The Vancouver Canucks Rebuild: One Piece Away

The Vancouver Canucks and their fans have gone through a whirlwind of emotions over the last 5 years. They have finished in the bottom 10 of the NHL standings for years. Furthermore, the Canucks haven’t had the same luck as the Edmonton Oilers in securing 1st overall picks after lousy seasons. In fact, the Canucks  have finished in bottom 5 territory for the last three years and have dropped in draft rank each year due to the Draft Lottery.

In 2016, the Canucks finished second to last and looked primed to draft Patrik Laine 2nd overall. However, they ultimately fell to 5th overall as the Jets and Coyotes won the lottery. In 2017, the Canucks fell from 2nd overall to 5th overall, and then fell again this year, from 6th to 7th. With all this bad luck one would assume that the Canucks fans would have given up hope. However, many fans will tell you that it is how you draft and not where you draft that makes the difference.

That mantra has indeed paid off for the Canucks over the last few seasons. Bo Horvat, the team’s heart and soul, was seen as a reach at 9th overall in 2013, as he was ranked in the mid-teens. The former London Knight proved everyone wrong and has emerged as a strong pivot for the Canucks moving forward. Brock Boeser, selected 23rd overall in 2015, was also not expected to have the impact he had this past season. After two impressive campaigns in the NCAA, Boeser took the Canucks by storm with 29 goals in 62 games. He looks poised to build on his incredible rookie season and cement himself as a top-line winger.

The Canucks Deep Prospect Pool

The Canucks’ 2017 1st rounder, Elias Pettersson, was drafted 5th overall in a very deep top-10 for centers. He, along with fellow Swede Lias Andersson, have already signed pro-contracts and look ready to make an NHL roster. He projects as a top-line center, which the Canucks are in serious need of after the retirement of the Sedins. Pettersson’s speed and skill are second to none in the Canucks prospect pool, and he still has room to grow.

Other under-the-radar Canucks prospects include NCAA Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette. He was a star for Northeastern University this year, posting 30 goals and 30 assists in 38 games. The former 5th round pick in 2015 has emerged as a legitimate offensive prospect for the Canucks. He even got 5 games in with the big club at the end of this season. The future does indeed look bright for the Canucks at forward.

What about their defense? They have Olli Juolevi, who was selected 5th overall in 2016, that projects as a top-4 Defenseman. He was initially projected for a top-pairing role, but his lack of strong progression has scouts scaling back their initial claims. Nonetheless, Juolevi is a valuable piece in the Canucks rebuild. They also have Guillaume Brisebois, the Canucks’ 3rd round pick in 2015, that projects as an NHL Defenseman. He has the size and speed to be an effective player in an NHL defense corps and was a rock for the Canucks AHL affiliate in Utica. However, he isn’t projected to be a top-pairing Defenseman at his peak.

Canucks to Draft Top Defenseman

The Canucks are stacked offensively and in goal with the emerging Thatcher Demko, but they sorely need a stud Defensive prospect. Juolevi cannot carry the Canucks blueline on his own, and this is why the Canucks must draft a Defenseman at this upcoming draft. This draft, especially the top-10, is littered with smart and mobile defensemen. Canucks will have a shot at one of Adam Boqvist, Noah Dobson, Quinn Hughes or Evan Bouchard. Anyone of these prospects would instantly give the Canucks long-term stability on the back-end.

The Canucks currently own the 7th overall pick and have a decent shot at drafting a future top-pairing Defenseman. Noah Dobson, the standout rearguard for the QMJHL’s Titan, would be an excellent option. He has the all-around game, size and speed to command his own defensive pairing. His 69 points in 67 games this year in the QMJHL was extremely impressive for an 18-year old. However, his composure and maturity while playing top minutes have caught the eyes of NHL scouts. His clutch play in both the QMJHL playoffs and Memorial Cup make him an ideal pick for the Canucks. If Dobson is available at 7th overall, expect GM Benning to run to the podium and call out his name.

In the event that Dobson is picked prior to 7th overall, the Canucks can select another London Knight. After drafting former London Knight Bo Horvat in 2013, the Canucks would return to the same well and select Evan Bouchard. Bouchard’s ridiculous 87 points in 67 game in the OHL led the Knights in scoring by a whopping 23 points. He has the offensive prowess from the backend that would complement Juolevi’s all-around game. He would inject a needed dose of speed and skill on the back-end with an added element of toughness. Needless to say that the Canucks can easily fill their organizational need via this high pick.

Canucks Could Make a Free Agency Splash

The Canucks do have significant cap space that they can spend on a quality top-4 Defenseman to solidify their back-end. The most obvious candidate for a huge splash would be Washington Capitals rearguard, John Carlsson. Although he led the league in scoring for defensemen, his time in Washington may be done. His salary demands, which will most likely be in the $7-8 million range, might prove too rich for the Capitals. The Capitals can offer Carlsson the significant prospect of long-term success with all the upcoming talent. At 28 years of age, Carlsson would be in his prime and would provide the necessary veteran leadership a young roster requires. Although it may seem like a longshot, I certainly expect the Canucks to make a significant offer.

Should Carlsson be unavailable, another solid choice via free-agency would be Islanders’ defenseman, Calvin De Haan. The 27-year-old Defenseman would be an excellent piece to assist the young Canucks in their transition to the pros. De Haan, who had his own troubles adjusting to the NHL game, would be a rock on the back-end. His size and speed would instantly fit with the new Canucks persona and he would only be 34 years of age by the end of a 7-year deal

Vancouver Canucks Building a Contender?

Either way you look at it, the Canucks are acquiring a ridiculous amount of skill and character. They look primed to become a power in the Western Conference within the next 2-3 years. They have built through the draft and have signed their best players to long-term affordable contracts. As these young and talented players grow and evolve together, it will be interesting to see what heights they could reach. With the Canucks beginning a new chapter in their history after the retirement of the Sedins, the next generation of Canucks look primed and hungry for success. They simply need to shore up their defense with another top-end piece and they should be ready for the playoffs. The future is bright in Vancouver!

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