The 31-in-31 Offseason Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in November we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up, the December 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs until the season begins!
The Canucks brought newfound optimism and joy to their fan base with a somewhat surprising and exciting mid-summer playoff run. It ran out of gas in Game 7 against the Golden Knights, but what was readily apparent was the impact that the youthful talent on the team was capable of producing. The moves of the club leading up to that run mirrored this new belief – that the team was not just building up to be a contender, it viewed itself as one right now.
As such, it was an interesting offseason for the Canadian club. The team was lacking a first and second-round draft choice thanks to the J.T. Miller and Tyler Toffoli acquisitions. The team was also missing its former ace-in-the-whole with the departure of Director of Amateur Scouting, Judd Brackett earlier in the year. Additionally, the Canucks featured a laundry list of major decisions to make with a fistful of important players heading to unrestricted free agency. And basically, every owner’s chequebook was hurting from the COVID pandemic, meaning that cash flow was going to be tightened.
Needless to say, the repercussions from the changes and decisions made hold a great deal of weight in both the short and long term landscape.
As mentioned, the club had some major decisions to make with unrestricted free agents. All the while keeping an eye towards the summer of 2021 when Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes would both be coming off of their entry-level deals and be ready to step into the big boy money club.
The first domino came in the crease. Re-signing Jacob Markstrom was the team’s number one priority. They had made that clear from day one of the 2019-20 season. He was their team MVP. Their backbone. And one of the top goaltenders over the past two seasons. However, when it became clear that the 30-year-old netminder was going to receive a better offer on the market, the team quickly went out and signed Braden Holtby to a two-year deal worth 4.3M per season.
As we know, Markstrom landed the mother load. Term, dollars and a no-move.
The belief is that the team will run a tandem setup with Holtby and Thatcher Demko for the condensed season. It’ll be imperative that teams have two quality netminders for the abundance of back-to-backs that are on the horizon in 2020-21. If I’m a betting man though (which I am), expect Demko to see a larger share of the pie – at least down the stretch.
The club also walked away from top-pairing defender, Chris Tanev who joined Markstrom, Josh Leivo, and Louis Domingue as transplanted Vancouverites who landed in Calgary. The hole left by Tanev was large and looming. He was attached to the hip of Quinn Hughes last season and both played very well.
Fortunately, thanks to a cap crunch Vegas was forced to move Nate Schmidt out and Vancouver took advantage moving a 3rd round pick in 2021 for the top-pair blueliner. Whether the Canucks should’ve been the one receiving an asset is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is whether Schmidt will make the team better.
It’s expected that the left-shot defender will slide into Tanev’s old spot on the right side next to Hughes. Schmidt is well versed playing on his off-side, but long term, you would expect him to take Alex Edler’s spot as the veteran heads into the final year of his contract.
Finally, the club took a flier on Jayce Hawyrluk to provide some snarl and perhaps some production down the lineup. He’s an interesting one to watch as you could see him slide up the lineup in times of injury. He’s proven capable of producing in spurts in the past.
The Canucks came into the 2020 draft minus their first two picks. While they attempted to buy themselves back into the top-62, it was a fruitless exercise. That said, they managed to select some players with long term upside and some potential NHL futures.
Joni Jurmo, LD – 82nd Overall
Despite it being the weakest area of their pipeline, the Canucks chose not to select a single defenseman in 2019. They started off 2020 by correcting that. They went to Finland and nabbed a 6’4, fleet-footed rearguard.
Jurmo is a wild stallion. At the U20 level, he could be downright dominant. He loves to rush the puck – at times to his detriment, but when he gets moving, he’s incredibly hard to defend again. The defensive positioning and decision-making are question marks and will need to be cleaned up before he comes to North America, but the upside is real.
Early in 2020-21, the 18-year-old has seen his ice time slowly creep up with JYP. What started out as 3-5 minutes a night has now inched into the double-digit area. He’s still looking for his first pro point, but it’ll come.
Jackson Kunz, C – 113th Overall
It appeared the team was focusing on size early on. After taking the 6’4 defender, they went to the US high-school prep circuit to select 6’3 210lb power centre, Jackson Kunz.
Kunz has spent the last two seasons tearing it up at Shattuck St. Mary where he totalled 62 goals over 78 contests. Kunz works extremely well around the net. He has a heavy release and a goalscorer’s nose. The issues are in his footspeed and whether or not he can maintain his physical advantage as he moves up the ranks.
Kunz is off to Harvard in 2021-22 but first a trip to the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for this current season where he’s off to a good start with five points in six games thus far.
This is a long term project pick in every sense of the word.
Jacob Truscott, LD – 144th Overall
This time, the Canucks went to the US National Development Program to take the two-way defender. Truscott had his proponents during his draft campaign. I know one scout who saw him as clearly the second-best D on that USNTDP backend.
