At 29th overall, you can be sure that the Vancouver Canucks certainly aren’t expecting to draft the next Taylor Hall or John Tavares. But historically, there have been some good players drafted 29th overall in previous drafts; like Mike Green in 2004 or Steve Downie in 2005. The organization will consider themselves lucky if they snag someone of that calibre, but the most important thing to remember is that whoever it is likely faces two to three years of development before making a ripple in the NHL pond.
Below is a list of players who could find themselves wearing Canuck colours this Friday. Vancouver’s organizational needs for a steady defenseman or a scoring winger, along with their current drafting position, were taken into consideration when writing this list.
Jamie Oleksiak, Defenseman, Northeastern University: The number you need to know with Oleksiak is 6’7″, the height of this mountainous blueliner. He’s got an NHL-sized body, which bodes well for a team looking for defenseman capable of stepping in as soon as possible. Scouts have compared Oleksiak to a poor man’s Tyler Myers, and the Toronto native skates remarkably well for someone of his stature. It’s hard for the Canucks to say they own a big and nasty blueliner in their system, and Oleksiak could be it. ISS Ranking: 19th
David Musil, Defenseman, Vancouver Giants: Aside from the fact Musil has a B.C. connection, the defensive blueliner reminds me a lot of Bryan Allen when the Canucks drafted him in 1998. Musil is a defenseman who plays a simple yet effective game in his own zone; the numbers for the Giants speak for themselves (62 games, 25 points), indicating he won’t be an offensive dynamo anytime soon, but the Canucks have survived this long without one; they can continue to do so if they draft Musil. ISS Ranking: 17th
Tomas Jurco, Right Wing, St. John’s Sea Dogs: When’s the last time the Canucks have drafted a Slovakian in the first round? I’m not sure it’s ever been done before. So why now, and why Tomas Jurco? There’s absolutely no question that Jurco has some of the silkiest mitts among his draft class; his YouTube videos will speak for themselves. And for an organization which could use some more skill, Jurco offers it in spades. He’s been close to a point-per-game player in his two seasons with the Sea Dogs. ISS Ranking: 34th
Ty Rattie, Left Wing, Portland Winterhawks: He put up strong numbers for the ‘Hawks this year (61 games played, 79 points), but observers say that his skating is the thing which separates him from fellow WHL stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sven Bartschi. Rattie is still a skilled forward, but until his size and speed catch up to the NHL pace, he’s a project player at best, one which will require five years of seasoning. ISS Ranking: 22nd
Victor Rask, Centre, Leksand: At about this time last June, Rask was being ballyhooed as a potential top-10 selection in the 2011 draft. Unfortunately for the smooth-skating Swede, his stock has since plummeted to the point where something think he might slip out of the first round altogether. Rask didn’t get much chance to shine with Leksand in the SEL due to a lack of ice time, which has sucked the confidence out of scouts. If the Canucks feel like making a bold move, they could easily try trading down for an extra pick to steal this crafty Swede who most believe still has a path to the NHL laid out before him. ISS Ranking: 28th
Matt Puempel, Left Wing, Peterborough: A former OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year, Puempel netted 34 goals last year and 33 goals the year before. He’s a proven goal-scoring winger, something the Canucks need more of in their system. Puempel was ranked 10th among all skaters at the start of the season and even drew some comparisons to top-ranked Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after a strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. His stock has fallen a bit since though, especially after suffering a hip injury, one that required surgery, late in the season. It didn’t help that the Colts had the second-worst record in the OHL. ISS Ranking: 30th
Tyler Biggs, Right Wing, USA U-18: At 6’3″, 205 lbs, Biggs definitely lives up to his name in size alone. What he lacks in offensive upside, he makes up for in character and leadership – both traits Mike Gillis values highly – and he’s not shy in using his big body to get in the dirty areas. In various mock drafts, I’ve seen Biggs taken anywhere from the middle of the first round to middle of the second round. ISS Ranking: 8th
John Gibson, Goaltender, USA U-18: GM Mike Gillis made a comment about Gibson, this draft’s top-ranked goaltender, which seems to indicate the Canucks’ interest in him. Given the time and effort to develop goaltenders and the number of them who may be had in the open market, there may not be a lot of value on drafting goaltenders, especially with a high draft pick. But the Canucks don’t have much in terms of goaltending prospects after Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack; they have Jonathan Iilahti and Joe Cannata in the system, and neither are poised to make an impact. ISS Ranking: 1st (goaltenders)