The fact that Vancouver is hosting it this year only amplifies the spotlight that comes with a high draft pick.
For the sixth time in the past seven seasons, the Canucks will select inside the top 10. This is the lowest pick of the six, with the Canucks set to select 10th overall for the seventh time in team history.
It may be the best year for it, too. The 2019 draft has a clear top two in Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, but after that there isn’t much separating the top 10 prospects.
“It would have been nice to win and pick in the top three,” Canucks GM Jim Benning told Sportsnet’s David Amber shortly after the completion of the draft lottery. “We feel strongly that at 10, we’re going to get a real good player to add to the group of young players that we have right now.”
Here are five players the Canucks could select 10th overall (rankings taken from Bob McKenzie’s list published April 4):
1. Kirby Dach (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
Size: 6-foot-3, 199 pounds
Stats: 62 GP, 25 G, 48 A, 73 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 4
The Canucks appear well-equipped down the middle for years to come with Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, but if Kirby Dach is available when the team makes their selection, they may have to consider drafting the big-bodied centre from Alberta.
Dach is a player with incredible upside because of his combination of size and skill. His large frame allows him to control the puck through multiple defenders, making him a one-man zone-entry machine in the WHL.
Relied upon in all situations, Dach possesses high hockey IQ and great vision in the offensive zone. Defensively, he makes smart reads and uses his size and reach effectively to disrupt puck carriers.
Dach doesn’t come without warts, though. He needs to improve on his skating, and a stronger shot would make him a more dynamic force offensively. He’s also struggled with consistency at times this season in terms of his point production.
Dach has generally been ranked in the 4-8 range for this draft, but it would only take a few teams going off the board to have the right-handed centre available when the Canucks select.
2. Matthew Boldy (USA NTDP / USHL)
Position: Left wing
Size: 6-foot-1, 187 pounds
Stats: 28 GP, 17 G, 26 A, 43 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 9
With a glaring hole at the left wing position, Matthew Boldy could be the perfect fit for the Canucks.
Boldy has a nose for the net and the offensive skills to match. His combination of smart positioning, silky smooth hands, and quick shot makes him a nightmare for opposing goalies.
The speedy winger is a dual threat in the offensive zone, with the vision and ability to make crisp, accurate passes to his linemates or snap a blistering shot past a goalie himself.
Boldy is committed to Boston College in the NCAA next year, but would likely be ready for full-time NHL action to start the 2020-21 season.
3. Victor Soderstrom (Brynas IF / SHL)
Size: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Stats: 44 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 11
At 10th overall, it seems very unlikely that Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram – this draft’s consensus top blueliner – will still be available.
But if the Canucks are set on improving their back end, the next tier of defencemen has some intriguing prospects, including the right-handed rearguard Victor Soderstrom.
Playing over 17 minutes a game for Brynas in Sweden’s top pro league, Soderstrom had four goals and three assists in 44 games this season. Playing top-four minutes for an SHL team in your draft year is rare territory, but Soderstrom has made it look effortless. He’s a smart two-way defenceman that has fantastic skating and passing ability, and often makes the right plays under pressure.
The Canucks’ defence has been a problem the last few seasons – especially on the right side – and drafting Soderstrom would help to fix the issue.
4. Alex Turcotte (USA NTDP / USHL)
Size: 5-foot-11, 189 pounds
Stats: 16 GP, 12 G, 22 A, 34 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 7
Alex Turcotte is arguably the most complete player in the entire draft. The left-handed centreman was injured for the first few months of the season, but dominated upon return to the US National Under-18 Team, and has risen up the rankings accordingly.
His 2.13 points-per-game pace in the USHL was the highest of any player, including Jack Hughes. It would have been interesting to see what Turcotte could have done in a larger sample of games, but that lack of sample size could make him a steal for a team in the 5-10 range.
Turcotte is a smooth and shifty skater with good puck skills and great hockey sense. He’s effective in all three zones, a jack-of-all-trades type of player that a team can use in any situation.
He’s committed to the University of Wisconsin for next season.
5. Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs / OHL)
Size: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds
Stats: 67 GP, 51 G, 51 A, 102 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 13
Very few players score 100 points in their draft season, but Arthur Kaliyev did just that with the Hamilton Bulldogs this year.
A left shot that often plays the right wing, Kaliyev loves to score from the right face-off circle and played that spot to perfection on a Bulldogs power play that was fourth-best in the OHL this season.
Kaliyev has an incredible shot that he’s able to get off quickly and accurately, but he isn’t a one-trick pony. He has good vision and puck skills, and while he isn’t a perfect skater he often gets by due to excellent positioning and offensive awareness.
A top line of Kaliyev-Pettersson-Boeser, three players with incredible skill and shooting ability, could do wonders for the Canucks.