Here’s a shocking revelation, the NHL Draft Lottery was not kind to the Vancouver Canucks. For the third consecutive year, the west coast organization saw its position slide in the wrong direction. This time they slipped from sixth to seventh overall after a late-season charge, fuelled mostly by the Sedin twins’ heroics, tacked on useless points to push them out of the cellar.
For the club with the fewest combined points since 2015-16, they’ve managed to select fifth, fifth and seventh. Not ideal. However, what they’ve started to do with those selections has to be considered a pivotal improvement.
Last June, the team hit an absolute homerun when the nabbed Elias Pettersson as the third pivot off the board. At the time, some considered it a touch early to select the dynamic Swedish talent. Hindsight is making it look like he should’ve gone even earlier. This year, they had an opportunity to pick a faller and they didn’t overthink it.
Round One – LHD, Quinn Hughes 7th Overall
Jim Benning could hardly contain his excitement as he and the rest of the ownership and management group took to the stage in Dallas to select University of Michigan defender, Quinn Hughes. The 5’10 165lbs freshman was tremendous for the Wolverines and was the squads’ top player during a deep playoff run. He culminated his campaign with a strong showing at the World Championships where his speed, skill and confidence were on full display.
Vancouver’s organizational depth chart was beginning to get a bit top heavy up front. They boast U-23 players such as Brock Boeser, Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, and Nikolay Goldobin. On the back-end, the only true top four potential player is Olli Juolevi and much has been written about his development since being selected fifth overall in 2016.
The Canucks needed to target a blueliner early and due to some unforeseen selections ahead of them, they managed to get their pick from all the defenders not named Dahlin.
Hughes brings electric skills to the table. His acceleration, edgework and top-end speed are well-above an NHL-level at this very moment. You put that together with his advanced hockey IQ and you’ve got the recipe for something special. He is the best skater from the 2018 crop and would immediately step in as the Canucks best skater and likely second-best left-side D if he chooses to turn pro this fall.
That question has yet to be answered.
Reports indicate that the Michigan-native will make his decision to return to his alma mater or join the Canucks within the next few weeks. The main issue that may prohibit his advancement is the depth chart in front of him. The Canucks have four left-side defenders already under contract. There’s little reason to bring Hughes into the fold if he’s not going to be utilized. GM, Jim Benning has publicly stated that the team will make room for Hughes if he decides to sign.
When it comes to high-octane, offensive blueliners with a chance to become impact fantasy contributors, Hughes is right near the top of the heap. His feet will create countless opportunities to pile up points. Additionally, as he continues to build strength, his shot will become a more dangerous weapon with the man-advantage. He’s the clubs best bet to run a top PP next to Boeser, Horvat and Pettersson as the new core comes into view.
Target him early in drafts.
Round Two – RHD, Jett Woo 37th Overall
Day two of the draft comes fast and furious. After a first round that went wildly unexpected at times, round two featured similarly surprising results early on. The Canucks could be accused of leaving some higher end talent on the board, but they selected a player they like and one that brings qualities they lack.
At 37th overall, the team announced Moose Jaw Warriors defender, Jett Woo. Woo is a smash-mouth, right-shot defender who started his draft-eligible campaign on a serious high. Through the first 15 games, the 17-year-old was pushing the point-per-game level while seeing prime deployment in the WHL.
He suffered a shoulder injury that took him out of action for about six weeks. When he returned to the lineup his spot on the depth chart had been taken and he fell into a more secondary offensive role. He then hit another roadblock via the injury bug that cost him some more time.
When at his best, Woo is a player who can skate well, owns a heavy shot and the ability to absolutely destroy oncoming forwards in the neutral zone. He’s not someone who projects to have a serious offensive ceiling at the next level, but he does present as a possible multi-category contributor.
Woo has been invited to Team Canada’s World Junior Summer Showcase. He’s a long shot to crack the lineup, but a big start to his WHL campaign could certainly help that. He’ll return to Moose Jaw for two more seasons before turning professional.
Round Three – C, Tyler Madden 68th Overall
After selecting defensemen with their first two picks, many expected Vancouver to target a centre at the top of the third round. Right they were. With the 68th overall selection, the Canucks grabbed the speed-driven and underdeveloped, Tyler Madden.
Madden stands 5’11 and just 150lbs. Despite the slight stature, the New York-native is fearless on the forecheck and can cause havoc with his speed and tenacity. He split his draft-eligible campaign between Central Illinois and Tri-City of the USHL. His totals were 15 goals and 34 points in 50 contests.
Many were disappointed to see the Canucks pass on Jake Wise, who went one spot later to Chicago. However, when asked about the selection post-draft, Head Amateur Scout, Judd Brackett said they team felt that Madden had a lot more to give and liked that he’d likely be stepping into Adam Gaudette’s former spot on Northeastern’s top line next fall.
Madden will be a long-term project.
