The Vancouver Canucks have an exciting core forming, however, the club still has positional needs to address in order to become a real contender.
It’s an exciting time for Vancouver Canucks fans. A new core of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and soon to be Quinn Hughes has the fan base hopeful for the near future. However, there are certain positions that need some attention, and prospects that need to pan out.
Management has done well in addressing all positions at the draft table, but more work is still needed to be done.
Harman Dayal of The Athletic had an excellent take on the average contender compared to what the Canucks have now. From his analysis, the Canucks are in need of a top line left winger, second line right winger, third line center, and two top-pairing defencemen.
In my own opinion, forward wise the club desperately needs another dependable playmaker, and another go to sniper. Defence wise they need offensively minded defenceman, some who can move the puck well and can control the tempo of the game.
Prospect wise, the Canucks have Adam Gaudette, who with more experience can fill the third line center role, and prospects Tyler Madden or Kole Lind could possibly fill the top six right winger role in a few seasons. Madden in particular could potentially be the playmaker we are needing in the top six.
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Madden was the Canucks third round selection of the 2018 draft, can play all three forward positions, and is playing in his freshman year with Northeastern University, helping the club reach its back-to-back beanpot title that Adam Gaudette helped them win last season.
Madden so far has posted ten goals and 25 points in 28 games, very impressive for his inaugural year in the NCAA.
Lind was drafted by the Canucks in the second round of the 2017 draft. He is currently playing for the Utica Comets, and has put up 11 points in 37 games. His development has slowed since turning pro, but being 20 years old, it is still too early in his career for any concerns.
As for the top line left wing spot, the Canucks do not have a prospect in the system who has that high of a ceiling. Jonathan Dahlen was just shipped to San Jose, however, it was not likely that he would pan out to be a proficient top line player for the team.
In the upcoming 2019 draft there are winger options in the top ten, with Kaapo Kakko, Vasili Podkolzin, and Matthew Boldy, however, a lottery pick would most likely have to be achieved. In Free agency, there could possibly be a player like Artemi Panarin, but there is zero certainty in that option.
With the anticipated arrival of Quinn Hughes, one of the top pair defenceman slots could very much be occupied in the near future. For the other top pair spot, there currently is not a prospect with that ceiling, the closest being Jett Woo, or Olli Juolevi.
Woo was drafted by the Canucks in the second round of the 2018 draft, is a right-handed defenceman, who plays a physical game but has a good offensive side as well, currently point per game, posting 53 points in 53 games in the WHL for the Moose Jaw Warriors. His development has been improving smoothly, and projects as a top 4 defenceman in the NHL.
Juolevi was the controversial sixth overall pick in 2016, whos development has been slow but steady, recently putting up 13 points in 18 games for Utica this season, before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Juolevi also projects as a top-four defenceman in the NHL.
As for free agency as an option, there is a possibility that a defenceman like Erik Karlsson could be available, and if so, the Canucks should jump at the chance of signing him, as he would instantly boost the position of the team. Right handed defencemen Anton Stralman and Tyler Myers could possibly be available as well.
Using the formula used by Dayal of The Athletic (subscription required), a contending Canucks lineup in two to three years could look like.
Draft/FA – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Tyler Madden
Quinn Hughes – Draft/FA
Olli Juolevi – Chris Tanev
Alex Edler – Jett Woo
This is all without many of the Canucks current prospects who could very much fight for a lineup spot. Quinn Hughes would fill one of the top pair defenceman slots, being the game controlling, puck moving defenceman the club desperately needs. Madden would fill the top six right winger spot as a playmaker alongside Horvat. In an Ideal world, we would have a top line sniper to fill the top line, and an all around defenceman to complete the top pair.
In conclusion, relying on free agency to help our options would not be practical, and a lottery pick in the draft is a luck that the Canucks have never been able to have, so all we can do is trust in the process that our current top prospects pan out and that we can find more diamonds in the rough like Boeser back in 2015.
In the end the Canucks are heading in the right direction, and it wont be long before the Canucks are contenders again. Let me know what you think in the comments below.