Offensively, the 18-year-old can flash some upside. His passing shot and hands all project as being NHL-level down the road. His back-peddle and off-puck defence need a lot of work. Truscott has joined an illustrious freshman class at the University of Michigan for 2020-21. He has plenty of talent to work with on the Wolverines squad. Yet, no points to show through the first two weeks of games while skating as the safety valve on the team’s third pair.
Dmitri Zhlodeyev, C – 175th Overall
The Canucks went to Russia for their sixth-round draft choice. The 5’11 pivot was deemed fairly vanilla by myself and my peers at EliteProspects. We left him off our board. Early on in the 2020-21 season, however, Zhlodeyev has shown far more flash than in previous showings. He has been a high-end two-way player in the junior circuit, wracking up 12 points in 15 games. Even more impressive has been his time in the VHL – Russia’s second professional tier. There, he has scored four goals in nine games while seeing bottom-six deployment.
The 18-year-old is a conscientious pivot who has been used regularly on the penalty kill throughout his developmental progression. It is unlikely that his offensive ability will pop to the degree that you can hope for long term, established production. However, his short stint with the U20 national team at the senior men’s Karjala Cup gave the impression that he can hang with high-level talent. While he won’t represent the Russians at the upcoming World Junior tournament, he should have a chance to do so at the 2022 event.
Viktor Persson, RD – 191st Overall
With their final selection in the draft, the Canucks may have nabbed their best value. Persson is a smooth and play-driving defender. Bonus points for playing the right side. The 19-year-old lacks an eye-popping stat sheet. He’s never dominated a single league. He’s yet to play a professional game. Hell, he has yet to don the Tre Kroner jersey for his junior national team – albeit coming close before COVID shut down a fall U20 tournament. Thanks to his hot play to begin 2020-21, he remains in the mix for Sweden’s WJC roster – albeit something of a long shot. This is his final year of eligibility for that event.
However, his game is so much more than the counting stats. He thrives as a transitional playmaker who exhibits good feet in joining the rush. Early on in the J20, he was showcasing that ability with more regularity and exploding into seams. Despite being a bit slender, he is also unafraid to lean on opponents. He has flashed a bit of a mean streak in the junior league which should aid him in his transition to the CHL later this season. He attributes the goal below as him being “.. pretty angry in that situation, so it was nice.”
Persson is unlikely to become a true producer of points, but the subtleties of his offensive instincts indicate there is more to come in his development. Speaking of development, the Canucks and the rest of Western Canada should be able to get a closer look at the defender as he will report to the Kamloops Blazers for the beginning of the 2021 calendar year. That move will represent a new set of challenges and should offer a clearer picture regarding what type of player he is and could become.
We at DP provide a stick tap to the analytics’ scouting crew in Vancouver for unearthing this kid. He has a long path to forge ahead, but if I’m betting on a seventh-rounder to make it from this class, Persson would be right near the top of the heap.
While some of the North American leagues are just now beginning to fire up, over in Europe the games have mostly been playing out. The Canucks have a host of prospects playing overseas that have produced varying results.
Vasily Podkolzin: We’ll dive deeply into the top prospects in part two of this series, so there will be no shortage of inked spilled in Podkolzin’s name. The Canucks’ top prospect remains marred in a difficult situation with SKA of the KHL. He has battled to earn ice time with the club once again, yo-yo-ing around from the press box to the top line – yet virtually never on the power play. The result has been two goals and six points in 23 contests.
Podkolzin will captain the Russians at the WJC and from all expectations, dominate that tournament. He won’t be blessed with an overly talented forward accompaniment but they should be able to handle themselves well.
Nils Hoglander: Before a COVID outbreak shut down the Rogle squad for a few weeks, Hoglander had been finding his groove. He had accumulated five points in the last six games – including two goals. Those goals are big news. The soon-to-be 20-year-old has been struggling with a goal-scoring skid dating back to last season. Coming off of three consecutive games with a goal, in the last 38 SHL games ranging from November 30, 2019, to November 14, 2020, Hoglander had recorded just five goals.
Not exactly what you want from one of your top skilled prospects. Granted, he did score five goals in seven WJC last Holiday season so hope remains. He does need to work on his release, though. Missing opportunities for long stretches won’t keep a player of his ilk in a future top six.
Linus Karlsson: 17 points in 18 Allsvenskan games. Not bad for the 20-year-old in Sweden’s second division. Even more impressive is the 12-point, six-game streak he was running.
Lukas Jasek: Loaned to the Czech league while he awaits the return of the AHL, the 23-year-old has eight points in 10 games.
Nikita Tryamkin: He’s still big, folks. Nine points in 26 games are the best pace we’ve seen from him since his breakout KHL season in 2017-18. He’s seeing nearly 23 minutes a night too.
Arvid Costmar: Expected to make Sweden’s U20 team for the WJC thanks to the nation being light down the middle this year. He recently recorded goal and point in 13 SHL contests but he also sees less than 10 minutes of action from the bottom six.