Vancouver Canucks should not trade down at 2017 NHL Draft

Jun 24, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Olli Juolevi poses for a photo after being selected as the number five overall draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagra Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Olli Juolevi poses for a photo after being selected as the number five overall draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagra Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks’ draft position is not ideal this year, but they should stick with their fifth-overall pick and get the best player available.

Back in April, I argued the Vancouver Canucks should consider trading their fifth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft to pick up additional assets. On Tuesday, Canucks Army’s Jackson McDonald suggested the same thing. And while I still agree the Canucks should consider it, staying where they are seems like the better idea.

A case can be made for at least 10 players to be selected fifth overall. If you include the four that will be picked before fifth, make it 15.

On defense, you have Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Timothy Liljegren. At center you have Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi, Cody Glass and Elias Pettersson — among others. Add to that scoring wingers Owen Tippett and Eeli Tolvanen. It’s a long list.

Logically, only five of those players can actually be selected in the top five, resulting in roughly 10 other potential top-five players dropping down the board. Trading down looks like an excellent idea.

But maybe it isn’t.

Best player available

Although drafting by need is still a widely accepted strategy, going for the best player available is what brings the greatest success. Needs change quickly, and the prospects drafted to fill that need often aren’t even NHL-ready at that point.

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And although there are about 15 players that have top-five potential, the Canucks likely have a list of players they like best. They won’t draw a name from their draft hat right before they head up to the stage. Rather, they will hope the names high on their list — the ones they deem the best available — are still available at No. 5.

But, with every additional pick that’s made, the chances of Vancouver getting their No. 1 decrease. Therefore, the only way to get one of their top-five candidates is to stay where they are.

Additional picks vs. better prospects

The big question here is obviously this: if there are 15 players with top-five potential, does that mean all 15 will be equally good NHL players in the future?

The answer to that is obviously no.

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It’s true that scouts aren’t entirely sure whether Patrick or Hischier will become the best NHL players of this class. Maybe it’ll be Vilardi, maybe Mittelstadt, maybe even Martin Necas or Lias Andersson. But, every one of those scouts has players he prefers over others, and players he believes to have higher potential and/or better chances of NHL success than others.

There is a bit of a misconception that trading down in this draft makes sense because “you don’t really know what you’re getting anyway” and “anyone could turn out to be this draft class’s best NHL player.”

The reality is that you still have higher chances of getting that best player closer to the top. Projecting NHL ceilings and floors for these prospects is extremely difficult, but if the Canucks’ scouts have done a good job, they will have an exact idea of what they expect each player to become.

Therefore, they should stick with their fifth-overall selection and pick the best player available instead of acquiring maybe one additional draft pick in the second round.

Exception 1

Of course, there is an exception to this. There are maybe two scenarios where trading down totally makes sense.

One, no matter how hard they try, the Canucks just cannot settle on a definitive ranking. When you look at this year’s prospect group, everyone has question marks, including the top guys. So, instead of being able to assign a rank to each player, their list could — hypothetically — look something like this:

  1. Nico Hischier, Miro Heiskanen
  2. Nolan Patrick, Casey Mittelstadt
  3. Cody Glass, Gabriel Vilardi, Cale Makar

(The list above was put together somewhat randomly and neither represents the Canucks’ actual list nor my own.)

If the Canucks had tiers instead of individual ranks for each player, trading down could make sense. Let’s assume tiers one and two were selected first through fourth. That would leave the third tier with Glass, Vilardi and Makar for the Canucks to pick from.

If they now say “we really do not care which one of the three we get, as long as we do get one of them,” then sure, trading down makes sense.

Exception 2

The second exception is that Vancouver’s list does not quite represent the consensus (if there even is one). As a result, there are maybe three players available at No. 5 that the Canucks would have taken fifth or earlier.

Another sample list:

  1. Nico Hischier
  2. Nolan Patrick
  3. Casey Mittelstadt
  4. Elias Pettersson
  5. Cody Glass

In this scenario, the first four players off the board are Hischier, Patrick, Vilardi and Heiskanen. That leaves Mittelstadt, Pettersson and Glass for the Canucks.

Again, this only works if the Canucks are somewhat indifferent about their selection of the remaining three. If that was the case, they could again trade down a few spots and still get one of their preferred players, along with an additional draft pick.


There are always scenarios where certain actions make sense. However, trading down always comes at a cost. Instead of getting the player you really like the most, someone else makes the decision for you. Accumulating additional draft picks obviously helps, but it might not quite be worth it.

Then there’s the issue of needing a trade partner. In order to move down, the Canucks need someone who is willing to move up and give up extra assets to get there. And unless Vancouver decides to drop down to the 15-to-20 range — which they shouldn’t — they won’t get a lot of extra assets in return.

Next: Top 5 draft options at 5th overall

So, trading down is a possibility and it is one Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff should and most likely will talk about. But, it is about as unlikely as any other year.