The Vancouver Canucks’ right defense situation is overrated

Canucks prospect Tom Willander playing for Boston University. (Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Canucks prospect Tom Willander playing for Boston University. (Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

In a perfect world, the Vancouver Canucks would not be trotting out Mark Friedman and Tyler Myers on a regular, nightly basis, but this is not a perfect world. Instead, Friedman, who was in the minors merely weeks ago, is now on the team’s second defense pairing. But with the future in mind, is the right-shot defense situation really all that bad?

With their first two picks in the 2023 NHL Draft, the Canucks drafted right-shot defenders Tom Willander and Hunter Brzustewicz. The former was a late draft riser, while the latter was a late draft faller. Brzustewicz was generally viewed as a Day 1 pick for most of last season, and the Canucks managed to get him in the third round. Now, the 18-year-old has five goals and 25 points in only 13 games.

At that pace, the Kitchener Rangers ace will post 26 goals, 105 assists, and 131 points in 68 OHL games. If Brzustewicz does achieve 100 or more assists this season, he will be the 14th player in OHL history to do so, joining some guys named Doug Gilmour and Wayne Gretzky.

Willander is known more for his defending, physicality, and skating, but he’s no slouch with the puck either. In four games with Boston University, he’s amassed a goal and two assists. The Swede’s tools and style of play translate well to the pro level, so the Canucks can count on him to be ready to play within a few years.

Vancouver, of course, already seems to have found a hidden gem in Filip Hronek, but we know they don’t have an awful lot outside of him. They do have Cole McWard stashed away in Abbotsford; he deserves mention as well, but for one reason or another didn’t impress enough to stick.

Hronek and Elias Pettersson will still need to be tied down with new contracts, but the Canucks shouldn’t make a panic move to help them push for a Stanley Cup right away.

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With Brzustewicz and Willander only a few years away, they will eventually join Hronek and complete what will be a very formidable right-shot defense group. It’s not as dire as it seems, and patience is definitely a virtue with these Canucks.