For years, the Vancouver Canucks most glaring weakness has been on defence. That’s a pretty damning statement, considering that the Canucks have had a ton of weaknesses in four seasons without playoff hockey.
That’s why the advice of “not drafting a defenceman at 10th overall” might sound asinine.
If the Canucks’ biggest weakness is defence, why should they avoid drafting a rearguard with their first-round pick? Shouldn’t they work on building the defence back up after drafting guys like Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser?
In short, no, they shouldn’t.
The best player available won’t be a defenceman
In each draft, there’s always a varying degree of defensive talent near the top of the board.
In Olli Juolevi’s draft year, he was just one of a few blueliners that scouts deemed worthy of a top-15 selection, along with players such as Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun, and Charlie McAvoy.
This year, the top of the list is extremely heavy on skilled forwards. Aside from Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram, it’s hard to fathom passing on the offensive talent that’s bound to be on the board when the Canucks step up to the stage for the 10th pick.
There are many scouts who have a defenceman other than Byram in their top 10, but there’s no consensus pick. The Consolidated draft rankings, compiled by Canucks Army’s Jeremy Davis, show that while some scouts are high on defenceman such as Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom, and Cam York, most are highly-skeptical.
Before glancing at those defencemen, here’s the list of forwards who consistently show up at the top of draft rankings, after Hughes and Kakko:
- Alex Turcotte (USHL)
- Vasili Podkolzin (MHL)
- Dylan Cozens (WHL)
- Kirby Dach (WHL)
- Matthew Boldy (USHL)
- Trevor Zegras (USHL)
- Peyton Krebs (WHL)
- Cole Caufield (USHL)
To varying degrees, all of these forwards have flashed first-line potential on offence. Podkolzin and Dach have power-forward potential. Boldy and Cozens are already complete 200-foot players. Turcotte and Zegras have elite passing instincts and play with an edge. Undersized forwards in Krebs and Caufield have incredible offensive instincts.
Star potential shoddy among defencemen at #10
There are surely some scouts who will slide defencemen into their top 10, as is evident with the consolidated rankings. However, each defenceman available after Byram comes with varying degrees of risk.
If you believe that coaching can transform any player into a star, then you might believe that the Canucks should consider taking 6-foot-3 Swedish defenceman Philip Broberg.
Broberg has all of the raw tools that could make him a star in the NHL. He has a tantalizing combination of size and skating ability which clearly has some scouts salivating.
Philip Broberg shot selection…
— Evan (@Shattenkirk) June 6, 2019
However, the biggest critique with Broberg’s game boils down to his hockey IQ. Here’s what prospects expert Ryan Biech had to say about Broberg’s game:
“Broberg has all the raw tools to be a fantastic offensive defenceman, but at times his decision making with the puck can leave a bit to be desired. He can skate himself into zero space or makes a play that leaves his teammates in trouble.”
There will be a team that believes in Broberg. However, at 10th overall, you’d be drafting a player with more flaws and a lower ceiling than all of the forwards listed previously.
There are many things to like about Victor Soderstrom’s game. He’s miles ahead of defencemen in his age group when it pertains to decision-making in his own zone. His vision is great and the 18-year-old Swede held his own against men last season in the SHL.
So, why shouldn’t the Canucks take a stab at him?
It all comes down to upside. Much like the scouting report on Juolevi, scouts feel like Soderstrom is a safe pick and a surefire second-pairing. While that’s great and all, the Canucks will be leaving players with a higher ceiling on the board.
Is that the best move for a rebuilding team?
Other defencemen of note
- Cam York: Might be the highest-upside defenceman other than Byram. The American is the best offensive rearguard in his class, but his defensive game needs work.
- Moritz Seider: A German-born defenceman who only got better as the season went on. For all the love that Broberg and Soderstrom get, Seider has begun to close that gap. Don’t sleep on him being a surprise call in the top 10 of the draft.
- Thomas Harley: A poor man’s Evan Bouchard, if you will. While his stock rose throughout the season, he’s another guy who’s upside isn’t worthy of a top 10 selection.
If the Canucks do want a defenceman…
Then they need to look at things from an asset management perspective. With higher-upside forwards littered across the top 10, the Canucks should consider trading down if they want to draft a defenceman.
A team like the Arizona Coyotes is beginning to lack high-end offensive prospects with Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome now in the NHL. Could they be a team willing to swap with the Canucks in order to move up to the 10th spot? Currently, the Coyotes hold the No. 14 selection.
Whether it’s the Coyotes or somebody else, the Canucks need to seriously look at trading down if they want to draft a defenceman. The Canucks aren’t brimming with assets, and need to see what they can get if they want to draft a guy who will likely be picked after the 10th spot.
Snagging Soderstrom along with some extra assets? That’s something the majority of this fanbase would get behind.