As the 2017-18 NHL regular season comes to a close, the Vancouver Canucks have a real shot at becoming the first team in NHL history to finish 31st overall.
While losing seasons are never fun to watch, they without a doubt make draft season a lot more interesting.
If the Canucks finish last, the draft lottery will give them just an 18% chance at first overall, guaranteeing that they pick no lower than fourth.
Here’s a look at six players the Canucks could draft in June.
Size: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds
It was supposed to be a two-man race for first overall going into the 2017-18 season, but one has really set himself apart from the rest: Rasmus Dahlin is the consensus No. 1 pick.
Just like any other defenceman who is blessed with elite offensive talent, Dahlin had to fight the image of being a defensive liability. But with his first full pro season in the books, there is absolutely no doubt about his all-around game.
Dahlin is a flashy 6-foot-3, 185-pound defenceman who can go end-to-end, run your offence from the blue line, and be relied on defensively. In other word’s: a coach’s dream.
Position: Right wing
Size: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Andrei Svechnikov may not be in the running for first overall anymore, but he certainly possesses first-line talent. The Russian import has been tearing up the OHL with the Barrie Colts, recording 72 points (40-32-72) in 44 games, with almost a goal per game.
The best pure goal scorer in this draft, Svechnikov might be the most NHL-ready forward. He has a big 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, which he uses to his advantage in the offensive zone, and his NHL-level shot arsenal doesn’t hurt either.
To top it all off, Svechnikov works hard to contribute defensively as well – he’s the favourite to go off the board second overall this year.
Position: Left wing
Size: 6-foot-1, 192 pounds
The Halifax Mooseheads have been pumping out European NHL talent for years, and 2018 is no exception. After Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg, 2014), Timo Meier (San Jose 2015), and Nico Hischier (New Jersey, 2017), Filip Zadina is up next.
A fierce competitor for a top-three selection throughout the year, the Czech winger made sure every last scout and fan noticed him at the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo. Zadina scored seven goals in seven games and added an assist, lifting himself into top-three consideration.
If his speed, skill, and finishing ability are any indication, Zadina will be a top-line player in the NHL for many years – but whether he can pass Svechnikov on draft day remains to be seen.
Position: Left wing
Size: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
Son of former NHLer Keith and brother of Calgary Flames’ Matthew, Brady Tkachuk knows what it takes to make it in the NHL. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger plays a hard-working power-forward game, utilizing his speed and frame to go hard to the net and battle for scoring chances. But, he’s much more than just a hard worker, possessing smooth hands and a nose for the net.
There are, however, some concerns.
For one, Tkachuk’s 29 points (8-21-29) in 38 NCAA contests with Boston University aren’t what you’d expect from a top-five pick. And to make it worse, Tkachuk missed 2017 eligibility by just a single day, so the 2017-18 campaign can almost be looked at as his draft+1.
That said, establishing oneself in a top college hockey program as an 18-year-old is an incredibly difficult task, and Tkachuk’s year, which also included nine points (3-6-9) at the World Juniors, should be seen as a success.
Size: 5-foot-11, 155 pounds
A dynamic offensive defenceman is what many Canucks fans have been craving for years, and Adam Boqvist might be the right guy to fill the void.
Unlike Dahlin, a fellow Swede, Boqvist struggled to establish himself in the SHL, Sweden’s top-tier pro league, and he didn’t make the cut for Sweden’s World Juniors roster either. But whenever he faced off against his age group, he delivered in impressive fashion.
Thanks to his smooth skating, high hockey IQ and strong puck skills, Boqvist poses an offensive threat on every shift.
In 25 games in the SuperElit, Sweden’s top junior league, the blue-liner recorded 14 goals and added 10 assists. Scouts surely would have preferred him to make an impact in the SHL as well, but he can be a top-five selection nonetheless.
Size: 5-foot-10, 175 pounds
Like Boqvist, Quinn Hughes can be a difference-maker from the backend. The NCAA freshman recorded 28 points (4-24-28) in 34 games with the University of Michigan this season, just one fewer than Tkachuk – one of the top forwards in this class.
Measuring just 5-foot-10, it’s easy to see why some would be hesitant about picking him in the top five, but Hughes has the kind of elite talent that’s worth the risk. He is one of the best skaters in the draft and possesses high-end vision and puck skills that are too good to pass up.
If the Canucks want someone who can be a breakout machine and lead the offence from the blue line, Hughes can be that guy.