August 31-in-31: Vancouver Canucks

Cam Robinson

2019-08-28

 

Welcome to the August 2019 edition of the DobberProspects 31-in-31 Series! This month, we will be diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their recent graduates, risers, fallers and top 20 prospects. 

 

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As discussed in the July Edition, the Canucks are a team in transition. They’ve been bottom feeders for half a decade – minus one brief trip to the dance. The direction from ownership has been very clear this offseason – the time has come to begin pushing up the standings. This message has been reinforced by the moves newly extended, Jim Benning has made. Trading a conditional first-round selection in 2020 for J.T. Miller, signing Tyler Myers, Micheal Ferland and Jordie Benn to UFA deals. Bringing Alex Edler back. 

 

The team envisions steps forward for their young core and have attempted to surround them with veteran, productive talent. Whether it’s enough is yet to be seen. 

 

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Graduating Players

Quinn Hughes

We begin with the cream. Hughes will transition full-time to the NHL in 2019-20. The anticipation is palpable and rivals the expectations that Elias Pettersson drew a season ago. All Pettersson did was set team rookie scoring records, ignite the passion of a city, make Vancouver must-see TV on a regular basis, and take home the Calder trophy. 

 

No pressure, eh Quinn? 

 

Hughes will likely be stepping into a similarly positive situation in Vancouver this fall. A spot on the top power-play unit isn’t chiselled in stone but is very likely. He’ll be given a smart defender to work with on the second pairing, and a healthy dose of offensive zone starts. 

 

The 20-year-old won’t be shy in exhibiting the incredible skating, puck-possession, and creativity that has made him a star at every level. He has all the goods to step in and bring 40-points as a rookie defender. 

 

 

Vasili Podkolzin

The team’s most recent first-round selection will transition from, well basically every Russian league, to a full-time KHLer this season. The recently turned 18-year-old has two-years on his contract with SKA-St Petersburg – a team that saw Nikita Gusev, Pavel Datsyuk and Nikolay Prokhorkin leave in the offseason. Those three players represented 53 goals and 165 points. 

 

However, the club will still boast talented players – especially in Podkolzin’s natural right-wing position with Nail Yakupov leading the way. The logjam in front of the 2019 10th overall pick will likely mean he’s stuck in the bottom six – at least to begin the season. 

 

Podkolzin should star at the 2020 World Junior Championships as a returning player for the defending Bronze medalists – giving Canucks fans and fantasy owners a glimpse into his skillset against his peer group. His ability to drive to the middle of the ice and force his will on opponents be on full display at that event. 

 

 

As discussed in last month’s piece, Podkolzin’s ceiling is sky-high. His unique combination of power, skill, and determination make him a matchup nightmare. The expectations remain that he’ll be ready for a top-nine role in Vancouver at the conclusion of his KHL deal.  

 

Thatcher Demko

The goaltender of the future is finally on the big club for good. The 2014 second-round pick has marinated nicely and will join the team as the backup for 2019-20. Demko started just 27 games between the AHL, NHL and World Championships last season thanks to a concussion and spot duty in Vancouver. Not exactly ideal for a developing netminder. Expect the team to make sure and get him at least 30 starts if he provides a reason for the coaching staff’s trust. 

 

Incumbent, Jacob Markstrom is entering the final year of his contract and will be unrestricted come July 1.  He could become expendable if Demko can prove to be ready to handle the workload down the stretch and beyond. 

 

Michael DiPietro

The next goaltender of the future is graduating from the OHL and into professional hockey. DiPietro accomplished nearly everything at the junior level – including a Memorial Cup and tournament MVP, OHL Goaltender of the Year award, and was the driving force for Team Canada at the last World Junior Championship. 

 

DiPietro moves up and will immediately attempt to take the starters role in Utica. It’s likely he’s eased into the league in a platoon role with Richard Bachman as the organization will want to cook the 20-year-old the right way and maintain his confidence. 

 

Expect at least two seasons in Utica before coming up to the big team. 

 

Risers

Tyler Madden

There are few players from the 2018 class that can boast of a bigger rise than Madden. Selected in the third round, the 19-year-old stepped right into the NCAA and took over reigning Hobey Baker winner, Adam Gaudette’s role as the team’s top pivot. Madden was exemplary in the role, facing the team’s top opposition on a nightly basis, starring on the power play, and becoming an effective penalty killer as well. 

 

The results were 12 goals and 28 points in 36 NCAA games. His squad won the Hockey East title, and Madden was named to the Conference All-Rookie Team. His play at the collegiate level drew enough interest from USA Hockey to land him a spot on the World Junior squad. There he rose up the lineup with his speed-driven and tenacious style. He grabbed three goals and an assist in seven games on route to a Silver medal. 

