Who the hell is Christian Wolanin? That’s a good question, considering most people have never heard the name before. He’s flown under the radar for most of his young career, but he’s exploded this season with the University of North Dakota and according to reports, he might take his chances with NHL free agency. Enter, the Vancouver Canucks.
Wolanin is a very talented offensive defenceman who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL entry draft by the Ottawa Senators, but he could be up for grabs in the not-so-distant future. Here’s the explanation:
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 12, 2018
As stated in the above tweet, there will be a lot of NHL interest in this 22-year-old defender, but, I’m here to make a case for the Canucks.
Let’s get a sense of Wolanin’s background, shall we? For starters, he’s the son of NHL legend, Craig Wolanin — Stanley Cup Champion and former assistant captain with the legendary, late-90’s Colorado Avalanche. Craig’s leadership qualities wore off on his son, who tries to carry his father’s game with him throughout his career.
“I don’t think you need a letter to lead. I don’t have a letter on my jersey but I try to be a leader for this team (UND) whether it be for the young guys on defence or as a voice in the locker room,” Wolanin told NHL.com.“Some of my dad’s old teammates would always tell me what a great leader he was so hopefully my teammates can look at me the same way.”
Unlike his father, Christian likes to contribute more on the offensive front and being on the blue line, that’s a very valuable style for a lot of clubs. However, it is very, very important to note that he played forward for almost his entire career and struggled heavily in the USHL up front for his first season-and-a-half.
Wolanin really established himself as a high-level offensive weapon in the back-half of the 2013-14 USHL season — half way through the season he was moved from the Green Bay Gamblers to the Muskegon Lumberjacks where he was slotted in on defence and finished the season with 21 points in 32 games. The next season, he had the coveted ‘C’ stitched to his sweater and led by example with 14 notches and 27 helpers in 56 games, continuing to tote the blue line.
After that, it was on to college for the Rochester, Missouri product — the North Dakota Fighting Hawks scooped up the still relatively inexperienced offensive d-man and haven’t looked back. His first season with UND wasn’t anything special, mustering up 15 points in 32 games, but he did go on to win the NCAA championship alongside the Vancouver Canucks Brock Boeser. Fast forward two seasons and here we are — Wolanin is shredding the NCAA, leading UND in scoring (34 points in 38 games) and sitting fifth in NCAA defensive scoring.
There’s a strong chance that UND will lose their stud on the back end in the Summer, but for now, he’s very much invested in the program.
“That’s the good thing about college hockey, you’re never really out of it until you go to the tournament,” Wolanin said in early March. “We’re ranked #13 so obviously there are 12 other teams ahead of us but if we can get it to click at the right time and we play the way we know we’re capable of, it’s anybody’s tournament.”
Wolanin and UND have since secured themselves a spot in the all-important Frozen Four and he knows exactly what it takes to secure a victory, so he’ll be expected to lead the troops to, hopefully, their second championship in three years. After that, though, his future is up for grabs.
Wolanin and the Canucks?
Now, how do the Canucks fit into all of this? Well, they’re a great fit for this young, offensive defenseman. The Canucks are looking to add youth and skill throughout their lineup and their defensive portion is no exception — Wolanin would be a perfect fit in the rotation and be a welcomed fixture on a pretty solid power play that is currently quarter-backed by an aging Alex Edler.
Logistically, it also makes sense. The Canucks, pending a few offseason decisions, will have the money necessary to lure in Wolanain and based on the trajectory of the team, he’s likely to see some ice time, compared to a lot of rosters that might not give him the spotlight he needs to shine.
On top of that, the Canucks have a couple of prominent UND alumni, including the aforementioned Boeser and another defender, Troy Stecher, and they could possibly help recruit Wolanin. Stecher and Wolanin could also be a pretty deadly duo on the back-end of the Canucks’ powerplay — two strong skaters who know how to move the puck up ice efficiently and quickly and also chalk up some points.
The pieces are all there, but until the Summer, this is all speculation and nothing is set in stone. One thing is for sure, though, the Ottawa Senators are sweating bullets right now at the thought of missing out on a great prospect that they failed to sign to an entry level contract.
What do you think about Wolanin? Do you think the Canucks are a good fit for him? Is he going somewhere else or nowhere at all? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.