6 young centres Canucks could target if they make offseason Miller trade

Mar 8 2023, 8:03 pm

The Vancouver Canucks were active during the 2023 NHL trade deadline, but their biggest rumoured move didn’t come to fruition.

Despite multiple reports suggesting that the Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins seriously discussed a trade for J.T. Miller, the two clubs were unable to swing a deal prior to Friday’s deadline.

That shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Miller’s primed to make a lot of money moving forward, while the Canucks were reportedly looking for multiple prime assets in return.

According to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, one of the reasons the deal couldn’t be consummated is because Vancouver wanted a young centre back in return for Miller.

Unfortunately, the Penguins don’t have an obvious one in their organization.

Friedman also theorized that a potential Miller deal “probably needs one more team, maybe two.”

So, could the Canucks deal Miller and have a third team trade them a young centre in a three-way trade before his new contract, which includes a no-movement clause, kicks in on July 1?

It would be complicated, but not implausible.

If an NHL team is trading away a young centre, they likely:

  1. Have to be enthralled with the return
  2. Be trading someone away who’s shown some struggles, in spite of their potential
  3. Have a deep enough pipeline where they feel comfortable parting with a prime asset

So, whether or not a potential deal involves Miller, here’s a look at six imperfect young centres who the Canucks could look at targeting in an offseason trade.

1. Jack Drury (Carolina Hurricanes)

  • Age: 23
  • 2022-23 stats (NHL): 21 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS
  • Contract: $925,000 (RFA in 2024)

Once considered a top prospect in Carolina, Jack Drury has regressed this season.

In 2021-22, the nephew of New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury scored two goals in his only two NHL games, while amassing 76 points in 86 combined AHL regular season and playoff games.

This season, he has 23 points in 35 AHL games while registering just two assists in 21 games at the NHL level.

Carolina has a deep, strong team, and they could be willing to part with Drury if he doesn’t fit into their long-term plans.

2. Cole Sillinger (Columbus Blue Jackets)

  • Age: 19
  • 2022-23 stats (NHL): 58 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS
  • Contract: $925,000 (RFA in 2024)

There are only three NHL forwards younger than Cole Sillinger who have played NHL games this season, which is saying something considering that the young centre has already played 137 NHL games.

Life in the NHL hasn’t been as seamless for Sillinger during his second NHL season. He’s regressed in a big way offensively after registering 16 goals and 31 points during his rookie season last year.

The Columbus Blue Jackets would have to get a pretty sizeable return to part with Sillinger. However, they already have young centre Kent Johnson on their team, and Sillinger might become a luxury asset if the Blue Jackets snag one of the top centres in the 2023 Draft.

3. Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings)

  • Age: 22
  • 2022-23 stats (AHL): 24 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS
  • Contract: $894,167 (RFA in 2024)

Once considered a can’t-miss prospect, 2019 fifth-overall pick Alex Turcotte is still trying to secure a full-time NHL role.

Injuries have largely hampered his development, but there’s still a lot to like about his fast-paced, two-way game. However, Turcotte faces still competition in a loaded Kings’ prospect system, so it’s feasible that Los Angeles would move him if the price is right.

4. Hendrix Lapierre (Washington Capitals)

  • Age: 21
  • 2022-23 stats (AHL): 49 GP, 10 G, 14 A, 24 PTS
  • Contract: $863,333 (RFA in 2025)

The Washington Capitals have three legitimate centre prospects in their pipeline who are all around the same age. The only one of them who hasn’t seen any NHL action this year has been Hendrix Lapierre.

Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas are arguably ahead of the two-way Lapierre on the depth chart. And, we saw from the trade deadline that the Capitals are open for business. Could that make the 22nd overall pick from 2020 a potential target for the Canucks in an offseason trade?

5. Noah Ostlund (Buffalo Sabres)

  • Age: 18
  • 2022-23 stats (Swe-1): 37 GP, 8 G, 18 A, 26 PTS
  • Contract: $950,000 (RFA in 2025)

Noah Ostlund was selected 16th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, just one pick after the Canucks selected his current teammate in Sweden, Jonathan Lekkerimaki.

The Buffalo Sabres arguably have the deepest prospect pool in hockey, so it’s not implausible to think that would trade Ostlund if the price is right. Plus, the Canucks might covet him more than most organizations considering he has a history of playing with Lekkerimaki.

6. Chaz Lucius (Winnipeg Jets)

  • Age: 19
  • 2022-23 stats (AHL): 12 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS
  • Contract: $925,000 (RFA in 2025)

The talent of Chaz Lucius, the 18th overall pick in 2021, is undeniable.

However, the main issue with his development is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

He missed significant time in both his draft-eligible and draft-plus one season with lower body injuries. Lucius also suffered a shoulder injury this season, which has forced him out of action until next year.

The right-shot centre, when healthy, is lethal offensively. He registered five points in 12 AHL games this season as a teenager. Then, at the World Juniors, Lucius also scored five goals in seven games, including the bronze-medal game overtime winner. Lucius also had 15 points in just six WHL games prior to his injury.

Among centres on this list, he’d arguably be the most expensive to acquire. However, perhaps there’s an opportunity to trade for him if the Jets are worried about his lengthy injury history.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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