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Prospect Report: Vancouver Canucks

From now until the start of next season, I’ll be looking at each NHL team’s prospect situation and assessing each prospect’s projected fantasy value. With all due respect to turnover leagues, I will be focusing solely on keeper and dynasty leagues, because prospects have minimal value in re-draft leagues. Most fantasy leagues vary in structure, so for the purpose of this exercise, I will be referring to leagues that include a main roster and a prospect roster, each with their own respective draft.

This week we move up to the second last-place team and first Canadian team I’ll be discussing: the Vancouver Canucks.

2016-17 Recap

After a 2015-16 season that saw the Canucks eliminated from postseason contention in March and finish 13th in the Western Conference with only 75 points, GM Jim Benning for some reason decided that this team was still a playoff contender and inked 31-year-old forward Loui Eriksson to a ludicrous six-year, $36 million contract after demonstrating chemistry with the Sedin twins in international play. Eriksson’s first season turned out to be a colossal disappointment, as he scored a mere 11 goals in 68 games after potting 30 goals and 63 points the season prior with the Boston Bruins. Additionally, the Sedin brothers were not themselves this past season; Daniel scored his lowest goal total in a full season (15) since 2002-03, when he scored just 13. He scored 12 in 2012-13, but that was the lockout-shortened season. As for Henrik, his 50 points, while still a respectable total, were the lowest he’s amassed in a full season since 2003-04, when he had 42. Again, Henrik had 45 in 2012-13, but that was almost a point-per-game rate as he played the 48-game lockout season.

It seems as though the Canucks brass has finally embraced the fact that their window to win has closed, as they started shipping out veterans with expiring contracts at the deadline, sending Alexander Burrows to the Ottawa Senators for promising center Jonathan Dahlen and dealing Jannik Hansen to the San Jose Sharks for former first-round pick Nikolay Goldobin. With the addition of these two young prospects and whichever player they select at fifth overall in the upcoming entry draft, the Canucks have added to an already bright looking prospect pool that includes the following players:

1. Brock Boeser, RW

Age: 20  H/W: 6’1″/192 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 23 in 2015 by Vancouver

2016-17 Team: University of North Dakota

32 GP, 16 G, 18 A, 34 Pts, +7, 24 PIM

Boeser is a typical power forward, comparable to Minnesota’s Eric Staal, who uses his 6’1″ frame to shield the puck and drive to the net. While he does have soft hands, most of his goals come from within 15 feet of the blue paint. If not parked right beside the opposition’s goalie, he is usually wheeling the puck around the offensive zone, drawing other teams’ players out of position and opening up passing lanes. He’s a shoot-first kind of guy, as evidenced by his four goals and zero assists in nine games with the big club at the end of this season, although he still has the ability and vision to thread pretty passes to open teammates. Boeser impressed last season in North Dakota and in the small sample he provided at the end of the NHL campaign, so look for him to make the Canucks out of camp. It’s not unrealistic to expect 20 goals in his rookie season. He’s definitely first-round pick material in deep leagues, and he should eventually be a 25-goal, 55- to 60-point player.

2. Nikolay Goldobin, LW/RW

Age: 21  H/W: 6’0″/185 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 27 in 2014 by San Jose

2016-17 Team: San Jose Barracuda

46 GP, 15 G, 26 A, 41 Pts, +5, 16 PIM.

If Boeser is the power forward in Vancouver’s prospect system, Nikolay Goldobin is the one who brings the finesse and pure skill. Similar to Jakub Voracek in Philadelphia but without the grit, Goldobin has the speed and skillset to drive hard into the offensive zone and dangle his way to scoring position. He’s a left-handed shot who can play both wings, but he likes to hang out around the top of the right circle and use his quick release to snipe home his goals. Goldobin impressed Canucks brass after being acquired from San Jose at the deadline, scoring four goals in three games with AHL’s Utica and earning himself a call-up to the big club, where he would score three goals in 12 games. Along with Boeser, Goldobin should get a good look during training camp and seems to have a spot to lose in Vancouver’s top six. If he can improve his play without the puck and add a little physicality to his game, he has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL.

3. Thatcher Demko, G

Age: 21  H/W: 6’4″/192 pounds.

