Vancouver Canucks mailbag: Draft targets, prospects, future watch

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 22: Loui Eriksson /

Welcome to the latest edition of the Vancouver canucks mailbag, where we answered your questions on the 2018 draft, future prospects and much more.

The Vancouver Canucks have surpassed pre-season expectations, sitting eighth in the Western Conference with a 13-10-4 record — thanks in large part to the rookie sensation, Brock Boeser.

In regards to what went wrong last season, the Canucks have almost flipped the script entirely. They have a legitimate first line, consisting of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Boeser. The Sedin twins have seen their ice time cut down, yet they remain effective and steady second liners.

The goaltending tandem of Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom has been excellent — combining for a .916 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. And yet, all the talk early in the season was if the Canucks would be winning the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes.

Obviously, a lot can change between now and April. But at this rate, it’s hard to envision the Canucks having any half-decent odds of getting lucky in the draft lottery for once. They might even make the playoffs — something virtually nobody saw happening at the start of the season.

Nonetheless, it’s always a good time to look at possible draft targets in April, and how the Canucks will look in the future. Welcome to our latest edition of the Vancouver Canucks mailbag!

Interesting question, Jess. In order to answer this question, I’d like to first present The Hockey News’ projection of what Vancouver’s roster will look like in 2020:

I see the roster looking a lot like this, but with some minor changes. For starters, I see Loui Eriksson staying on the roster. There’s no way the Canucks are trading that contract, and it’s probably better to eat it up rather than buy him out. Also, I’d like to think Adam Gaudette makes the roster, and that the Canucks would buy out or trade Brandon Sutter to make room for the skilled forward.

Related Story: Week 8 Top prospects: Tryamkin, DiPietro Gadjovich

I also don’t see Brendan Gaunce and Sam Gagner (a free agent after 2019-20), lasting in Canucks uniforms. I’d also project Gadjovich to be in the lineup somewhere. But aside from those, I really think The Hockey News is on par here. It’s impossible to factor in trade acquisitions, free agent signings and future draft picks.

But based on what the Canucks have now, I’d do with what THN said — with those few minor tweaks I mentioned above.

I suppose I already gave you my answer in the question above, but I’ll be more analytical.

Lind has been ultra-dominant for the Kelowna Rockets, with 34 points in 21 games on the season. Right now, he looks a major steal (33rd overall in 2017).

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That being said, the Canucks have solid depth on their wing right now, so I don’t think Lind is going to be rushed to the NHL. I still believe he’s a couple years away from playing his first professional game.

As for Gadjovich, he’s in a similar position as Lind. He’s playing much better than reflected by his draft spot (55th overall in 2017), with 25 points in 19 games.

But I still would like Gadjovich to develop his all-around Hockey IQ, skating and other fundamentals a bit more. Like Lind, there will not be any rush for the Canucks to bring him up.

That being said, I think Lind has the potential to be a consistent 20-goal scorer in the NHL, which would slot him in as a top-six forward. I think Gadjovich has that potential, but I’m not sure if I see him playing on the first or second line just yet. I want to see a bit more.

But unless general manager Jim Benning is planning to trade away some of these prospects for immediate fixes down the road, I can see both Lind and Gadjovich being top-nine forwards. I’m bigger on Lind, though.

Ah, this is a very tricky question. Right now, the Canucks are in the playoff picture. They’re seven points behind the Los Angeles Kings for first in the Pacific Division — a very manageable deficit to overcome. They’re also just seven points up on the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers — who are tied for 29th in the NHL standings.

So it’s probably safe to guess the Canucks will pick somewhere between 12th-20th. If that’s the case, you could expect Benning to simply go for the best player available. But for me, I’d like the Canucks to go with a defenceman.

With Horvat, Baertschi, Boeser, Lind, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette Elias Pettersson all in the system, there isn’t a need for more forwards. The Canucks need a reliable shutdown blueliner, and there are a few guys that would be excellent fits.

Mattias Samuelsson and Evan Bouchard both bring nice size and have scouts raving over their strong defensive games. If they’re looking for speed, then Jett Woo of the Moose Jaw Warriors could be another option.

Next: The best shutdown line for the Vancouver Canucks

So if the Canucks hang around in the playoff picture throughout the season, we can forget about the Dahlin sweepstakes. At this current pace, I see them drafting mid-to-late, and it’d be ideal for Benning to select another defenceman. That’s what this franchise needs most right now.