Vancouver Canucks 2016 NHL Draft Profile: D Lucas Johansen

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks are preparing for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.

Unfortunately, the 2015-16 season was cut short for the Vancouver Canucks, which means we have a long offseason ahead of us. Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the time to prepare next season’s roster, and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will certainly play an important part in that process.

Vancouver started off strong in the fall of 2015 but ended the season with a thud. Thanks to their abysmal 28th rank in the league standings, the Canucks own seven picks early in each round. Benning did a great job in his first two years at the job and another successful draft could certainly help boost the rebuild.

Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming event by profiling as many draft-eligible players as we possibly can. Keep in mind that we are not saying these are players the Canucks are targeting. Instead, these are players that we think the Canucks could or should have interest in.

Today we will look at defenseman Lucas Johansen of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets!

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Name: Lucas Johansen

Position: Defense

Shoots: Left

Height, weight: 6’1”, 176 lbs

Team/League: Kelowna Rockets, WHL

Stats (from 







NHL CSS Ranking: 26th (North American Skaters)

Risk, Reward: 2/5, 4/5

NHL-potential: Top-Four Defenseman

Draft Range: Late First to Second Round

Scouting report

"Emerging defender who projects as a two way defender with strong balance and skating ability. The younger brother of Ryan is still a work in progress, but has size and is a very good puck mover and plays on both the penalty kill and the power play. Leads by example and can move attacker out of the front, get in the lanes and break up passes, and he make that first pass out in transition and jump into the rush. Displays a very good point shot. Will play the body, but if he added a bit more aggression, he make it more difficult to play against him. Needs to get thicker and add weight and muscle. (Bill Placzek,"


Lucas Johansen is the kind of defenseman coaches crave for in today’s NHL. His standout attributes are his skating, positioning and stick work, rather than physicality. But that does not mean he can’t use his body.

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Great agility, edge work and pivots allow Johansen to always keep an eye on the play and be one step ahead of the attacker. He is not the fastest skater out there but he can make up for that with his hockey sense, mobility and positioning. He transitions very well between offense and defense, knows how to angle players, and is quick enough to react to his opponents’ movements.

Johansen plays a modern defensive style that should translate well to the NHL level. Much like Canucks D-man Chris Tanev, Johansen relies on skating, positioning and stick work rather than his body. He takes away a lot of room with his gap control and an active stick. Note that the Tanev comparison refers to that aspect of their respective games only, and not their overall styles.

On offense, Johansen can rely on his skating as well. His agility and edge work allow him to move along the blue line to get in passing or shooting position, and it allows him to take a quick step past his opponents to create time and room in the offensive zone.

But especially there, skating is not all he can do. Johansen is not only a penalty killer for the Rockets but also a powerplay quarterback. He possesses great vision and a high hockey IQ, along with the ability to play accurate passes and fire strong slap shots at the net.


Johansen’s defensive style is great and should translate well to the next level. However, he does need to refine his overall defensive game. Johansen plays aggressively at times, but a little more physicality would still be nice. From what we have seen so far, we shouldn’t hope for much in that regard, though.

In order to get more physical, the 176-pound D-man should add some muscle to his game. Being physically mature should allow him to use his body at least a little bit more, even if he will never become a big hitter. Winning puck battles and protecting the puck are things that are important for any defenseman.

Last but not least, Johansen needs to improve his defensive decision making. More accurately — and here we go back to the aforementioned weaknesses — he shouldn’t always rely entirely on his stick work. Much like Canucks prospect Tate Olson, Johansen excels at controlling the gap and poke checking but tends to overdo it and be too one-dimensional in one-on-ones.

Final Thoughts

Lucas Johansen is ranked in the second round on most rankings but it would not be surprising to see him picked in the first. He combines offensive abilities with a modern defensive style which should allow him to play a top-four role in the future. The fact that he comes from the Kelowna Rockets, a famous D-man factory, only helps his cause.

If the Vancouver Canucks want to go for the best player available at fifth overall and believe that is a forward — namely Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk or Alexander Nylander — they could go for a D-man with their second pick to fill that future hole. Dan Hamhuis might be gone, Alex Edler is aging, and other than Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton, there are no sure-fire top-four players to be found in the organization.

Next: More Draft Profiles

Whether the Canucks trade into the first round or simply roll with their early second-round selection, Lucas Johansen will be an option. Behind Calgary Hitman Jake Bean, Johansen might well be the best WHL defenseman in this year’s draft.