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Six players the Canucks should have ranked high on their draft list

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Janik Beichler Jun 12, 2018 12:04 pm 5,234

When Canucks GM Jim Benning takes to the podium at the NHL Draft June 22 in Dallas (assuming he hasn’t already traded the pick), he’ll have options.

The 2018 draft class has plenty of talent available in the top 15, which means the Canucks should get a good player with the seventh-overall selection.

While the Canucks have admitted that they’d prefer a defenceman, this is a team in no position to be picky.

“We want to take the best player,” Benning said in a recent interview with NHL.com. “We would like, in a perfect world, if the best player is a defenceman at No. 7. We have a lot of depth at forward. We’ve drafted a lot of forwards the last few years. We feel like we have some real good forwards coming.

“In a perfect world, if the best player was a defenceman it would be the perfect scenario.”

A perfect world would have seen the Canucks win the draft lottery and select the best player available, defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, but alas nothing is ever perfect when it comes to this franchise.

Aside from Dahlin, the Canucks are also unlikely to get their hands Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, and Brady Tkachuk – all of whom are expected to be picked well before Vancouver makes their selection.

After that, things get interesting, with some variance in the rankings.

In the Canucks’ current state, a top-pairing defenceman is atop the priority list, but a true No. 1 centre or another star winger would sure help as well.

Below is how I would order the Canucks’ draft list, excluding the top-four prospects. At least four of them will be available for Benning when Vancouver makes the No. 7 pick.

See also

1. Oliver Wahlstrom (USA Hockey National Team Development Program, USHL)

Position: Right wing
Size: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
Stats: 26 GP, 22 G, 23 A, 45 PTS

While the Canucks have been looking for a top-pairing defenceman for ages, their best option on draft day could once again be a forward. Oliver Wahlstrom is an extremely smart offensive player with an elite tool kit. If the Canucks are going for the best player available – which they should – he’s their guy.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He’s one of the best goal-scorers in this draft class and has star potential
  • He can do magic with the puck on his stick
  • He possesses underrated playmaking ability

Why they shouldn’t:

  • Where will they get a top-pairing defenceman if not through the draft?

2. Quinn Hughes (Michigan, NCAA)

Position: Defence
Size: 5-foot-10, 175 pounds
Stats: 37 GP, 5 G, 24 A, 29 PTS

If it isn’t Wahlstrom, Quinn Hughes should be atop the Canucks’ target list. A slick puck-carrier with incredible upside, Hughes can become the elite blueliner Vancouver has been craving. But, there are some caveats as well.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He has sky-high offensive potential and projects to be a power-play quarterback
  • He’s does incredible things with the puck and gets it on his stick almost every time he hits the ice
  • He’s already proven he can play against men, representing Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Championship

Why they shouldn’t:

  • He’s prone to making risky plays that can lead to turnovers at both blue lines
  • His defensive game is a work in progress

3. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Assat, Finnish Elite League)

Position: Centre
Size: 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
Stats: 57 GP, 10 G, 19 A, 29 PTS

Jesperi Kotkaniemi was considered only the second-best Finnish prospect – behind Rasmus Kupari – in this draft class heading into last season. But, an excellent first pro year in the Finnish Liiga allowed him to continuously move up the rankings. If the six players mentioned above are off the board, Kotkaniemi is likely the best player available.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He’s the top centre available in this draft
  • He’s a very well-rounded player with a strong two-way game and playmaking upside
  • There is little doubt he’ll be an impact player in the NHL

Why they shouldn’t:

  • He may project as a second-line centre rather than a No. 1
  • He doesn’t possess any major standout tools

4. Evan Bouchard (London, OHL)

Position: Defence
Size: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds
Stats: 67 GP, 25 G, 62 A, 87 PTS

Back to defence. A right-shooting defenceman who measures 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 195 pounds, while standing out the most as an offensive contributor, what’s not to like about Evan Bouchard?

With Benning’s preference for taking a blueliner, Bouchard could be ranked high up the team’s rankings due to his position and handedness.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He’s a right-shot, two-way defenceman with top-pairing upside and can run a power play from the blue line
  • He was the London Knights’ leading scorer as a defenceman last season
  • He has a booming shot from the blue line and makes smart passes to set up scoring chances as well

Why they shouldn’t:

  • He’s not overly dynamic
  • Needs to improve defensively

5. Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL)

Position: Defence
Size: 6-foot-3, 180 pounds
Stats: 67 GP, 17 G, 52 A, 69 PTS

At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Dobson, another right-shooting two-way defenceman, has obvious similarities to Bouchard. Going into the season as a strong defensive player with okay offensive numbers, he had a breakout year, scoring 69 points in 67 games en route to winning the Memorial Cup.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He’s a right-shot, two-way defenceman with top-pairing upside
  • His offensive game exploded this season
  • He has no real weaknesses

Why they shouldn’t:

  • He’s not overly dynamic
  • He doesn’t have the elite offensive potential of someone like Hughes
  • He’s sparked conversation after strong Memorial Cup performances and recency bias might play a factor

6. Adam Boqvist (Brynas, Swedish Hockey League)

Position: Defence
Size: 6-foot-0, 165 pounds
Stats: 15 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS

If Hughes is gone and the Canucks are set on drafting a dynamic offensive defenceman, Adam Boqvist could be their man. The undersized Swede scored 24 points (14-10-24) in 25 games in the Swedish junior league, and played 22 pro games.

Why the Canucks should draft him:

  • He can be a high-end power-play quarterback
  • He’s a dynamic, right-shot defenceman
  • He’s one of the youngest players in the draft, so he’s got plenty of time to catch up to Hughes and the others

Why they shouldn’t:

  • His potential may be the same as Hughes’, but he’s further away in his development
  • He suffered a pair of concussions this season
  • He was unable to impress in a limited role at the pro level
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Janik Beichler
Hockey writer and Future Considerations scout. I play the game sometimes.

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