Vancouver Canucks prospects that need more seasoning before the NHL


Many Canucks fans are ready to slot the team’s high profile prospects into the lineup next year. I’m here today to tell you to hold your horses on that.

I get it. The retirement of Daniel and Henrik Sedin opens the doors to a new era. We would hope the next wave of Vancouver Canucks are more than just Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. Time will have to tell.

Canucks prospects did very well for themselves this season. There is a lot of hope out there and with that comes unrealistic expectations. Every year, I hear about all the NHL-ready prospects and only one or two of them make the team.

The last three years shows you that merit means nothing to this organization. Travis Green and Jim Benning will never admit that a player’s contract and waiver eligibility plays a huge role in determining a roster spot. Everyone has their favourites and this team is no different.

I know many of you are expecting at least three of these prospects covered today should be on the opening day roster. We don’t even know who will be added in free agency yet. I wouldn’t start making baseless assumptions.

The four prospects I will talk about are the closest to the NHL, so you can assume anyone else that I omit is still far away or are on the cusp like Nikolay Goldobin or Thatcher Demko.

Elias Pettersson

The chosen one. To Canucks fans, he is potentially our future number one centre. If you are an ignorant fan, he is already there. In case you don’t read the top prospect performances of the week, I want to remind you of something very important.

During his historic season in the SHL, Elias Pettersson has spent most of the year at right wing. I know several websites list him as a C/RW, he hardly plays centre. At the World Juniors, he did not play centre. It was a more even split between the two positions in his draft year, but he is not a regular centre for the Växjö Lakers.

This is why I will scoff at anybody who pencils Pettersson as the second line centre for next season. He will start on the wing if he makes the team, which he realistically could. However, I would like him to spend at least half a season in Utica.

Why? This gets him a chance to prove if he really is too good for the AHL (the transition is not as easy as you think) and he can get used to the smaller ice surface. On top of that, he could spend all of that time at centre with the Comets, theoretically lowering the number of games he will spend on the wing in Vancouver.

I would look at William Nylander‘s career path because Pettersson could follow that development curve. Considering how old school Travis Green is, it would not surprise me if he would deploy Pettersson in a similar manner.

Jonathan Dahlén

Jonathan Dahlén got off to a great start in his first two AHL games. His style of play is suited for North American ice and from what I hear from CanucksArmy’s Cory Hergott, Dahlén does the little things away from the puck that coaches love.

Things could change during the Calder Cup playoffs, but I would still prefer him to get some time in the AHL. The Canucks won’t be much better next year, so I would prefer he gets some AHL time. The gap between the Allsvenskan and the NHL is huge and the AHL would be a more manageable step.

NHL speed is something Dahlén does not have and time in Utica could be used to improve in that area and continue to get stronger. Additionally, if he and Pettersson are both in the AHL, there could be a chance they play together by the end of the season.

I can’t see Dahlén being gifted an NHL roster spot like Pettersson, but unfortunately, it would not be the first time Jim Benning rushed prospects who were not ready. Honestly, the most likely scenario is that Pettersson is penciled into the Canucks roster and Dahlén starts the year in Utica. Injuries could bring him up, but we will have to see what the roster looks like after training camp.

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Adam Gaudette

Adam Gaudette is in a fortunate position. Even though he didn’t light up the scoreboard, he brings more skill to the Canucks bottom six. After a season of suffering through Markus Granlund, Nic Dowd and the carousel of bad forwards, Gaudette would be a nice change.

However, with the way Travis Green manages his roster, I think Gaudette will be pushed to the 13th forward role. If that’s the case, they are wasting his time. I would rather seem him play top minutes in Utica and be one of the first call ups when injuries eventually hit our centres again.

AHL time is not a bad thing for someone like Gaudette. If he ever hits the rookie wall, it can help him reset. A move like that worked for Brendan Gaunce last season, so I don’t see why it’s not an option.

Again, it’s hard to tell exactly where he will slot until we see who is signed over the summer. In my opinion, Gaudette is almost ready, but I would like his skating to take the next step. He has the hands and the intelligence, but if you are watching the Vegas Golden Knights, speed is crucial.

Olli Juolevi

Olli Juolevi is such a divisive topic these days. His most ardent supporters want to use this past season as Finland to start him alongside Chris Tanev next season. On the opposite spectrum, some have given up.

With any debate, the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. I don’t think Olli Juolevi is ready for the NHL. His strength and conditioning are hot topics this year and something he will continue to work on. As an aside, I do find it funny that Jake Virtanen and Juolevi have the issues regarding conditioning. Travis Green emphasizes fitness, so it’s not too surprising. Just interesting.

Juolevi has played on North America ice with the London Knights, but to succeed at his position, he needs to improve his gap control. I’m not very concerned about his offensive production. Juolevi looks like he’s on track to be a top four defender in that area.

But he has to be more active on the defensive side of the game. Travis Green values effort and if looks like he’s not giving his all like in training camp, it will be a long time before Juolevi is taking regular shifts in Vancouver.

Next: Canucks should be encouraged for next year

I think Utica will help him refine his game and take the developmental steps needed. Trent Cull is a great coach who will give rookies ice time if they earn it. Fortunately for Juolevi, the AHL is not as fast as the NHL. This gives him the time needed to learn the little things that will be important for the big leagues.