Canucks: Potential 2020 NHL draft targets that are NCAA bound

Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Mitch Miller

Height: 5’11”    Weight: 194 lbs.

Shoots: Right

Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)

NCAA commitment: University of North Dakota

A trade to the Tri-City Storm from the Cedar Rapids Roughriders proved beneficial for Mitch Miller. He more than doubled his point production from the previous season to an impressive 33 points in 44 games.

Miller earned USHL First All-Star Team recognition for his efforts. He also represented the U.S. at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, posting six points, which was tied for the most points by a defenceman. Miller has a lightning-quick acceleration and exceptional edge work. His transition game benefits from his ability to stickhandle his way out of trouble. He also provides effective zone entries and possesses a terrific shot. Miller is committed to the University of North Dakota, an outstanding program that is very familiar to the Canucks. The offensive upside from a right-handed defenceman makes Miller an intriguing draft option.

Michael Benning

Height: 5’10”    Weight: 174 lbs.

Shoots: Right

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

NCAA commitment: University of Denver

If the Canucks were to draft the nephew of general manager Jim Benning the selection would be heavily scrutinized by Canucks fans, particularly with the departure of Judd Brackett. However, Michael Benning is a promising prospect. The 75 points he registered in 54 games in the Alberta Junior Hockey League represent the same numbers recorded by Cale Makar in his draft season with the Brooks Bandits.

Although Benning will never become the player that Makar is, the feat does show his game’s offensive capability. The offensively gifted player earned recognition as the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top defenceman. His skating, hockey intelligence and transition game are all well above average. Benning could develop into a second pairing defenceman capable of running a power play. He is the brother of Matt Benning, a current member of the Edmonton Oilers and son of former NHL player Brian Benning.

Kyle Aucoin

Height: 5’11”    Weight: 163 lbs.

Shoots: Left

Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)

NCAA commitment: Harvard University

Another defenceman with NHL bloodlines and connection to the Canucks is Tri-City Storm defender Kyle Aucoin. His father, Adrian Aucoin, spent parts of seven seasons with the Canucks before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Aucoin is not a highly ranked prospect and may not get drafted. However, he may be worth a late-round gamble with several years at Harvard to develop. Aucoin is a stay-at-home defenceman with minimal offensive upside likely destined for a career in the minor leagues that could someday be a call-up option.

Wyatt Kaiser

Height: 5’11”    Weight: 170 lbs.

Shoots: Left

Team: Andover Huskies (USHS)

NCAA commitment: University of Minnesota-Duluth

A high school defenceman worth mentioning is smooth skating Wyatt Kaiser. Kaiser posted 34 points in 25 games for the Huskies last season, as well as recording three assists in 11 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. Kaiser will be attending Minnesota-Duluth for the 2021-2022 campaign. Kaiser, like all players drafted beyond the first couple of rounds, is a long-term project.

However, he appears to have the necessary tools to translate into a promising prospect. In addition to his excellent skating ability, Kaiser demonstrates terrific vision and a solid transition game. His play in all three zones is commendable. His potential reminds me of a prospect the Canucks took a flyer on a few years ago named Jack Rathbone. Whether or not he develops in the same manner that Rathbone did or not remains to be seen, but it may be a chance worth taking.

Next. Canucks flashback: 2003 playoff series against Wild. dark

The players mentioned above are all years away from cracking an NHL lineup. Some may never reach that level, as many prospects drafted in the mid-to-late rounds never do. However, the likelihood of a few of them going on to promising careers is quite high.