Vancouver Canucks 2017 NHL Draft Profile: D Urho Vaakanainen

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Brock Boeser walks to the stage after being selected as the number twenty-three overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in 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; Brock Boeser walks to the stage after being selected as the number twenty-three overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in 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 2017 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.

Once again the Vancouver Canucks failed to secure a spot in the NHL playoffs. So, instead of competing for the Stanley Cup, Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the upcoming months to prepare next season’s roster. Now that the organisation is officially in a ‘transition period’, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will be of utmost importance.

A four-game winning streak to start the 2016-17 season gave fans hope for the playoffs. But — blame the coach, the roster, injuries or anything else — unfortunately, the team was unable to play competitively for an entire season. With that, they are guaranteed another high draft pick this year.

Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming draft by profiling as many 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.

This year’s draft seems wide-open, with no real consensus in any of the seven rounds. So, it will certainly be interesting to see who will put on a Vancouver Canucks jersey come June.

Today we are taking a look at Finnish defenseman Urho Vaakanainen!

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Name: Urho Vaakanainen

Position: Defense

Shoots: Left

Birthdate: 1999-01-01

Height, weight: 6’1”, 187 lbs

Team, league: JYP, Liiga

Stats (from 







#25 by
#29 by Future Considerations
#26 by McKeen’s Hockey
#8 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)

Risk, Reward: 2/5, 4/5

NHL-potential: Top-four defenseman

Draft Range: Top 40

Scouting report

"An intelligent, two-way defender…reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck…great at turning the puck up ice with awareness of the play around him… moves the puck with easy plays and shows a solid first pass…possesses an accurate wrist shot from the blueline…is composed and does not panic with the puck when pressured…very little risk to his game and he does all the little things right…a great, smooth and balanced skater, plus he shows excellent speed when getting back to defend after joining the rush…backward skating and edge work are both at a high level…doesn’t play overly aggressively, but boxes out his man with some physicality at times and keeps a good gap…uses his stick actively to close off lanes…complete defender who has some top-four NHL upside. (Future Considerations)"


Urho Vaakanainen is a promising defensive player. He just turned 18 this year but already has two professional seasons in Finland under his belt. Vaakanainen is the kind of player you don’t always notice because he plays a low-risk, low-flash, effective game. If you don’t notice him, he’s probably doing a good job.

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Vaakanainen is an excellent skater who has the speed and mobility to be successful against the rush. He keeps a tight gap and likes to defend early, using his stick to poke the puck loose in the neutral zone or early in the D-zone. Zone entries are a difficult task against this young Finn. Once he gets the puck defensively, he doesn’t take many risks and rather plays a quick breakout pass or clears the puck out along the boards.

His skating also allows Vaakanainen to move the puck out of the D-zone and out of pressure. He doesn’t overreact when a forechecker comes rushing in but rather stays calm and evaluates his options before making the right choice.

Overall, Vaakanainen is a promising defensive presence with two-way upside.


Vaakanainen is excellent defending the rush, but once attackers manage to get past him with possession, things get easier for them. Vaakanainen doesn’t get very physical, but he is quite aggressive in the defensive zone. He likes to pressure opponents along the boards and in the corners trying to poke the puck loose. Because of that, he tends to get drawn out of position and chase plays instead of sitting back and keeping coverage.

As to his offensive game, there just isn’t much there. Vaakanainen isn’t overly skilled, he doesn’t have a wicked shot and he doesn’t play crazy set-up passes for scoring chances. He just plays his laid-back, low-risk style. He’s effective, but not very flashy. Don’t expect him to have an offensive impact at the NHL level (or anywhere before that).

Final Thoughts

This isn’t something you’ll hear a lot when it comes to European defensemen, but I believe the smaller North American rink will help Vaakanainen’s game. The defensive zone isn’t as wide in North America, so he won’t be too far out of position if he rushes to the boards and needs to get back into position. That said, his defensive awareness and decision making should improve with time anyway — but he’ll certainly need that time.

If Vaakanainen showed a little more offensive promise, he could easily be a first-round selection. Aside from ISS Hockey, all major scouting services have him ranked there, too. But, teams usually like more flashy players with higher upside over those who are — and I mean this in the best possible way — just there. Vaakanainen will likely make the NHL, but he might not be more than a bottom-four guy.

Next: 2017 NHL Draft Profile Overview

If that’s what NHL scouts think as well, Vaakanainen could drop out of the first round. In that case, the Vancouver Canucks would be waiting to pick him up. Chances are that he’ll be gone before Vancouver picks 33rd, but there is always a chance. With Nikita Tryamkin back in Russia, another D-man sure wouldn’t hurt.