Grading the Canucks at the 2019 Draft

The sun has set on the 2019 NHL Draft. Now the real work begins as the prospects start the long road to a permanent spot on a National Hockey League roster. The Vancouver Canucks made nine selections over the seven rounds and walked away with eight forwards and one goaltender. Yes, you read correctly, the Canucks did not choose a defenseman in this year’s draft. This marked the first time since 1978 that this has happened. They must think that their defense pool is stocked at the moment.

On the bright side, the Canucks did add skill and depth to the left wing position, which was a weakness entering the draft. Of the nine selections, four of them were of the left wing variety. They also continued the trend of choosing players with a high compete level and work ethic. In almost every pick, those attributes were prominent.

Vasili Podkolzin, RW – Round 1, Pick 10

The Canucks began the draft with the 10th overall pick. There were rumors surrounding the team leading up to the selection about them moving down, but they ultimately decided to draft Russian-born power forward Vasili Podkolzin. Projected by many, including our own Nathan Kanter, to go in the four to eight range, Podkolzin dropped a bit and fell to the Canucks.

At first, I was not happy about the pick, especially with skilled forwards Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy still on the board. But as I did a deeper dive into his overall package, I am excited about the prospect of him donning a Canucks uniform in the future. He has the skills and intangibles the team desperately needs as they continue to build the next core of players.

Vasily Podkolzin Canucks Draft
Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Podkolzin was ranked second among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting in both the mid-term and final rankings, so the Canucks could have a steal on their hands. Looking at the stats, it does not look like he is a top-five talent, but the numbers do not tell the whole story. He possesses high-end offensive and defensive awareness and a motor that does not quit. He also played in three different leagues last season, so he couldn’t develop any consistency in his play. He put up 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists) in 29 games in the KHL, MHL, and VHL.

One of the reasons the Canucks drafted Podkolzin was his size and ability to play with good players.

“He’s got the size and strength and can get to the net. He’s going to be a good complementary player for some of our really skilled players. He plays a heavy game and we’ve seen in the playoffs that you need those strong guys who can get to the net and protect the puck.” – Jim Benning

From ‘Canucks had options, but were always sold on Russian Vasili Podkolzin’ – The Province – 06/22/19

Benning is clearly looking for players who can potentially battle it out in the playoffs in the future. With his competitive nature, I have no doubt that Podkolzin will thrive under the bright lights of the post-season. In two years, when he is expected to debut, the Canucks may be a consistent playoff team, so he will be ready to contribute.

Grade: A

Nils Hoglander, LW – Round 2, Pick 40

Benning gets another potential steal here at No. 40, selecting slick left winger Nils Hoglander of Rögle BK in the Swedish Elite League. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound winger is a creative forward with a slick set of hands, which many outlets rate as the best of this year’s draft class. He was ranked 11th on NHL Central Scouting’s list of European skaters.

Nils Hoglander, Rogle BK.
Nils Hoglander of Rogle BK. (photo by Andreas Ljunggren)

The left-winger had 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in 50 games playing for Rögle BK. He has an unmatched work ethic and is a great forechecker, probably because of his speed and tenacity. Compared to Brendan Gallagher with more scoring ability, Hoglander could be a top-six winger for the Canucks sooner rather than later. They also add skilled depth to a position woefully low in it. I’m sure many fans are already thinking of the prospect of him riding shotgun with Elias Pettersson.

Grade: A

Ethan Keppen, LW – Round 4, Pick 122

After trading the No. 102 pick to the Buffalo Sabres for this pick, the Canucks drafted their first forward from the Ontario Hockey League in winger Ethan Keppen. We are seeing a trending attribute in Canucks draft picks this year. The first three picks have all been described as “competitive” and “hard-working.” Both of these also describe head coach Travis Green’s coaching style. This is definitely not a coincidence.

Keppen is a big, hard-hitting left-winger who isn’t afraid of the corners. He also has exceptional hockey IQ. He may only become a grinder in the National Hockey League, but the Canucks also need players who can play hard minutes, and Keppen can certainly do this. He scored 30 goals and added 29 assists while playing with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL, proving he is not a one-dimensional player. We will see if he can translate his game to the NHL one day.

Grade: B

Carson Focht, C – Round 5, Pick 133

The Canucks’ first pick from the Western Hockey League is centerman Carson Focht. After seeing the reaction from Cam Robinson of DobberProspects, I am not sure about this pick.

Looking at the scouting report cited by Robinson, Focht doesn’t seem like a player worth spending a draft pick on. It would make more sense to offer him a camp invite instead. Keeping with the trend of work ethic and competitiveness, the Canucks add another forward who has these attributes. He did have a break out season for the Calgary Hitmen, setting career highs in goals, assists, and points. In 68 games he accumulated 26 goals and 38 assists for 64 points. So, he could prove people wrong.

