The 2019 NHL Draft is just two days away, and still nobody really knows what will happen after the first two selections.
Most expect New Jersey to select American centre Jack Hughes first overall, while the New York Rangers will get one heckuva consolation prize in Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko. But once the Chicago Blackhawks step up to the podium for the third pick, all bets are off.
- 4 cap-strapped teams the Canucks should target in a trade
- Canucks have trade interest in one of Buffalo's defencemen: report
- Alex Edler not likely to re-sign with Canucks: report
Selecting 10th overall in a draft as unpredictable as this one, the Vancouver Canucks would be wise to weigh all of their options. While there are a number of top end forward prospects available, there’s a chance the ones that the Canucks covet most are all off the board by the time their turn comes.
So the Canucks should at the very least consider their options among the many defence prospects likely to be available to them.
Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram – the top-ranked blueliner in the draft – is expected to go in the top five. After him is a second tier of intriguing defencemen that will likely be available when the Canucks make their selection.
The six defencemen listed are all ranked 14th or later on Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, meaning the Canucks may even be able to trade down a few spots, acquiring additional assets while still getting a player they covet.
1. Victor Soderstrom (Brynas / SHL)
Size: 6-foot, 183 pounds
Stats: 44 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 14
The second-highest ranked defenceman on McKenzie’s list is Victor Soderstrom.
The well-rounded right-shooting defenceman’s stats may not jump off the page, but playing significant minutes in the Swedish Hockey League is always impressive for a draft-eligible player. Soderstrom played 17:06 per game, the most ice time of any draft-eligible player in the SHL, as a top-four defenceman while also anchoring Brynas’ second power play unit.
Soderstrom appears to be one of the more NHL-ready defencemen in this draft, thanks in large part to his incredibly high hockey IQ which allows him to process the game quickly and make smart plays at both ends of the ice.
He isn’t as fast as some of the other defencemen on this list, nor is he as big or strong, but Soderstrom’s intelligence allows him to make plays that many others cannot. Soderstrom isn’t the biggest body but his strong work ethic makes up for a lack of size, though like most young prospects he could benefit from filling out his frame more.
The Canucks sorely lack defensive depth on the right side, so adding Soderstrom would fill a large hole in the organization’s depth chart.
2. Philip Broberg (AIK / Allsvenskan)
Size: 6-foot-3, 203 pounds
Stats: 41 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 15
Philip Broberg is one of the more polarizing prospects in the 2019 draft class.
At 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Broberg already has NHL-ready size and elite skating ability as well. That combination is tantalizing, and Broberg plays an electrifying style of hockey, often charging the puck up the ice himself and controlling it through all three zones before trying to create a scoring chance for himself or his teammates.
The knock on the big Swede is his decision-making, as he can be prone to costly turnovers and some question whether or not he can iron those deficiencies out of his game to be successful at the NHL level.
But there’s no question when you watch him play why many scouts have been so high on him. Players with his skillset are very rare.
Of the players on this list, Broberg is probably the least likely to be available when the Canucks select. He is ranked as high as nine on some lists and his intriguing skillset means a team drafting before Vancouver could see his massive potential and select him with a high pick.
3. Moritz Seider (Mannheim / DEL)
Size: 6-foot-4, 207 pounds
Stats: 29 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 16
When it comes to the Canucks’ organizational needs, Moritz Seider checks all the boxes. The German defenceman is a right-shot, possesses tremendous size, and has very high upside.
Playing in the top pro league in Germany, Seider registered six points while playing an important role on his team Adler Mannheim, who won the league championship.
While still considered a bit of a raw prospect, Seider shows signs of everything you want to see in a modern-day defenceman. He has a quick and powerful shot, strong skating ability, and is also an excellent passer. At his size, the potential is there for Seider to develop into a top-pairing defenceman at the NHL level.
Seider has risen quite a bit in the rankings over the past month or so, likely due to getting more exposure playing for Germany at the World Championship, where he had two goals and was a +1 in five games.
4. Thomas Harley (Mississauga / OHL)
Size: 6-foot-3, 192 pounds
Stats: 68 GP, 11 G, 47 A, 58 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 17
Thrust into a much larger role with the Mississauga Steelheads, Thomas Harley thrived with the opportunity. Scoring 15 points in 62 games in 2017-18, Harley’s 58 points this season was the highest of any U18 player in the OHL by a large margin.
Harley possesses similar traits to Seider in that both players have good size, above-average skating ability, excellent shots, and great passing ability. Harley’s wrist shot in particular is extremely accurate when he has space to get it off, which he used to exploit junior goaltenders multiple times throughout the season.
5. Cam York (USA NTDP / USHL)
Size: 5-foot-11, 172 pounds
Stats: 28 GP, 7 G, 26 A, 33 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 18
This year’s US National Under-18 team was arguably the best the program has ever had, and the top defenceman from the squad is Cam York.
Some will point to the many high-end forwards on this team as reason for York’s high point totals, but the opposite could also be said; York has likely helped to inflate their point totals as well.
York doesn’t have the greatest shot and he’s a bit on the smaller side, but his edgework and passing ability are elite. The ability to get pucks quickly to his talented forwards on the breakout was a big reason why the USNTDP team had so much success this season.
Time will tell once the players from this talented squad continue developing on separate teams, but watching York play, it’s clear he is a contributing factor and isn’t just benefiting from playing with other skilled players.
6. Ville Heinola (Lukko / Liiga)
Size: 5-foot-11, 181 pounds
Stats: 34 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 PTS
Ranking (TSN): 23
Ville Heinola may be the lowest-ranked of these six defenders on McKenzie’s list, but for my money, he’s the best defenceman outside of Byram in this draft.
Heinola put up extremely impressive totals this season playing in Liiga (Finland’s top pro league). His 14 points in 34 games is the fourth-highest total ever in Liiga by a U-18 defenceman, ahead of guys like Miro Heiskanen and Rasmus Ristolainen.
If I had to use one word to describe Heinola, it’s deceptive. He is incredibly crafty with the puck and always has his head on a swivel. His passes, and even his shots, are hardly telegraphed which keeps opposing defenders and goalies guessing, and he always seems to be thinking a step or two ahead of the play.
While Heinola is ranked in the 20’s in most of the available public rankings, he could very well turn out to be one of the steals of this draft.