Vancouver Canucks Draft: It’s Dubois or Trade Down


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Whom the Vancouver Canucks draft on June 24 will not only depend on GM Jim Benning‘s preferences, but on what happens with pick No. 4.

If the Vancouver Canucks draft fifth overall, which is the position they are currently in, general manager Jim Benning said he will most likely go for a forward — namely Pierre-Luc Dubois or Matthew Tkachuk. He believes there is no true No. 1 defenseman available, but that Dubois and Tkachuk could be first-line players. But is Tkachuk, a potential first-line winger really the right choice?

Generally, clubs want to pick the best player available, and that is the case with Benning as well. The only thing that’s better than simply selecting the best player available is if teams can fill an organizational need with that player as well.

Filling a Need

What the Vancouver Canucks’ most urgent needs are is quite obvious. They are set in goal with Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko and have wingers with top-six potential in Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi and Anton Rodin. What they don’t have is a true No. 1 defenseman or No. 1 center for the post-Sedin era which will commence sooner rather than later.

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Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund have top-six potential, but they don’t necessarily project as No. 1 centers. Chris Tanev is perhaps the most underrated defenseman in the league, but he is not a true No. 1 either. However, being strong down the middle — in goal, on D and at center — is probably the most important thing for a team, which is why most people would take a center over a winger if they are equally good on their respective position.

Now, Benning established that he does not see Olli Juolevi, Jacob Chychrun or Mikhail Sergachev — the top-three D-men in the 2016 Draft — as true No. 1 players. However, Dubois is probably the best bet to get a successor for Henrik Sedin, even though he is not a guaranteed first-line player either.

Dubois is big, he is smart, he can score and set up plays, and he is a terrific two-way player. In other words, he is a No. 1 player type. His potential seems higher than Horvat’s or Granlund’s, which is also why he will likely be selected fourth or fifth overall this year, which will be higher than Horvat’s and Granlund’s respective draft positions.

The problem is that the Edmonton Oilers are still ahead of Vancouver — thanks to the draft lottery. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are almost guaranteed to be the first three picks, in whichever order, and whether the Oilers keep or trade their fourth-overall selection, there is a good chance that Dubois will be picked fourth.

So what can the Canucks do then?

Working the Phone

The obvious choice would be to go with Tkachuk. A terrific scoring winger who also plays a great two-way game. It just wouldn’t fill the big organizational needs.

If it’s not Juolevi, not Chychrun and not Tkachuk, then what can Benning do?

Work the phone.

If Dubois goes off the board at No. 4, a trade might be the next-best option. Trade down a few spots, pick up an additional draft pick or prospect, and pick one of the D-men or a center in the seven to 12 range. Logan Brown, Tyson Jost or Clayton Keller are the center options while the aforementioned defensemen would be great pick-ups as well.

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Matthew Tkachuk could be an elite winger one day, so there should be many possible suitors. Ideally, the Canucks could pick up another early second or late first-round pick or a promising prospect in addition to a potential top-line center or top-pairing defenseman. What could be better?

Getting Pierre-Luc Dubois could fill a need with the best player available, but missing out on him could lead to a very happy ending as well.

If Benning can’t get an attractive deal done, Tkachuk or Juolevi would still be nice consolation prizes at No. 5.