The 2017 NHL Draft is over and there’s an unusual feel to it. The Canucks, it appears, fared well. They’re receiving praise, not eyebrow raises from those that profess to know the most about the game.
Even people who usually pan the team’s decisions seem unusually delighted with what they have done.
Sure, there are some lamenting the fact that the Canucks chose a skinny Swedish centre instead of a more beefy Canadian, but that argument doesn’t follow much logic. Have people forgotten about choosing Jake Virtanen over William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers already?
This feeling is an unusual one. Did they… Yes they did. They won.
Here are five reasons why the Canucks have flipped the script and turned the draft into a feel good moment.
1. They chose skill over intangibles
When Benning chose Virtanen as his first draft pick in 2014, it was controversial to say the least. A power forward from Abbotsford, it seemed like the Canucks chose Virtanen because they liked his birth certificate and style of play.
Real or not, that was the perception.
The Canucks didn’t go for sentimentality this year, with Benning identifying skill above intangibles.
Overheard at the draft from some team execs: "If Elias Pettersson weighed 20 more pounds he would have gone first overall." #Canucks
— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) June 24, 2017
At one point, critics worried that Vancouver would choose Michael Rasmussen.
Instead they chose Elias Pettersson, who above all else, is talented. He needs to put on weight, but he’s certainly got a big frame.
Malloy on Pettersson: "His hockey sense is at an elite level. He’s a guy who can be a No. 1 centre as a playmaker." #Canucks
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) June 25, 2017
And if you’ve seen any of his highlights, it’s clear that he has talent.
2. They picked a lot
If you want to receive praise for a good draft, it helps if you have some picks to work with. The Canucks have traded away their second round pick in each of the last two years and this weekend, they had not one, but two of them.
Adding Kole Lind (87 points in 70 WHL games) and Jonah Gadjovich (46 goals in 60 OHL games) to the fold certainly makes the Canucks’ future look brighter.
3. And then they picked some more
The Canucks did something they’ve done less than a handful of times in their history. They traded down.
Armed with two fourth round selections but none in the fifth or sixth round, the Canucks traded the 112th pick to Chicago for the 135th and 181st pick. They moved down 23 spots and got an extra draft pick for their troubles because they identified a player they thought they could get later in the draft.
“It was just a chance, we thought, where we were targeting some players that still might be there, and obviously a chance to add a pick in the later rounds and increase our percentages of finding players,” Canucks director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett said.
4. Canucks Army is happy
As the Canucks picked their players, the analytics community nodded along. Even Canucks Army is happy!
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) June 26, 2017
The stats guys don’t always get it right – nobody does – but when they begin to crow about a player, bad things are usually about to happen.
We’ve seen it with Virtanen, Luca Sbisa, and Erik Gudbranson in the past. And we’ll see it again.
But with the possible exception of the selection 20-year-old defenceman Kristoffer Gunnarsson in the fifth round, those that look at non-traditional stats and different ways to measure a player’s value by looking at comparable numbers were happy. And that’s reassuring.
5. Rumours of a scouting shakeup
This year’s draft was completed as rumours persisted about a potential shakeup to the team’s scouting staff.
That’s only going to please fans who have been displeased with the team’s scouting…. well, forever.
Was it a coincidence that the team’s scouting strategy appeared to differ? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, from a fan’s point of view, it has the appearance of change. And given their history, that’s a good thing.