Drafted: Round 2, Pick 46 in 2014 by Vancouver

2016-17 Team: Utica Comets

45 GP, 22-17-1, 2.68 GAA, .907 SV%, 2 SO

The Vancouver Canucks have one of the best goaltending prospects in the entire NHL with American-born Thatcher Demko. At 6’4″, Demko definitely has the frame to be an NHL goaltender, although he needs to bulk up a little bit to fill out that frame. Demko reminds me a lot of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in that he plays an aggressive hybrid style and doesn’t immediately drop to his knees and cover up the bottom of the net. His rebound control is exceptional for a 21-year-old goaltender, and his lateral movement is just as good. He does occasionally give a little too much on his first push, which sometimes takes him out of position, but he has the athleticism to get himself back into position or make the desperation save. Although his numbers in Utica this season weren’t eye-popping, goalies take longer than skaters to fully develop and, even though this was his first year as a professional, he still had a winning record. He most likely won’t be starting for Vancouver in the near future, but he is still worth an early- to mid- second round pick that you can sit on until he makes the jump.

4. Olli Juolevi, D

Age: 19  H/W: 6’3″/187 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 5 in 2016 by Vancouver

2016-17 Team: London Knights

58 GP, 10 G, 32 A, 42 Pts, +26, 36 PIM

Vancouver’s most recent first-round pick, Olli Juolevi was arguably the best defenseman in the 2016 draft class. He may still need a little bit of work on his defensive zone coverage and keeping up with NHL skaters in his own end, but Juolevi is an elite powerplay quarterback. He has a great first pass, and his vision in the offensive zone is almost unparalleled. Juolevi has no problem cycling the puck around the zone and has the confidence to hang onto it and protect it with his big frame until he finds even the smallest of seams. Juolevi has the ability to make passes that not many other players have any business making. Juolevi’s offensive prowess is similar to Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang; he loves to creep down the sidewall and sneak into the open spots near the bottom of the circle. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp, Juolevi should absolutely be in Vancouver at some point as a call-up. If not, he should be in the Canucks’ top four by 2018-19. As an all-around defenseman, Juolevi should eventually be a 40-50 point player, while putting up solid peripherals in categories like blocks and +\-. If he decides to start using his body and upping his physical play, he could also be a leader in categories like hits and PIM as well. Draft him, and draft high.

5. Jonathan Dahlen, C

Age: 19  H/W: 5’11″/176 pounds.

Drafted: Round 2, Pick 42 in 2016 by Ottawa

2016-17 Team: Timra IK

45 GP, 25 G, 14 A, 44 Pts, +14, 18 PIM

Acquired from the Ottawa Senators for Alexandre Burrows at the trade deadline, Jonathan Dahlen cracks Vancouver’s top five because of his pure offensive skill. He reminds me a bit of Alexander Radulov for a couple of reasons: he isn’t the strongest skater on the ice, but he’s so skilled offensively that he doesn’t necessarily need to have wheels. Additionally, this is a kid that absolutely loves to score goals and to see his teammates score goals. He celebrates every goal like it’s a championship winner and gets amped when he sets up his teammates. He won’t give you much in the defensive statistic category besides faceoff wins, but if you’re looking for a player to boost your goals, assists and powerplay numbers, Dahlen should be looked at in the second or third round.

Prospect Grade: A-

Before the 2017 trade deadline, Vancouver’s prospect situation was less than ideal, but after adding Goldobin and Dahlen, the Canucks now have top prospects at every position. On top of that, Vancouver picks fifth overall again this season and will be adding yet another top prospect. If GM Jim Benning continues to sell off older players for prospects in this rebuild, the Canucks will undoubtedly be back in the playoff picture within five years. Benning has received his fair share of criticism during his tenure with Vancouver, but committing to the rebuild has the Canucks looking to the future, and looking good while doing it.

That does it for this week’s prospect report, but be sure to come back next week when we look at what’s no longer the NHL’s only desert team, the Arizona Coyotes. As always, feedback is always appreciated, and I’d love to hear what changes you would all make to this list. Leave my your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and keep your stick on the ice!


All statistics taken from:

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