Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning nailed the 2017 draft


Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has received plenty of unfair criticism in his four years at the helm, and the doubters need to simply look at his 2017 draft elections.

The 2017 NHL draft was widely considered one of the worst in history, with scouts saying that Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier were more likely to be solid second liners, not generational talents like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews.

And yet, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning might just come away with one of the greatest drafts in the history of the NHL. It all started with Swedish centre Elias Pettersson, the fifth-overall selection.

All Pettersson has done so far is lead the Växjö Lakers to the SHL Championship in 2018, all while being named the league’s MVP, Rookie of the Year and Forward of the Year. 56 points in 44 games will do that for you. And remember when so many Benning doubters thought he was crazy for picking Pettersson that high, when many didn’t even think he’d be a top-10 selection? Good times.

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Benning took Kole Lind with the 33rd pick, and the 6-foot-1, 178-pound right winger scored 39 goals and 95 points for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets this past season.

Those are the stats of a guy who usually gets picked in the top-10, but Canucks fans will gladly take that from a second rounder.

With the 55th pick, Benning took winger Jonah Gadjovich, who produced 25 goals and 48 points in 42 games for the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL. He was also integral in helping Team Canada win gold at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships.

Oh, but those are only Benning’s first three picks from 2017. What about the mid-round selections, guys who don’t usually earn much attention?

Goalie Michael DiPietro – taken with the 64th pick – was just named OHL goaltender of the year after posting a 29-21-1 record with a .910 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average. He’s also part of Team Canada at this year’s World Hockey Championship tournament in Denmark.  Not bad at all for a 19-year-old.

Benning then used the 181st selection on 5-foot-6, 172-pound Finnish winger Petrus Palmu, who was just named the best rookie in SM-liiga. He had 17 goals and 36 points in just 59 games. Palmu’s excellent speed and big shot are two things all Canuck fans must be excited about.

Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier detailed how porous the Canucks draft picks from 2016 are looking, and maybe none of those guys don’t pan out. However, Benning may have made up for it by nailing most of his picks from last year.

Next: 2018 NHL draft prospect profile #30: Nils Lundkvist

It’s very early, and it could be a while until we see any of Benning’s picks from 2017 in the NHL. But right now, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the work all of these guys have put on. So those who continue to doubt Benning’s drafting skills just need to look at how the likes of Pettersson, DiPietro and Lind have fared so far.