With no first-round picks during the last two NHL Drafts, the Vancouver Canucks’ prospect pool is getting very shallow. If they don’t find a way to fill it up soon, they will be scraping the bottom of the barrel in no time. The Carolina Hurricanes, who boast arguably the top farm system in the NHL, has an astonishing 10 prospects at the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC). The Canucks have only one in Dmitri Zlodeyev, the Russian 19-year-old that was drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 Draft. No disrespect to him, but having just one prospect representing your franchise at arguably the world’s top showcase of young talent isn’t the best look. It’s even worse when that one prospect isn’t even a first-round pick.
Since having the likes of Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Thatcher Demko, Nils Hoglander and Brock Boeser at the World Juniors, fans have had little to look forward to when Dec. 26 has rolled around the last few years. From having four players in 2020 to two in 2021 and now only one in 2022, the WJC isn’t what it used to be when it comes to cheering on Canucks prospects. Zlodeyev is an intriguing prospect, but given the talent level on Team Russia, he likely won’t get a lot of ice time except for maybe on the penalty kill. In other words, it’s going to be tough for him to get noticed when he’s only playing 10 minutes a night.
Zlodeyev Will Attempt To Do His Best Costmar Impression
Last year, the Canucks had a seventh-round pick in Arvid Costmar surprise the hockey world and score two goals in five games for Team Sweden. He was noticeable in every game and ended up being named as one of Sweden’s top-three players of the tournament when they were eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals. He played on both special teams and was even tasked to win key faceoffs in the defensive zone on both the penalty kill and at the end of the game. His work ethic and battle level were praised by his head coach Tomas Monten as fans caught a glimpse of what he could bring to the Canucks one day.
Could Zlodeyev do the same thing for Team Russia? It’s unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility. He’s a similar player to Costmar, but with a lot more offensive talent. When he was drafted by the Canucks in 2020, Craig Button, one of the most respected analysts in hockey, praised his hockey sense and called him a “solid player who is capable of having a long NHL career.” Like Costmar, he also has a strong work ethic and can win clutch faceoffs when needed.
If Zlodeyev is given a fair amount of ice time with skilled linemates, he is definitely capable of making a name for himself at this year’s WJC. I wasn’t impressed with what I saw in the first and only exhibition game against Canada, but that’s not saying much since he didn’t get a lot of ice time from head coach Sergei Zubov. Here’s hoping he gets into a groove at some point and further solidifies his status as a top prospect for the Canucks after this tournament is over.
Zlodeyev Will Not Headline the Russian Attack, But He Will Help Lead Them
On a team headlined by 17-year-old Matvei Michkov (who had two goals against Canada on Thursday), Zlodeyev will not be the reason people are watching Russia at this year’s WJC. Though, that doesn’t mean he won’t be a factor in their lineup. He may not score a lot of goals and record a lot of points, but he will help in the leadership department. Before the pre-tournament games got underway on Thursday, he was chosen as one of the alternate captains along with Shakir Mukhamadullin, Nikita Chibrikov, Kirill Kirsanov, and Ivan Zinchenko.
This isn’t the first time Zlodeyev has been given an “A” on his jersey. He was an alternate captain for his MHL team, MHK Dynamo Moskva, during the 2019-20 season when he put up a career-high 12 goals and 28 points in 42 games. That campaign also turned out to be his draft year and probably one of the reasons why the Canucks selected him in the first place. So, even though he won’t be a headliner offensively, his team will rely on his leadership throughout his tournament. At the end of the day, it’s those intangibles that win championships, not just goals and points.
Canucks Prospects That Missed the Cut
Joni Jurmo was in the running for a spot on Team Finland’s roster, but ultimately missed the cut when they announced their final lineup on Dec. 8. He was having a solid season with Jukurit in the Finnish Liiga where he had seven points in 26 games. The only red flag was his ice time, as he went from averaging over 20 minutes a night early in the season to between 13 and 15 over the last 17 games. He was also below 10 minutes four times, including only 4:14 in his last game on Dec. 8 against Assat.
Playing on one of the best teams in the country in the Michigan Wolverines, fifth-round pick Jacob Truscott must have caught the eye of someone at USA Hockey. As the only prospect on the preliminary roster drafted later than the third round, he was listed amongst names like Luke Hughes (fourth-overall in 2021) and Jake Sanderson (fifth-overall in 2020). That alone is impressive.
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Truscott is getting the best education at Michigan, not only off the ice but on the ice as well. Not only does he play regular minutes with an elite prospect like Hughes, but he also gets to share the ice with Matty Beniers, Owen Power, Kent Johnson, Mackie Samoskevich, Tomas Bordeleau and Brendan Brisson. Talk about a who’s who of potential NHL stardom.
Truscott’s production may be a product of playing with those stars, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he has already eclipsed his totals from last season and is rocking a very solid plus-16 in the plus/minus column. What’s even more impressive is that he’s finished a game with a minus only once this season so far. With his mobility and hockey sense, he could turn out to be a steal like Jack Rathbone one day.
Canucks Top Prospects Need To Be Showcased at the 2023 & 2024 World Juniors
With how many impact NHLers that could come out of the 2022 and 2023 Drafts, the Canucks need to start stockpiling first and second-round picks. They haven’t had one since Vasily Podkolzin in 2019 and their farm system is starting to show significant cracks in its foundation. Danila Klimovich is slated to be their top prospect at the 2023 WJC, and he could turn out to be the only one. That can’t be allowed to happen. President Jim Rutherford and his yet-to-be-named general manager have to right the ship when it comes to the farm system and prospect pipeline.
The Canucks need to get back to the days of having blue-chip prospects at the WJC every single year. The journey to meeting that goal starts with the 2022 Draft in June. It remains to be seen where they will select, but with how deep the first and second rounds are, they are sure to have their pick of the litter no matter where they end up. With a solid couple of days at the draft, they could have a few prospects vying for spots next year. Canucks Nation wants to be excited to watch the WJC again. It’s time for management to deliver the goods.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.