 

The decision to return to Northeastern for a sophomore season was likely the correct one. A focus on improved strength and continuing to develop his offensive game will be at the forefront of his to-do list. 

 

We’re all hoping he keeps adding some more spectacular celebrations to his resume as well. 

 

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Jett Woo

Drafted early on in the second round during the 2018 Entry Draft, Woo returned to Moose Jaw in search of more consistent offensive deployment. His efforts were immediately rewarded. Woo was given a spot on the team’s top power-play unit while anchoring the second pair at even-strength. 

 

His numbers blossomed from nine goals and 25 points in 44 games to 12 goals and 66 points in 62 games. His smashmouth, hard-nosed defensive play came along for the ride. An offseason trade to the Calgary Hitmen won’t change the expectations for his fourth and final junior campaign. Woo should be given every opportunity to not only make Team Canada for the World Junior Championships but play a sizable role. 

 

Woo’s upside in multicategory leagues is palpable. 

 

Fallers

Jonah Gadjovich

The transition from junior to professional hockey is no joke. Jonah Gadjovich was just one of many who experienced that climb last season. As a bigger player, it was hoped that his physical maturity would allow him to play a similarly-styled game as he did in junior. However, the footspeed that was a mild concern in the OHL was magnified in the American League. 

 

Gadjovich suffered through injury, inconsistency, healthy scratches, and most of his time spent in the bottom-six. He’s always been a proficient finisher – especially in-tight, but his inability to get to those spots in time was evident at this level. 2019-20 will be telling. If the big man can find some more quickness and read the plays faster, he should see his deployment and subsequent production elevate. If not, he may be in trouble to crack an NHL roster down the line. 

 

Petrus Palmu

Another player who joined the Utica Comets last season and did not witness success. Unlike Gadjovich, Palmu had experience playing professionally in Finland. In 2017-18, the 5-6 winger led all first-year Liiga players in goals and points and was named the Rookie of the Year. His transition to North American held the hope of a quick landing. Unfortunately, the now-22-year-old lasted just 12 contests while recording one assist before deciding to head back home. 

 

Regardless of his reasons for leaving (healthy scratches, disappointment in deployment when in the lineup, difficulty adjusting, etc), we hoped to see him return to TPS and take a step forward. He did not. His goals and points dipped on a per-game basis as a second-year skater in Finland’s top league. 

 

Palmu will return for Canucks training camp next month, but my guess is he returns to TPS instead of landing back in Utica. 

 

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Organizational Depth Chart (Combination of NHL readiness and upside)

Right Wing

Center

Left Wing

Nils Höglander

Adam Gaudette

Vasili Podkolzin

Francis Perron

Tyler Madden

Zack MacEwen

Jonah Gadjovich

Carson Focht

Kole Lind

Ethan Keppen

Jack Malone

Lukas Jasek

Petrus Palmu

Arvid Costmar

William Lockwood

 

Linus Karlsson

Karel Plasek

 

Dmitri Zhukenov

Aidan Mcdonough

 

 

Artyom Manukyan

 

Left Defense

Right Defense

Quinn Hughes

Jett Woo

Ollie Juolevi

Brogan Rafferty

Guillaume Brisebois

Mitch Eliot

Ashton Sautner

Jalen Chatfield

Nikita Tryamkin

 

Josh Teves

 

Toni Utunen

 

Jack Rathbone

 

 

 

Goaltenders

Thatcher Demko

Michael DiPietro

Jake Kielly

Arturs Silovs

Matthew Thiessen

 

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Top 20 Fantasy Prospects

This section is intended to paint a picture of the Vancouver Canucks’ prospects whose current trajectory projects them making the most positive fantasy impact at the time that they reach the NHL. Arrival date and NHL certainty have been taken into consideration. However, a player’s potential upside is the most important factor in determining this list.

 

1. Quinn Hughes, LD

2. Vasili Podkolzin, RW

3. Thatcher Demko, G

4. Nils Höglander, LW

5. Jett Woo, RD

6. Olli Juolevi, LD

7. Adam Gaudette, C

8. Tyler Madden, C

9. Michael DiPietro, G

10. Kole Lind, RW/LW

11. Lukas Jasek, RW/LW

12. Jack Rathbone, LD

13. Jonah Gadjovich, LW

14. Ethan Keppen, LW

15. Petrus Palmu, LW

16. William Lockwood, LW

17. Guillaume Brisebois, LD

18. Karel Plasek, RW

19. Jack Malone, C

20. Arturs Silovs, G

 

 

 

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