Canucks: More on second round pick Danila Klimovich

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - JULY 23: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opens the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - JULY 23: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opens the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks made some intriguing draft choices this offseason.

For the second straight year, the team did not have a first round pick. As many fans know, their 2020 selection was given to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the J.T. Miller trade, while this year’s pick was packaged with a handful of veteran contracts and sent to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland.

Despite another year without an early selection, the Canucks were still able to land some solid additions to their prospect pool, including forward Danila Klimovich.

Klimovich spent the last season with Minskie Zubry in the Vysshaya Liga, Belarus’s second-tier hockey league. The 18-year-old registered 28 goals, 24 assists and 40 PIM in 37 regular season games, good for second in team scoring, while also contributing 14 points in 12 playoff games. His team would eventually win it all, and Klimovich’s point totals landed him second amongst all players in postseason scoring.

Klimovich’s breakout party occurred at the U18 World Junior Championships, where he represented Belarus on the international stage. Despite his club being outmatched almost every single game, Klimovich still found ways to stand out and get noticed.

The 6’1, 187 pound centre showcased high-level speed and puck-handling with Team Belarus, and was easily their best player for majority of his shifts. His skating mechanics could definitely use some work, but Klimovich was able to make up for those inconsistencies with intense forechecking and backchecking, frequent takeaways, and a relentless work ethic.

Klimovich also registered six goals in just five games, thanks to his deceptively quick and accurate release.

There’s no doubt that Klimovich’s game is oozing with confidence, but it has also gotten the 18-year-old into plenty of trouble on the ice. In addition to his skating deficiencies, Klimovich is also known for his poor decision-making skills with the puck, especially when trying to take on defencemen in 1v1 situations. There’s no doubt that Klimovich possesses a sick set of mitts, but he does have a tendency to over-dangle, especially against multiple opponents, which creates a red flag in the turnover department.

Yes, Klimovich likely requires more development and fine-tuning than other players in his draft class, especially given his knocks above. But he also has the potential to grow into an impactful, everyday NHL player in the coming years, and others have already started to take notice of that.

Shortly after the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, where he was selected 41st overall in the second round, Klimovich signed a trial contract with the Dynamo Minsk of the KHL. In his first exhibition game with the Russian club, Klimovich registered a goal and an assist, and didn’t appear out of place whatsoever.

This isn’t the first time Canucks fans have seen one of their prospects start to make an impact in the KHL, with many pointing to Vasily Podkolzin and his tenure with SKA St. Petersburg as an early comparison.

However, General Manager Jim Benning clearly didn’t want to go through that bumpy, headache-inducing rollercoaster ride again, and didn’t waste any time locking down Klimovich to the Vancouver organization.

A day after his KHL debut, Benning and his front office team signed Klimovich to a three-year entry-level contract. The deal holds a cap hit at $886.667, but shouldn’t impact the team’s cap space for the upcoming season. According to CapFriendly, Klimovich is currently listed as a non-roster player, and should expect to continue that role for the 2021-22 campaign.

At the end of the day, this was a smart managerial move for Benning. Unlike Podkolzin, Benning was able to lock down Klimovich right away, which gives management more control over where the Belarus prospect might end up playing in the early years of his career.

And it looks like the transaction is already paying off.

According to reports, Klimovich is will be coming to North America this summer, with the AHL and QMJHL as his top two likely destinations. Of course, the right winger/centre would love to crack the opening night roster for his NHL club, like any young player would, but the chances are slim to none given the current projected line combinations.

There’s still a chance that the forward could also end up in Russia, but would need to get the green light from the Canucks organization first.

The Canucks also have some flexibility when it comes to the finer details of Klimovich’s entry-level deal. If the 18-year-old ends up playing less than ten NHL games, the start of his deal will slide back to the 2022-23 season, much like what happened with Olli Juolevi in 2016-17.

Klimovich’s deal also won’t be affected if he ends up on Abbotsford’s roster at any point in the year.

No matter where Klimovich plays next year, he should definitely be considered a value addition to the team’s prospect system, likely as a third-tier option. There’s no doubt that he needs to improve his skating mechanics and decision-making with the puck, but you also can’t dispute his natural scoring prowess and relentless physicality, two attributes that teams are always seeking.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Benning’s risk can turn into reward for this franchise.

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What are your thoughts on Klimovich? Could he be part of Vancouver’s forward group moving forward? Make sure to drop a comment below!