season, he leads the team in goals with eight in nine games. He is also a potential bottom-six forward in the team’s future. 

Third Round: Michael DiPietro

The Canucks selected Michael DiPietro with the 64th overall pick in the third round. After being drafted by the team, he spent his last two seasons in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires and Ottawa 67’s. He played his first season with the Comets in the 2019-20 season, posting a .908 save percentage and 2.74 goals-against average. 

Marcus Sorensen, Elias Pettersson, Michael DiPietro
San Jose Sharks’ Marcus Sorensen reaches for the puck in front of Vancouver Canucks goalie Michael DiPietro (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

DiPietro has spent a majority of the 2020-21 season on the Canucks’ taxi squad. The club needs to get another third-string goalie to allow the 21- year-old to continue progressing. DiPietro will likely be a back-up to Thatcher Demko in a few seasons and may be able to challenge for the starting job at some point. 

Fourth Round: Jack Rathbone

The Canucks’ fourth-round pick may have been the biggest steal in recent years for the team. The club selected Jack Rathbone at 95th overall, and he spent two seasons with Harvard University before signing with the Canucks last year. After singing the defenseman, general manager Jim Benning discussed the skills he brings to the table. 

“Jack is a dynamic player. He has the ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone, brings good offensive instincts and plays with an edge to his game. We are pleased to have Jack join our roster.”

Canucks general manager Jim Benning wrote in a press release.

Rathbone joined the Canucks at training camp this season and was placed on the team’s taxi squad. Since he hadn’t played on the main roster, the club decided to send him to Utica. Since joining the Comets, Rathbone has posted one goal and five points in three games. He has been impressive so far this season and should be a part of the Canucks’ d-core next season. 

Fifth Round: Kristoffer Gunnarsson

In the fifth round, Benning and the Canucks selected Kristoffer Gunnarsson with 135th overall pick. At the time of the draft, the defenseman was in his third year of eligibility and was coming off his first season with Frolunda HC of the Sweden Hockey League. 

Through his four seasons in the SHL, he registered two points in 97 games. So it wasn’t a surprise when the Canucks decided against signing the prospect in 2019. Instead, he joined Mora IK, who were relegated to the Allsvenskan from the SHL, and he is no longer a part of the Canucks organization. 

Sixth Round: Petrus Palmu

Next, the Canucks selected Petrus Palmu in the sixth round with the 181st pick. He played three seasons in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack, posting 40 goals and 98 points in his final season. He signed with the Canucks in 2018 and played in Utica in the 2018-19 season, registering an assist in 12 games. Palmu left to play with TPS Turku in the SM-Liiga the following season due to a communication breakdown between the forward and head coach, Trent Cull. 

Since leaving to play in Finland, Palmu hasn’t returned to Utica. He is in the last season of his contract with the Canucks, and only time will tell if the forward will be re-signed. He is playing with Ingolstadt ERC in the DEL this season and has posted five goals and 11 assists through 30 games. 

Seventh Round: Matt Brassard

The final pick for the Canucks in the 2017 NHL Draft came in the seventh round. With the 188th overall pick, the club selected defenseman Matt Brassard. After being drafted, he attended Canucks’ rookie camp but never signed with the club and played out his eligibility in the OHL. He played 14 games in the ECHL before joining the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). He played the remainder of the 2019-20 season with UPEI Panthers.

2017 Draft One of the Best in Team History

The Canucks came away with a franchise player in the 2017 NHL Draft. Although Pettersson is the only player to be a full-time member of the main roster, there is still a lot of promise in the draft. Lind looks to be ready to play on the main roster sometime this season, and Rathbone is a viable option if the team decides to move on from Alex Edler this offseason. Gadjovich is a great bottom-six piece the club will likely use in a few years. 

The last few rounds of the draft, however, are not looking good. Gunnarsson and Brassard are no longer with the organization, and Palmu may be on his way out this offseason. If the club can solve their differences with the forward, the last few rounds will look much better. Also, if most of the players turn out as expected, the 2017 Draft class can be one of the best in franchise history.