The Vancouver Canucks finally have a respectable prospects pool after a couple of years of strong drafting and developing under general manager Jim Benning.
The Vancouver Canucks may have committed to a full rebuild only a few months ago, but under general manager Jim Benning, their prospects pool already boasts some top-end talent and depth. The 2016-17 season resulted in a major change in the landscape for Vancouver’s prospects pool, thanks to trade deadline acquisitions as well as a strong draft.
Just from the two trades and the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks were able to add ten prospects, filling up every position with at least one player.
The bottom line? The Canucks prospects pipeline is an ever-changing scenery with more new names than ever before. With the addition of so many prospects and the rise and fall of many players already in the system, it’s time for The Canuck Way Canucks prospects ranking.
The Canuck Way 2017 Canucks Prospects Ranking
Our TCW staff ranked all Canucks prospects. The criteria: whatever each writer thinks is important. Current position in the organisation, talent, potential, and chance of NHL success. All prospects under 24 years of age were considered as long as they did not spend significant time in the NHL.
After looking at the five honourable mentions yesterday, here is No. 20, defenseman Kristoffer Gunnarsson!
No. 20 D Kristoffer Gunnarsson
Weight: 205 lbs
DOB: 1997-02-26 (Age 20)
Drafted: 135th Overall, 2017 Entry Draft
2016-17 Stats: 29GP – 1G – 2PTS – 8PIM (Allsvenskan, IK Oskarshamn)
Drafted as a double overager at the 2017 Entry Draft, Kristoffer Gunnarsson is a Swedish defenseman who has played in the Swedish Elite League, the Allsvenskan, and in the junior team for the Elite League. He also has experience with Sweden’s World Juniors squad.
Because he is an overager and was not even ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau in the 2015 Entry Draft’s top European Skaters, there is not much scouting info that is available for Gunnarsson.
The pick that was used on Gunnarsson was what Vancouver got in return for the fourth-round pick they got in the Jannik Hansen deal. As of now, the return for Hansen has turned out to be Nikolay Goldobin, Gunnarsson, and Petrus Palmu.
Strengths: Physicality & Skating
Though Gunnarsson isn’t a Zdeno Chara or Dustin Byfuglien by any means at just 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he sure likes to hit. As evidence of his aggressive physical play, Gunnarsson was suspended for five games and fined last year for an apparent shoulder check to the opposing forward’s head, according to this Swedish news outlet.
Latest top pick Elias Pettersson testified to the fellow Swede’s style of play, quote courtesy of @CanucksNow from TSN1040.
In addition to Pettersson’s assessment of Gunnarsson, here is video footage from Frolunda HC of the defenseman, one of the only ones available for viewing outside of Sweden.
"Gunnarsson is a defenseman who plays a safe, defensive-minded game. Owns decent mobility and skating ability. Likes to hit and punish opponents physically. Doesn’t contribute much offensively. (Elite Prospects, Erik. P. Piri)"
From that and from what we could see at the Prospects Showdown, Gunnarsson is a smooth skater who has good mobility. Branded as a defensive defenseman, his physicality and skating may be the two most important traits that Gunnarsson should have, and he does have them.
Weaknesses: No offensive upside
The most glaring weakness in Gunnarsson’s game is his lack of offensive upside. He scored a total of four points last year in 82 games spread across many different leagues and in the playoffs.
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Of course, as a defensive defenseman he won’t be producing many points but if he has a truly good first pass, we would expect a bit more from a double overage pick.
At the Prospects Showdown, Gunnarsson was exposed defensively quite a bit as well. It was his skate that kicked the puck into his Team Blue net for an own goal against and right after.
He did not seem to dominate physically against larger forwards either, getting outmuscled by the likes of Zack MacEwen and Brock Boeser.
He did get himself the second assist on the first goal for Team Blue with that “good first pass” and he did show his aggressive physical play by throwing a check at Boeser entering his zone during the second period.
Watch the highlights from the Prospects Showdown here and you will see Gunnarsson (#39) frequently for reasons more bad than good.
Projection: Top 4 AHL defenseman
I do not like the chances for Gunnarsson. As a 20-year-old, he should have stood out at the prospects game and in his league. He was often the seventh defenseman for his Frolunda club and also was when the World Juniors squad for Sweden reached the end of their tournament.
Though Gunnarsson should be able to hold his own against men in the NHL/AHL, his lack of offensive upside limits him to a third-pairing defender in the NHL at best and I would not be surprised if he never graduates the AHL or if he does not leave Europe at all.
Gunnarsson checks in at No. 20 in our rankings but many had him as the worst draft pick by the Canucks in the 2017 draft. Though only time tells what become of these prospects, Gunnarsson doesn’t fit the NHL’s love of dynamic two-way blueliners.