Round Five – LHD, Toni Utunen 130th Overall
Without a pick in the fourth round, Vancouver went back to the backend in round five where they snagged Finnish defender, Toni Utunen. Utunen captained the gold-winning U18 squad for the Fins and saw a handful of games in the Liiga.
The 18-year-old skates well and can move the puck with modest ability. His offensive game is somewhat lacking at this stage of development, but he projects as a complementary depth player who can contribute on the penalty kill.
After going unselected in the recent CHL Import draft, Utunen will look to lock down a full-time spot with Tappara of the Liiga this fall. The Kokkola-native has also been invited to Finland’s Summer Showcase to begin his journey to try and make the World Junior Squad.
Round Six – RW, Artom Manukyan 186th Overall
The Canucks made their first move of the weekend when they dealt this 2018 sixth round to Washington for their 2018 and 2019 sixth round picks. With the newly acquired chit, the Canucks selected the double-overaged Russian forward.
The 5’7, Manukyan posted solid underlying metrics as a draft-eligible player back in 2015-16 but was passed over due to size concerns. He followed that up by setting the MHL record for points with 105 in 60 games in 2016-17. After which many projected him to be a mid-round flier option. He once again went unselected.
2017-18 saw the diminutive yet dynamic forward step into a regular KHL role and provide offensive sparks with limited deployment. He recorded a goal and an assist in 24 KHL contests as a 19-year-old. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but even spending two dozen games in that league as a teenager is a feather in your cap, let alone for a 5’7 150 pounder.
Manukyan brings interesting fantasy potential. He’s an elite-level offensive talent who brings the full gamut of skills to the table. He’s also woefully undersized. Speed and skill are the names of the game these days, so he’s got a chance to break right and become an asset down the line.
He’ll see his role expand with Omsk this season and if things go well, the Canucks will sign him and bring him to Utica for 2019-20.
Round Seven – G, Matthew Thiessen
For their final selection, Vancouver went the long route with Manitoba Jr. A goaltender, Matthew Theissen. The 6’2 netminder led his Steinbach squad to an MJHL title last season and an appearance in the RBC Cup. The 18-year-old is committed to the University of Maine for 2019-20 and will ply his trade with Dubuque of the USHL this fall.
Not a lot to say about this player for fantasy. Goaltending prospects are the height of deep swings. Ask again in five years and we’ll have a better idea if you should put him on your fantasy radar.
- Troy Stecher (RFA) Two years, 2.325MM
- Darren Archibald (UFA) One-year $650K
- Sven Baertschi (RFA) Four years 3MM
- Derrick Pouliot (RFA) One year 1.1MM
- Markus Granlund (RFA) One year 1.475MM
- Reid Boucher (RFA) One-year $725K
- Richard Bachman (UFA) Two years $675K
- Jay Beagle Four years 3MM
- Antoine Roussel Four years 3MM
- Tim Schaller Two years 1.9MM
- Jussi Jokinen
- Nic Dowd
- Jayson Megna
- Michael Chaput
Impact of Signings
The Canucks went out and gave money and term to career-bottom six players. That is not a recipe that many would recommend. Even less so when handing over four years to a player like Jay Beagle who will be 33 by the time we start next season. This influx of grinding-style players will clog up the training camp battles for several young players.
Some young Canucks who are now waiver-eligible and will be battling for one or two spots include Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Brenden Gaunce, Brendan Leipsic, and Tyler Motte (after one game).
The team had promised to go with youth this season, but it appears there will only be room for Elias Pettersson and perhaps Quinn Hughes. Adam Gaudette, Jonathan Dahlen, Olli Juolevi and company will form a formidable grouping in Utica.
- From all reports, he appeared to be one of the most pro-level players at camp. Smooth skating, coupled with a quick and heavy release. He’ll begin his North American career in the bottom six with Utica. Likely across from his old running-mate in Owen Sound, Jonah Gadjovich. Palmu can contribute in all situations with an array of talents.
- Looked bigger, stronger, and faster. Those are some nice qualities to improve on during your draft-plus one campaign. Lind has always had a deadly release, but it’s starting to look like the type of weapon that will be more than viable at the NHL-level. He loves to fly down the right-wing and unleash it off the rush. This is a player who will move up the lineup quickly in Utica. Lind’s ability to play either wing (or even centre if push came to shove) will be very useful in his bid to crack the NHL roster in the coming seasons.
- Rathbone is a curious case. Drafted in the fourth round in 2017, he returned to his prep school in 2017-18 and was difficult to find tape on. Rathbone is known for his exceptional skating and ability to drive play. He showcased those skills and more at the camp and appeared to be one of the better players on the ice. The 19-year-old is off to Harvard this fall where the increase in competition will be telling in where he stands in his developmental cycle.
- The elite skating and playmaking were evident. Despite missing some early practices with a bug, he was extremely poised and confident from the moment he donned the jersey. Fans were dazzled by his crafty puck skills and terrific vision. It was no surprise either, as he’s been displaying NHL-ready tools all season at Michigan, the WJC and the Worlds.
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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