The draft lottery happened on Tuesday night, and as expected the Canucks retained the 6th overall pick in the NHL entry draft. Although the season was a lost cause, there is a silver lining, the Canucks will be able to add a top prospect to their slowly improving pool.
As we get closer to the NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia on June 27 & 28, we will start seeing a ton of names being suggested for the Canucks to pick. We will feature a few players that the Canucks may select with their 6th overall pick.
Aaron Ekblad, Michael Dal Colle, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett
I expect that these four players will be gone before the Canucks make their first pick. If for some chance one becomes available, I highly doubt the Canucks will let them fall further. The NHL draft is such an unpredictable event and every team ranks players differently, so sometimes it is hard to exactly predict how it will play out, but I think the Canucks would be extremely fortunate to pick one of these studs with the 6th pick.
Now for some more realistic options…
Team: Halifax (QMJHL)
Size: 5’11”, 163 lbs
2013-14 Stats: 63 GP – 49 G, 55 A, 104 Pts
Projection: First line winger
I figured I would start with the player that I want the Canucks to draft, Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads. He has great vision and playmaking skills and a lethal wrist shot. As with most 18 year old players, he is still trying to find his way in the defensive zone.
His point totals are inflated in part due to playing with 2013 3rd overall pick Jonathon Drouin, but from what I have seen of Ehlers, he doesn’t rely solely on Drouin. Last week’s CHL Friday Night Hockey on Sportsnet featured the Halifax Mooseheads and Ehlers was all over the ice in the first period. He scored the first goal for the Mooseheads and rang two other shots off the post. He continued his strong play throughout the remainder of the game as the Mooseheads moved to the third round of the QMJHL playoffs.
It will be interesting to see if the Mooseheads reach the Memorial Cup Final, as the competition level will increase drastically. Ehlers will need to step up his game to another level to show that he is worthy of the 6th overall pick. Just imagining Ehlers in a Canucks uniform would make this season worth it.
Team: Prince Albert (WHL)
Size: 6’1″, 209 lbs
2013-14 Stats: 64GP – 48 G, 67 A, 105 Pts
Projection: Physical first line centre
I know I said I wanted the Canucks to pick Ehlers, but this is under the assumption that German born Leon Draisaitl will be gone by the time the Canucks select. ‘The Deutschland Dangler’ (what a nickname!) has been a lock for a top 5 pick throughout the entire year, but the rise of players like Ehlers means that Draisitl could be available at the 6th overall pick. Draisaitl is a big power forward who could make the jump to the NHL next season.
He isn’t as dynamic of a player as Ehlers, as Draisaitl plays more of a ‘drive to the net’ type of game. Even though he is regarded as a big power forward, he still has good vision for the ice and has ability to make the play unfold around him. Draisaitl put up great numbers in his second year in the WHL and could be there for the Canucks to take at 6th overall.
Regardless of who picks Leon Draisaitl in the top 10, he is set to be the highest selected German born player in NHL history.
Team: Calgary (WHL)
Size: 6’1″, 210 lbs
2013-14 Stats: 71 GP – 45 G, 26 A, 71 Pts
Projection: Top 6 scoring winger
While Nikolaj Ehlers and Leon Draisatl are regarded for their playmaking skills, Virtanen is a pure goal scorer. He put up 45 goals this season with the Calgary Hitmen and says he models himself after Rick Nash. Virtanen loves to hit and battle along the boards and doesn’t hesitate to get involved physically.
He was the fastest skater at the CHL top prospects game skills competition in both forwards and backwards skating. He has great acceleration and a great stride that helps him fight through hooks and holds. With all of that being said, there has been criticism that he is a one dimensional player as he isn’t a great playmaker.
Given that Virtanen is from Abbotsford and fits the model that Trevor Linden is wanting to emulate (Boston model!), I will not be surprised if the Canucks take the ‘homegrown’ Jake Virtanen.
Team: Peterborough (OHL)
Size: 6’3″, 229lbs
Regular Season: 61 GP – 39 G, 35 A, 75Pts
Projection: Two way top six forward
Nick Ritchie is another player that has been slowly climbing up the rankings this season (he was ranked 13th in January and 9th in the April ISS rankings). Similar to Virtanen, his game is easily comparable to New York Rangers forward Rick Nash.
Ritchie is a big body ( 6’3″, 229 lbs) and uses that to his advantage in his board battles and driving to the net. He has been nicknamed ‘Mr Grizzly’, and I think that summarizes his game perfectly. A big body who battles, punishes and intimidates, he also has a great shot. If given the space, he can make a team pay. Ritchie has suffered from injuries before, and that may be a concern as he continues to play the style he does.
Rumours, Drama and Intrigue
I find the NHL draft to be a great event to watch right before summer kicks into full swing. There are so many rumours, trades and speculative talk leading up to the event before the first player is even chosen.
I am hoping the Canucks take the dynamic Nikolaj Ehlers, but my guess is that the Canucks will end-up landing Leon Draisaitl (the Deutschland Dangler!). Draisaitl is exactly the type of player the Canucks need to compete in the Pacific Division. Although I personally hope that the Canucks choose Ehlers, he doesn’t exactly fit the ‘Boston-model’ the Canucks are rumoured to be striving for. If Draisaitl is already chosen by the 6th selection, I expect Linden and company to select Abbotsford born Jake Virtanen.