The Vancouver Canucks have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL with talent dominating in Sweden, college hockey and the CHL. The future is very bright for the boys in blue and green and the hype is very, very real. Craig Button’s top-50 prospects list is riddled with Canucks.
Perhaps what separates the Canucks prospect pool from the rest of the pack, aside from overall talent, is the diverse styles of play the players are bringing to the table — from pure snipers, to physical forces, they’ve got it all.
It’s time to once again review the class and rank the top-four prospects that the Canucks have to offer in 2018.
1. Elias Pettersson
Elias Pettersson is a Swedish phenom that holds down the number-one spot on this list, along with Craig Button’s aforementioned list. The 19-year-old is as talented as they come and currently lighting up the Swedish Hockey League. In fact, he’s leading the league in scoring and even making history — Pettersson recently eclipsed NHL legend, Peter Forsberg for SHL scoring as a teenager and is now second all-time — 51 points in 42 games.
What makes Pettersson’s accomplishment all that much more impressive, though, is the fact that he missed more than two weeks for the World Junior Championship, where he found the net five times and notched two assists in seven games. The Swedes took home a silver medal, losing to Canada in the final. Pettersson was a stand-out in the tournament and put his high-level talent on display throughout.
We will likely be seeing this young man on the Canucks roster next season and it’s got Canucks fans very fired up. The idea of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson working towards the same cause should be a very intimidating concept for opponents. His talent is an extremely welcomed addition tot he Canucks’ top-six.
“I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter on some media and it’s really excited for me as well that they believe in me and want me to get over there,” Pettersson told Sportsnet 650. “So I’m happy with the situation that they’re excited for me.”
2. Adam Gaudette
Jumping up in the Canucks’ prospect rankings is Adam Gaudette, the Northeastern University Husky — he’s had a truly remarkable season and, despite being drafted late in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL draft, he’s got Canucks fans buzzing about his future in Vancouver. Gaudette plays a very solid and reliable two-way game, armed with one hell of a shot and the ability to be responsible defensively, especially on the penalty kill.
The 21-year-old is leading the NCAA in goals (29) and points (56) and has been nominated for the coveted Hobey Baker Award. On top of his production, Gaudette has displayed leadership qualities that the Canucks are very excited about — back in February, he led the Huskies to their first Beanpot Tournament Championship in 30 years with a hat-trick, earning the MVP of the finals.
“Depending on when his season concludes, he may get a chance to step in an NHL contest or two, but at the very least it is expected he’ll head to Utica and see some ice as the AHL squad attempts to go on a long playoff run.” – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
The Huskies will be competing in the Frozen Four tournament and, depending on how the Huskies do, we might just see Gaudette playing a few games this season — much like Brock Boeser last season. A young, two-way center that can kill penalties is an absolute dream for the Canucks and Gaudette should fit in nicely in a third-line role.
3. Thatcher Demko
Next up is the man between the pipes, Thatcher Demko — a young man poised to become the Canucks’ next great goaltender. Poise is the perfect word to associate with Demko because that’s a huge facet of his game. His calmness and fluidity in the net is something you see in 10-year veterans and at his age, especially being a goalie, it’s incredibly impressive.
“Just remember that you have to have fun. I think guys play their best when they’re relaxed and enjoying themselves, so that’s something that I’m continuing to work on. The more I do it, the better I play.” – Thatcher Demko, NHL.com
The 22-year-old net-minder is currently playing for the Utica Comets and has cemented himself as the number-one goalie with a 19-10-6 record and a .919 SV% (10th in the AHL). His development is on the right track and it’s important to note that goalies do, generally speaking, develop at a slower rate than skaters. With that being said, he’s already showing shades of an NHL elite goaltender and is likely to get some serious NHL consideration in, probably, one-to-two more seasons.
Prior to playing for the Comets, Demko laced up for Boston College and in his final season, he earned a Hobey Baker Award nomination and then went on to win the Mike Richter Award, for being the best goalie in college hockey.
“The AHL can very much eat up young players as is, never mind goaltenders when they first step into it. The way he handled himself was with poise, a real professional approach. He will only take another step.” – Ryan Johnson, Utica Comets General Manager
Young players usually find the leap to the professional level to be very challenging and it can prove to be quite the wake-up call for some, but, Demko is certainly an exception. His ability to fit in almost immediately with the Comets and become one of the league’s top goalies is a clear indication of the young man’s potential. Earning comparisons to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators is nothing to gloss over and Canucks fans are very hopeful that he can make a successful and seamless jump to the NHL, just like he did to the AHL.
4. Kole Lind
Fourth on the docket is the Kelowna Rocket star, Kole Lind. The 19-year-old has had a truly incredible and unforgettable past year-or-so — from being drafted, to dominating the 2017 CIBC Canada/Russia Series and right up to last week when the Canucks locked him in for a three-year deal. I actually had the pleasure of speaking to him about his wild ride this past year.
“I think, you know, just this season in Kelowna. I think there’s obviously been a lot of cool experiences but I don’t think anything really beats being in this city (Kelowna), you know, with the guys everyday.” – Lind, when I asked him what the highlight of his year has been.
With 37 notches and 50 helpers in just 53 games, Lind is on an absolute tear this season for the Rockets. Lind is armed to the teeth with offensive abilities — none more impressive than his pin-point accurate shot. On top of his stellar offensive abilities, he’s also a physical player that knows how to play with an edge and use it to his advantage.
His impressive WHL showing earned him a roster spot on the WHL’s team in the previously mentioned Canada/Russia series, where he put on a clinic and looked to be one of the best players in the tournament. Two months later, however, Lind was snubbed of a World Junior Championship roster spot for Canada in his last year of eligibility and had to watch from home as one of his best friends and linemate, Dillon Dube led the team to a gold medal. It was tough on Lind, but he didn’t let it keep him down.
“I think something that I’ve focused on for a long time is my mental toughness and, you know, my ability to bounce back from things that obviously don’t go your way and just battling through that — not really sulking and pouting about it and instead using that for motivation and that’s kind of what I did and, you know, I tried to prove myself and that I can still do my thing.” – Lind told me, when I asked about how he was able to bounce back.
Lind is looking forward to finishing up this season with the Rockets and is ready to try to crack the Canucks’ roster for the 2018-19 season. If he doesn’t end up making it, he’s more than happy to further his development at the AHL level with the Comets.
Jonathan Dahlen, Michael DiPietro, Olli Juolevi — these guys are obviously great talent too, but I feel they’ve either plateaued in their development (for now) or the players on the list have surpassed them in growth.
That just about does it for this look at the Canucks’ overflowing pool of exciting, young talent. I hope you enjoyed and if you disagree with the order, if you think another player is more deserving of being on the list or even if you think I’m bang on, feel free to let me know in the comments 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.