Vancouver Canucks: Grades for all 2017 draft picks

June 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Elias Pettersson poses for photos 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 poses for photos 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 eight selections in the 2017 NHL Draft. Were they the right ones?

About halfway through the 2017 NHL Draft, I looked at the Vancouver Canucks‘ selections and wasn’t entirely happy. Not because I thought the Canucks made bad picks, but rather because there were players available at 33, 55, 64 and 95 that I would have liked better.

A day later, though, looking at this objectively, simply judging the level of talent the Canucks picked up, there really is no reason to complain.

Here are my grades for the 2017 Vancouver Canucks draft class.

Round 1, 5th overall: C Elias Pettersson

At No. 5, most Canucks fans had WHL Portland Winterhawks centre Cody Glass at the top of their lists. Glass went to the Vegas Golden Knights sixth overall, however, and the Canucks went with Swede Elias Pettersson. Personally, I love that decision.

Despite Glass’s 94 points last season, I see him as more of a two-way guy with good but not outstanding offensive upside in the NHL. I might be wrong here, but I believe Pettersson can be a dynamic game changer at the highest level, which is something I prefer at this draft position. Pettersson can skate, he’s smart, has incredible puck skills, excellent playmaking abilities and a dangerous shot.

A great pick — A+.

Round 2, 33rd overall: RW Kole Lind

On Day 2, I wasn’t quite as thrilled about the Canucks’ first picks. One of the reasons for that could be that, being based in Germany, I tend to favour European players — I just don’t see much Canadian junior hockey. For the second round, for example, I had Finnish centre Joni Ikonen and Swede Jesper Boqvist high on my list.

But let’s look at this pick objectively. Lind finished his draft year with 30 goals and 87 points in 70 games, and that did not happen by chance. He is another extremely smart player who knows how to get open in high-danger scoring areas, and excels at setting up teammates with perfect passes. In addition, Lind plays responsibly in all three zones, making him a strong NHL prospect who could have been drafted in the first round.

Another great selection — A+.

Round 2, 55th overall: LW Jonah Gadjovich

At 55, one of my favourite players of this draft, the aforementioned Joni Ikonen, was still available. But, again, the Canucks went with a Canadian junior player instead. Again, I was slightly disappointed. And again, that doesn’t mean the Canucks made a bad pick.

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Gadjovich scored 45 goals in 60 games last season. At 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, he brings both size and scoring upside to the Canucks, which is something their prospect pool has been lacking. Though smaller players continue to find their place in a league that focuses more and more on speed and skill, big guys like Milan Lucic can still be very important contributors. The biggest downside to Gadjovich’s game is his skating.

Gadjovich looks like a player who could fill the role of a bottom-six grinder, but he has the potential to be more than that. Here, I would have preferred Ikonen, but it was still a very solid pick — A-.

Round 3, 64th overall: G Michael DiPietro

Most of Canucks Nation did not expect the team to target a goalie any time soon, having Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig in the system. However, this pick was not made to fill an immediate need, as Michael DiPietro will take several years before making the jump to the NHL. By the time DiPietro plays in the NHL, Demko will be around 26, and Garteig’s first pro season did not promise an NHL career.

Having goaltending depth is never a bad idea, and DiPietro is extremely talented. I probably would have targeted a goalie in the fourth round, but DiPietro’s selection is definitely a good one — A.

Round 4, 95th overall: D Jack Rathbone

With the second pick in the fourth round, the Canucks went with an American high-school defenceman. Again, I had some Europeans on my list that I would have liked here: Santeri Virtanen (105th to WPG), Adam Ruzicka (109th to CGY) and Ostap Safin (115th to EDM) to name a few. What’s more, Rathbone did not look like a future NHL player in the one video viewing that I got of him this year.

But, Rathbone is exactly what the Canucks wanted: A smart, skilled defenceman who has the potential to be a power-play quarterback. In addition, scouts like that Rathbone has shown steady improvement throughout the year. The concerns are that he played at a very low level last season (he’s also going back for another year), has a short frame and his defensive play has a lot of room for improvement.

Still, nothing wrong with this pick — A.

Round 5, 135th overall: D Kristoffer Gunnarsson

After all the talk of how I preferred some European prospects, this one was the exact opposite. The Canucks picked up an overage defenceman who is enjoying success in Swedish pro hockey, but I don’t really like it at all. Gunnarsson is a purely defensive defenceman with little to no offensive upside.

He might make it to the NHL one day, but chances are that he won’t be more than a bottom-six or depth defender. You can get those for free in free agency every year, and the Canucks had options with more upside. In fact, I liked the next four picks — Leon Gawanke to Winnipeg, Noah Cates to Philadelphia, Drake Rymsha to Los Angeles and Sebastian Aho to the New York Islanders — a lot better.

Really not a fan of this one — E.

Round 6, 181th overall: LW Petrus Palmu

In the sixth round, the Canucks got back on track by selecting OHL winger Petrus Palmu. At 5-foot-7, Palmu was the shortest player selected in the entire draft, but that’s a risk worth taking. In 2016-17, the Finn scored 40 goals and 98 points for the Owen Sound Attack. He is extremely fast, dynamic and smart, and has incredible offensive upside.

Love the pick — A+.

Round 7, 188th overall: D Matthew Brassard

The last couple of rounds of the draft are a total crapshoot anyway. Sure, you can get Patric Hornqvists and Henrik Zetterbergs, but if we knew what these players will become, they would not have fallen to the seventh round. The Canucks rounded out their 2017 class with a two-way defenceman in his second year of eligibility, Matthew Brassard, which is another great pick. A player with great tools who used the 2016-17 season to turn them into a strong overall game.

Nothing wrong with this — A.

Overall Grade

Overall, the Canucks did an absolutely outstanding job. Teams with many draft picks generally get higher draft grades than those with fewer, but the Canucks actually used their eight selections really well.

There was only one pick that I didn’t like. Since it was the 135th pick, not fifth, it doesn’t matter all that much. Who cares about that one late-rounder.

Next: Elias Pettersson scouting package

But, it’s the pick that prevents the Canucks from getting a perfect score. It’s an A.

With the 2017 draft class added to the prospect pool, Canucks’ future looks a lot brighter than it did before this weekend.