Vancouver Canucks 2016 NHL Draft Profile: C Rodrigo Abols

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.

A somewhat familiar name to  us all, here is the next Latvian NHLer in the making, forward Rodrigo Abols!

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Name: Rodrigo Abols

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Height, weight: 6’5″, 185 lbs

Team/League: Portland Winterhawks, WHL

Stats (from







NHL CSS Ranking: Unranked

Risk, Reward: 2/5, 3.5/5

NHL-potential: Top-Nine Forward

Draft Range: 6th – 7th Round

Scouting report

"A gritty, hard-working forward with a large frame. An agile skater for his size and is starting to work explosiveness into his game. Smart with and without the puck, and exhibits strength at both ends of the ice. Not the most physical player, but that side of his game will come naturally as he develops more bullish instincts. Loves to battle and works hard to win puck possession on open ice, along the boards, and in the corners. All-in-all, a sizeable forward that has the raw tools it takes to become an effective producer as he elevates his game. (Curtis Joe, EP 2015)"


First and foremost, Rodrigo Abols is a big guy who does not shy away from pinning a few guys to the board. It is not as if Abols is a lanky guy who does not have the weight to hit with, either. At 185 pounds, he is a legitimate NHL body.

Secondly, he has great speed and hands that have been displayed at the international level. His fluid skating is deceptive at times and his hands are quick when they need to be. His hard shot also compliments his skill set very well.

Thirdly, Abols was an invite to the Vancouver Canucks and the 2015 Young Stars Classic, where he worked himself up the lineup in quick order from playing on a fourth line with Kyle Pettit and Mackenzie Stewart to eventually playing as a linemate to now-NHLers Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. This shows that he, given the vote of confidence, is willing to work hard to climb up the ranks.

Abols recorded this goal and made us all wonder if he was the next Latvian Locomotive in the making. After all, Abols was invited to camp partly thanks to then-phenomenal Canucks rookie Ronalds Kenins.

He is also a regular contributor to his Latvian national team. He also has extensive experience in the MHL as well as the KHL. Here are two plays that he made at last year’s international tournament against the French national team. The first play shows his offensive smarts alongside his shot, and the second play shows how effective of an attacker he can be.


The weakness in his game has got to be the lack of high-end abilities that can make him a future NHL-er. He is simply a big man who, frankly, does not fight well. His inability to translate his formidable talent to the North American game seems to be bringing his stock down.

His age is also a factor against him. As a 20-year-old who has already been passed at the NHL draft once, his stock could not have risen much more after a lackluster season in the WHL.

All in all, there has got to be a reason the NHL passed on this forward at the 2015 NHL Draft, including the Canucks. The only positive for him, in order for him to be drafted this year, has got to be his showing at the Young Stars Classic. And that is not a good resume going into the draft.

Final Thoughts

Abols is a low-risk option who has the potential to grow into a decent scorer given the environment to excel. But he isn’t even listed on the NHL’s Central Scouting database. For a guy who is just one WHL season removed from the spotlights at the Young Stars Classic, this doesn’t make sense.

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But he is just one season and one offseason removed from a 38-point performance in 36 games with the HK Riga of the MHL. Sure, he can be forgotten, but is he obsolete a prospect now, irrelevant to the NHL?

Abols is an absolute wildcard. His history at the MHL level should have propelled him above the average scorers of the WHL. What is wrong with Abols? The team that solves that mystery may end up with one of the big steals of the draft.

It seems that the question is not about how good Abols can be, but about where he really should be drafted, if at all drafted. It is a very odd question and one that seems largely neglected by the NHL’s scouting bureau.

However, the Canucks have had some history with Abols. Here is what Jim Benning had to say last year about Abols.

"We can’t sign him. The deal with him is that we watched him last year, we were thinking about drafting him, and then for whatever reason we didn’t draft him. He’s playing in Portland this year, and because he’s a European player, he’s ineligible to sign with us right now, or with anytime, so he’ll play in Portland this year, he’ll go through the draft next year, and that’ll decide where he ends up."

Certainly sounds as if Benning was willing to sign Abols but was not able to, thanks to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. So what now? I would think that the Canucks could take Abols with one of the last picks of the draft, if not as an undrafted free agent after the draft, should the Latvian go undrafted.

But hey, he plays soccer. That’s a Vancouver Canuck thing, right?

The size is there. The history is there. The ties are there, and the stage is set for the Canucks to draft Abols with probably one of the safest picks of the draft in the last rounds.


Do the Canucks want to take a big frame to bolster their depth down the middle, where they are already stacked with the likes of Adam Gaudette and Kyle Pettit, or is this the end of the road for Abols and the Canucks?