Grade: C+

Arturs Silovs, G – Round 6, Pick 156

It took until the sixth round, but the Canucks finally chose a goaltender in 6-foot-4 Arturs Silovs. Hailing from Latvia, Silovs spent time in the MHL and Riiga in Latvia’s top league. He is expected to play in the Canadian Hockey League next season, so Canuck fans will get to see more of his development.

Silovs is tall and lanky, and definitely has the frame to be a solid goaltender. He also had a solid showing at the Under-18s putting up a 3.32 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage playing for Team Latvia. But like with all sixth-round picks, we will have to take a wait and see attitude with him. If anything, the Canucks added another solid piece to their goaltending depth.

Grade: B-

Karel Plasek, LW/RW – Round 6, Pick 175

With their second pick in the sixth round, the Canucks chose the son of longtime Czech league forward Karel Plasek. Yes, he has the same name as his father, and yes, his father is still playing at age 45. So he has been around a veteran of pro hockey his entire life. Ranked No. 43 on NHL Central Scouting’s European list, Plasek went undrafted in the 2018 Draft.

Czech Republic Overtime WJC
Czech Republic players celebrate their overtime win during World Junior Hockey Championship action in Vancouver. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

After solid performances at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and the Under-18s, he must have impressed Canucks scouts enough to warrant a pick. At 5-foot-11 and 154 pounds, he is not a big forward by any means, but he does possess a lot of speed. I am okay with this pick, as these are the rounds where you take a gamble because of skill. He could become someone who can contribute in the bottom-six or be a veteran leader in the American Hockey League one day.

Grade: B-

Jack Malone, RW – Round 6, Pick 180

With the third sixth-round pick, The Canucks chose yet another winger in Jack Malone. Committed to Cornell University next season, Malone is a very intriguing prospect. Playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, he put up career numbers posting 59 points (19 goals, 40 assists) in 57 games. This was second only to Buffalo Sabres prospect Brett Murray. This is what his coach Brad Patterson had to say about him:

“Jack is a tremendously talented 200-foot forward, [he] makes everyone around him better by seeing plays before they happen. His athletic power is as good or better than any player we have had in our program, which bodes well for his future projection as an NHL player. He will be an asset to any organization.”

Brad Patterson, Head Coach of the Youngstown Phantoms

After reading this, I believe the Canucks may have another steal in this draft. He will be playing against tougher competition this coming season, so we will have to keep a keen eye on how he develops. Judging by the recent success the Canucks have had in the college ranks, I would be willing to bet he will be in the NHL someday.

Grade: A-

Aidan McDonough, LW – Round 7, Pick 195

The Canucks went to the USHL again, selecting left-winger Aidan McDonough from the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. Described as a power forward who can score from anywhere, he will add more depth to the left wing that has gotten a boost from this year’s draft. With the pick, McDonough joins childhood friend Jack Rathbone as members of the Canucks.

Committed to Northeastern University for the 2019-20 season, he will get a chance to expand on his skills and play against higher competition. In the end, anything you can get from a seventh-round pick is a bonus. McDonough also smells like a Judd Brackett pick, so I wouldn’t bet against him becoming an NHLer one day.

Grade: B

Arvid Costmar, C – Round 7, Pick 215

With the final pick this year, the Canucks went with Swedish forward Arvid Costmar. According to Canuck Army, he is a skilled forward who has a “Knack for finding open areas, and opening up the ice for his teammates.” He played most of the season in the Swedish junior league, but did make Team Sweden for the Under-18s and walked away with a gold medal.

Costmar could be a sleeper pick because of his work ethic and smarts in the offensive zone. If he becomes an NHL player, it will be a bonus because most seventh rounders do not pan out at the highest level.

Grade: B-

2019 Vancouver Canucks Draft Grade: B

Overall, the Canucks had a very good draft adding more skill to their forward ranks, as well as another goaltender to the pipeline. Many Canuck fans will not like the fact that no defensemen were taken, but at the end of the day, they desperately needed to add more skill to the left wing position.

Fans should be excited for the arrival of Podkolzin in two years, as he will add a dimension the Canucks do not have. I think Hoglander will be a very solid player capable of scoring goals and adding an exciting dimension to the top nine. As for the later rounds, there are a lot of unknowns. Of those players, I think Malone will surprise a lot of people when he enters the pro game.

Some may be unhappy with not walking away with Cole Caufield or Matthew Boldy, but when Podkolzin finally enters the league, that frown will definitely turn into a smile. Like with all these prospects, patience will have to be exercised as they continue the long and winding road to the NHL. Draft day is just the beginning.