There’s speculation that the Vancouver Canucks will try to acquire more draft picks before the June 26th NHL Draft, as, apart from their first round pick (23rd overall), they won’t select again until the fourth round (114th overall). Certainly, the Canucks will need to use their first round pick to add to their blue line. This year’s draft offers a great opportunity for Vancouver to do just that, since there are lots of defense prospects to pick from. Here’s four defensemen that would be a great fit (and should still be available) for the Canucks’ first round selection.
Jakub Zboril – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Jakub Zboril is likely the Canucks’ most fitting draft option, as I explained in The Hockey Writers mock draft. The rookie Zboril led all Sea Dogs defensemen with 13 goals and posted 33 points in 44 games, including 10 powerplay goals and 73 penalty minutes. Zboril has an offensive upside to his game, as he reads the game well and has great hockey sense. He takes care of his own end, proving to be a responsible player and plays with an edge. The 18 year-old Czech Republic native is effective in all zones of the ice and has a very well-rounded game.
Zboril has ranked as high as 12th in final scouting reports heading into the NHL draft, but may slip down and end up being a steal of a pick for Vancouver. He’s an asset that the Canucks are lacking in their pool of prospects, and could be an ace on the team’s blue line down the road.
Thomas Chabot – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
If the Canucks are unable to land Zboril, they can keep picking from the Saint John Sea Dogs’ defensemen. Thomas Chabot had 12 goals and 29 assists in 66 games this season, leading all Sea Dogs blueliners with 41 points. He nearly doubled his output from a 22 point rookie season and improved from a minus-29 rating to a plus-6.
Once considered only an offensive defensemen, Chabot has done a good job of rounding out his game this year and has become a more reliable two-way defender. He is an excellent skater who possesses great speed and can make good plays with the puck. While displaying these weapons, he has continued to improve the defensive side of his game as well. Chabot’s tools and growth this season would make him a great fit for Vancouver as a first round pick.
Ryan Pilon – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
While his defense partner on the Brandon Wheat Kings, Ivan Provorov, will likely be taken in the top 10 in this year’s draft, Ryan Pilon should be available at the 23rd pick, and would be a good fit for the Canucks.
In helping the Wheat Kings to first overall in the WHL standings this regular season, Pilon had 11 goals and 41 assists in 68 games, as well as a plus-36 rating. His 52 points ranked ninth among WHL defensemen, and his point totals have sharply improved through his junior career.
Pilon has also shown that he can be a reliable two-way defenseman. At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Pilon has excellent size to help him take care of his own zone; and he is a smooth skater for a big man. He makes good decisions and can set up plays very well. It’s unclear just how high Pilon’s ceiling is, as he spent his best junior year somewhat shadowed by Ivan Provorov. He would be an appealing prospect at 23rd overall for the Canucks.
Rasmus Andersson – Barrie Colts (OHL)Rasmus Andersson could end up being one of the biggest sleepers in this year’s draft, as he has tremendous upside to his game and has somehow flown almost completely under the scouting radar. As an OHL rookie this year, Andersson piled up 12 goals and 64 points for the Barrie Colts. The 18-year-old Swedish defenseman’s point totals were good for third place among all OHL blueliners.
What’s unique about Andersson is the Malmö native has two years of professional hockey under his belt, playing for his hometown in the Allsvenskan in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
The 6-foot, 212 pound defenseman has a terrific pedigree, proven by his transition from pro hockey in Sweden to North America this year. His offensive skills are evident and defensively he is at his best when taking care of his own end is a less noticeable part of his game, and he shows great toughness in his game as well. The upside to Andersson’s game along with his character makes him an appealing potential first round pick for Vancouver.