Vancouver Canucks: 5 thoughts after 2017 NHL Draft Day 1

June 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Elias Pettersson puts on a team jersey after being selected as the number five overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
June 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Elias Pettersson puts on a team jersey after being selected as the number five overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks made a bold pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Here’s what we learned.

The Vancouver Canucks fan base seems split after the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. There are many who love the pick, but an equal amount of people who seem to hate it. Plus, of course, those who feel indifferent about it.

For what it’s worth, I’m with those who love it. In my opinion, there’s literally no reason not to. Unless you’re in the Brandon Sutter “Grit and Balls” Fan Club, that is.

Here are five thoughts.

1. What to like and what to hate

A night after the pick, we can be a little more objective about it. We won’t know what Elias Pettersson will turn into for another few years, so let’s just focus on what he is right now.

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Pettersson is a highly skilled offensive player who can make defencemen dizzy with fancy dekes. He has great speed, allowing him to rush through defensive lines before finishing a play with an excellent release. In addition, Pettersson has high-end hockey IQ, possesses strong vision in the offensive zone and can set teammates up for high-danger scoring chances.

What’s not to like? His frame. That’s it. But that can also be improved. As general manger Jim Benning pointed out after the pick, the Canucks had a strength and conditioning coach watching him at the NHL Combine, to make sure he can grow into his 6-foot-2 frame.

2. Benning preferred Makar

Also of note in Benning’s post-draft interview is the fact that the Canucks seem to have preferred Cale Makar, had he been available at five. “That would have been a hard, hard decision,” Benning said. “We kind of had a feeling that both defencemen would be gone, so we were concentrating on a couple guys, with Pettersson being the guy we wanted.”

Why does this mean the Canucks would have taken Makar over Pettersson? Because this is the kind of decision that is made at the final scouting meeting before the draft, not when the team actually has to make a pick. They went into the draft with a set list they would follow, and that’s what they did.

Had Pettersson been ahead of Makar on that list, Benning could have just said something along the lines of “Pettersson was the guy we wanted.”

3. Not afraid to reach

One thing many fans dislike about the pick is that Pettersson was not a consensus top-five pick. ISS Hockey, for example, have him at 20th in their final rankings. So, it certainly would have been nice to trade down a couple of spots, pick up another draft pick in the process, and still end up with the player they wanted. According to Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee, there was a deal in place to swap the fifth and sixth-overall picks, but it didn’t end up happening.

The thing here is, no one can be sure what pick a team is going to make. McPhee says they backed off because they thought Cody Glass would be available at No. 6, but maybe Benning didn’t want to trade either. He didn’t know if the Golden Knights wanted Pettersson, so he just went ahead and grabbed the player he wanted.

This shows us that despite the Jake Virtanen pick in 2014, that didn’t quite work out as planned, the Canucks are not afraid to reach for the player they like. Judge for yourself whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

4. Made the right pick

This one is 100 percent personal opinion. I think the Canucks made the right pick. Simply put, there is too much to like about Pettersson and his upside to not like him.

I know every top-10 prospect — even most second-round prospects — have highlight videos like the one above. Glass has them, Casey Mittelstadt has them, Nick Suzuki has them. But what’s impressive is that Pettersson frequently stood out as a dynamic offensive player who can produce on a game-to-game basis against grown professionals in Sweden.

I think many Canucks fans don’t love the pick because they don’t know Pettersson, but were able to follow Glass in the WHL all year. But trust me, Pettersson has incredible talent.

5. Skill, smarts, skating

Finally, looking at Pettersson, he simply checks a lot of boxes when it comes to offensive abilities. He has incredibly puck skills, which includes dekes but also incredible passing skill and a shot with deadly accuracy. He is a super smart player who sees plays develop in front of him before anyone else does, allowing him to consistently create dangerous scoring chances. Plus, he is a quick, agile skater with excellent edge work, which is essential in today’s NHL.

(Gabriel Vilardi, for example, likely dropped to 10th overall because of skating issues.)

And in case you are wondering, Pettersson has some two-way upside as well. He doesn’t strike me as a Patrice Bergeron-type, but he knows his responsibilities and will work his butt off to help his team defensively.

Next: Canucks draft targets for every round

Seriously, this was an excellent pick.