Otherwise, it will simply be another day in which the Canucks will have a late pick in the first round. Due to their strong regular season play, the Canucks haven’t picked inside the top 20 of the first round in the last four years.
With the 26th pick, Vancouver will have plenty of options to pick a solid player who likely won’t help them this year, but should be a good NHL player soon enough. The Canucks have a solid roster as it stands, but could use more depth in every position, except for in goal.
Here are seven players who may be available that the Canucks should strongly consider drafting when they get their turn at the podium on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
Let’s start with what would be a nice story about the Canucks finally drafting a homegrown product.
Colton Sissons plays his junior hockey for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, but he was born and raised in North Vancouver. He’s a solid two-way forward who can play either center or the wing, which the Canucks would appreciate after they traded away Cody Hodgson. This is partially due to the fact that he couldn’t play the wing well enough and was stuck behind Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin on the depth chart at center.
As the captain of the Rockets, Sissons also has good leadership abilities and is a proven goal scorer at the junior level, notching 26 goals in 58 games last season.
However, most prospect rankings and mock drafts have Sissons being picked slightly lower than the 26th spot, so the Canucks may feel they can get a better player with their pick.
Thrower is another example of a young player from North Vancouver who plays in the WHL, but most experts are also predicting that he won’t be drafted until after the 26th pick.
At 6’0” and 190 lbs., Thrower might not be the biggest guy on the ice, but he often plays like it. He’s a rugged, physical beast out there, and he is a very good skater as well. In fact, some have compared Thrower to current Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. If he can turn out to be that type of player at the NHL level, it will be a great pick for Vancouver.
Another WHL player the Canucks could take is the highly skilled Henrik Samuelsson of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Samuelsson was born in the United States, but he is of Swedish ancestry; his dad is former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson. He played half the year in Sweden with MODO of the Swedish Elite League before he came back to North American to play with the Oil Kings, where he recorded 23 points in only 28 games.
Should the Canucks draft this crafty winger, they’d be a getting a player with a similar skill set to ex-Canuck Mikael Samuelsson. He’s not the fastest player, but has a good shot with solid vision and a willingness to play physical that will help him in the NHL.
Speaking of players of Swedish descent, Ludvig Bystrom was born and raised in the same homeland that many past and present Canuck standouts come from.
There’s a fairly wide range of opinions as to where Bystrom will be picked in the 2012 draft, with some scouts thinking he could be taken in the top 20. However, others don’t have him ranked so highly, and the Canucks could have the luxury of taking the smooth skating defenseman if he’s available.
Some have even referred to Bystrom as being the next Erik Karlsson, who just won the Norris trophy. Granted, those expectations may be a bit high, but Bystrom was one of the top d-men in the Swedish junior league and also spent time with MODO in the Swedish Elite League this past season.
His NHL future looks bright.
As the son of former NHL player Stephane Matteau, the younger Matteau was a bruising winger for the U.S. Development Team this season. Matteau racked up 93 penalty minutes in just 18 games to go along with his 10 points and will bring a truculent two-way game to any team that selects him.
Matteau has been slated to go late in the first round in just about every mock draft you can find, so he’s a safe bet to be picked somewhere around the time the Canucks step up to the podium.
Matteau would fit in nicely with fellow truculent Canucks prospect Zack Kassian on the wing. Vancouver would also kill any hopes of reconnecting the name Matteau to the New York Rangers (they pick 28th) after father Stephane became infamous for scoring the Game 7 overtime winner for the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course, the Rangers would go on to defeat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals that year, so selecting Matteau could be a good way for the Canucks to spoil the Rangers fun this time around.
Skjei is another American-born player from the U.S. Development Team, and he might actually be the best skater in the entire draft.
This defenseman isn’t the most physical prospect, but he could be a great point-producing D-man one day at the NHL level. With a last name that’s pronounced as Shea, he may have some fans thinking of Shea Weber, even though Skjei’s style of play isn’t very similar to that of Weber.
The only problem with Skjei from a Vancouver standpoint is that there’s a better than 50 percent chance that he’ll be gone by the time their pick rolls around. However, some mock drafts don’t have him being taken until later in the first round, and he could get lost in the mix of the unusually high amount of elite prospects on defense in this year’s draft.
Since Canucks GM Mike Gillis seems to be fairly fond of American-born players, let’s finish this list of Vancouver draft candidates with yet another player who has spent the last two seasons with the U.S. Development Team.
Nicolas Kerdiles is a smart center who is great in the faceoff circle, and he could be just the type of third line center the Canucks could use in the future. He also has plenty of offensive upside—he notched 13 points in 18 games last season and was one of the most impressive forwards at the World Under-18 Championships this spring.
The odds of Kerdiles being available for the Canucks to draft seem to be fairly strong too, as most draft prognosticators don’t have him being selected until late in the first round or early in the second round.
Whether or not the Canucks will want to snatch him up if given the opportunity is up to Mike Gillis and company, but they’d be well advised to take at least one of the seven players listed on Friday night.