Vancouver Canucks 2017 NHL Draft Profile: D Leon Gawanke

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 /

Outside of the first two rounds, finding NHL talent gets increasingly tough. Luckily for the Vancouver Canucks, however, there will be some promising defensemen available in the later rounds.

NHL teams are desperate for puck-moving defensemen, and the Vancouver Canucks are no exception. According to general manager Jim Benning, a power-play quarterback is right up on the club’s priority list, along with a playmaking center.

The Canucks will be in a prime position on the first day of the draft, selecting fifth overall. Right in that range, Cale Makar will be available — quite possibly the defenseman with the highest offensive ceiling of this class.

If they go for a forward in the first round, however, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles blueliner Leon Gawanke might be a solid late-round option.

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Name: Leon Gawanke

Position: Defense

Shoots: Right

Birthdate: 1999-05-31

Height, weight: 6’1”, 185 lbs

Team, league: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL

Stats (from 







#104 by
#246 by Future Considerations
#200 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Risk, Reward: 2/5, 3.5/5

NHL-potential: Top-six defenseman

Draft Range: Fifth to seventh round

Scouting report

"A strong puck-mover with excellent two way potential. Exactly what teams want in the back end once they gain possession. Plays a strong first pass and can hit forwards tape-to-tape on the breakout. Needs to improve his defensive play and get quicker feet."


A German prospect, Leon Gawanke was selected 96th overall by Cape Breton in the 2016 CHL Import draft. He was able to make an immediate impact, scoring eight goals and 32 points in 54 games. With that, Gawanke ranked second among QMJHL draft-eligible defensemen in points per game, only trailing potential first-round pick Pierre-Olivier Joseph. In addition, Gawanke recorded the third-most shots in that group.

Gawanke stands out the most whenever he has the puck on his stick. He plays a strong first pass, succeeding regularly on the breakout. In addition, he makes very good decisions offensively, knowing when to take risks, join the rush or sit back. Gawanke also possesses a strong, accurate shot, which he likes to use from the point. With that, he has solid power-play upside.

Defensively, Gawanke shows some smarts, though it’s certainly an area he can improve in. He is effective against the rush, as he keeps a tight gap and pressures oncoming attackers early. Gawanke isn’t much of a physical player, despite having a solid frame, but rather uses an active stick to make plays defensively. He has solid defensive awareness and can use his stick to intercept passes or knock pucks off forwards’ sticks.


Like many players from non-traditional hockey countries, Gawanke does not have the same level of skating fundamentals that most North American kids gets. (Then again, skating issues seem to be the theme among highly talented players in this draft class…) His mechanics aren’t great, his stride isn’t fluid, and he doesn’t have naturally quick feet either. For a puck-moving defender that can join the rush and provide offense, Gawanke will need to improve in all aspects of skating, in order to translate his game to the NHL level.

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Just as important as the skating fundamentals will be an improvement in defensive play. Gawanke must improve his positioning, as he can end up chasing plays and getting drawn out of position. His aggressiveness in one-on-ones is one of his strengths, but it seems to be hurting him when the attacking team is set up in the offensive zone. Coaching and time might be all it takes to iron this out, or at least to improve enough to play in the NHL.

Lastly, Gawanke isn’t absolutely outstanding offensively either. He is good and displays the right tools, but he is far from elite. He has a lot of work to do in all aspects of his game. But if he puts it in, he certainly has the right kind of upside.

Final Thoughts

Gawanke is ranked 104th by, but only 246th by Future Considerations. So, there are absolutely no guarantees for him to be drafted, but he’s certainly got a shot. For a team like the Vancouver Canucks, Gawanke is an excellent option.

The last time a German defenseman got drafted to the NHL was Konrad Abeltshauser in 2010. Like Gawanke, Abeltshauser spent his draft year in the QMJHL, with the Halifax Mooseheads, before being selected 163rd overall by the San Jose Sharks. Abeltshauser stayed in Halifax for three more seasons, then spent two and a half years in the AHL, but ended up returning to Germany in 2015.

Gawanke’s future could look very similar, as he certainly seems talented enough to be an impact player in Germany. Abeltshauser was named defenseman of the year in the 2016-17 season, so that wouldn’t be a bad scenario. But, of course, that’s not his goal, or else he never would have come to Canada in the first place.

Next: All 2017 NHL Draft Profiles

Gawanke wants to be an NHL player, and he has the potential to become one. The Canucks should definitely put him on their final list for the draft, and consider picking him in the mid-to-late rounds.