So the playoffs are winding down and a Stanley Cup champion could be determined tonight, which is excellent news for teams that did not perform particularly well last season. While not being in the postseason for the first time in six years was kind of a drag, fans of the Vancouver Canucks are going to be the envy of at least 23 other teams at the NHL draft: they hold the No. 6 overall pick, the highest pick they’ve had since selecting Henrik Sedin 3rd overall in 1999.
Which is, well, an excuse not to screw up this pick. The Canucks got pretty unlucky this most recent season with injuries, bad results despite strong even strength possession numbers, and a powerplay that was one of the best at generating shots and chances but finished at a hilariously low rate of 8.7%.
The Canucks are, as stated several times here, close cousins of the 2012 Montreal Canadiens who had everything go wrong one year, selected a potential franchise player at third overall, and wound up winning the division the next year and somehow going to the Conference finals the next. Taking the right guy at No. 6, who can contribute this year or next, will mean reinforcements to a lineup that is short on youth and scoring—and maybe whoever it is can help the Sedin twins to another long playoff run before those two get too old.
But your favourite Canucks Army writers haven’t been sitting on their hands and waiting for the pick. This week, five writers: myself, Dimitri, Rhys, Josh and ol’ Drance, submit our Top 20 draft-eligible prospects to determine a consensus list. This will give CA readers a good ranking as we head into the draft.
I’m not going to give away the top half of our list just yet, but this evening’s post will be dedicated to the prospects ranked 11th through 15th, who finished just outside the top 10. We also have a couple of late sleepers that a few of our writers liked. Enjoy.
Honourable Mentions: Brayden Point (Moose Jaw, WHL) and Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL) – Both of these players are capable scorers. Point, a former 14th overall bantam select, led the offensively-challenged Warriors in both goals and points by a distant margin. At 5’9″, 160 though, Point isn’t highly regarded by scouts, who like to ignore small offensive talents when they get high picks, so he’d be a reach for sure. There’s something oddly Nic Petan-esque about his numbers, however.
Meanwhile, Barbashev has a boatload of talent. He was the No. 1 pick in the CHL import draft all the way back in 2012, and got 68 points in 48 games with the Wildcats this season in the ‘Q’. He’d be a reach, along with teammate
Vladislav Tkachev Vladimir Tkachyov, another guy I like. None of us ranked him, but this clip of Tkachev walking around Philadelphia Flyers first rounder Samuel Morin may be my favourite junior clip of the past season.
No. 15 – Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Pop quiz: who was the highest-scoring defenceman in the OHL this season? If you said “Aaron Ekblad”, congratulations for having turned on a TV in the last year. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. DeAngelo, the Sting defenceman, scored 71 points in 51 games, but also sat out a team-imposed eight-game suspension for directing a homophobic, racist and/or sexist slur at a teammate.
Any issue with DeAngelo is strictly an off-ice one. It’s tough to say “boys will be boys” and constantly forgive young hockey players for acting in a sub-human matter, but DeAngelo is probably the second best defenceman on the board in this draft, a little on the small side, but he was a near point-a-game defenceman one year ago as a 16-year-old. Those are the kinds of numbers that tend to pan out in the NHL.
Highest ranking: 7th (Josh)
Lowest ranking: Unranked (Thomas, Dimitri)
No. 14 – Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Not surprisingly, the two OHL players who probably lost some points in the more mainstream rankings due to off-ice and character issues don’t fall too far in the Canucks Army rankings. Googling “Ho-Sang attitude” will yield you about 208,000,000 results, and Ho-Sang was left off Canada’s U-18 roster this spring, as well as the Ivan Hlinka roster last summer. Ho-Sang also ended his own OHL season after breaking a dude’s leg. Again, though, talent. The OHL is probably the most competitive of the three junior leagues, and Ho-Sang was the 18th-leading scorer, tops on a Windsor team that had very strong possession numbers but faltered in the second half of the season.
Highest ranking: 13th (Josh)
Lowest ranking: 17th (Thomas, Dimitri)
No. 13 – Jake Virtanen, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Virtanen is a very tempting name at No. 6. He’s big, scored a boatload of goals with a very good WHL team, and above all, is local. He was selected first overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft out of the Abbotsford Hawks, and also holds dual Canadian-Finnish citizenship. Something about the playing style of Esa Tikkanen injected into an Abbotsford kid scares the hell out of me, to tell you the truth, and the last thing the Canucks would want is to pass on Virtanen and see him blossom into a Milan Lucic-type on another team.
However, as Rhys will be perfectly content to tell you, Virtanen was the third highest-scorer on his line, and got help thanks to a career season from overager Brady Brassart. Banking on Virtanen’s 45-goal campaign as being fully indicative of his talent isn’t a safe bet, and Virtanen will spend the summer recovering from shoulder surgery.
Highest ranking: 8th (Thomas)
Lowest ranking: 20th (Rhys)
No. 12 – Brendon Perlini, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Another player who may be a bit of a danger thanks to a career year by a linemate, in this case, Maple Leafs fifth rounder from a year ago Carter Verhaeghe. After a 12-point rookie campaign, Perlini destroyed the competition in his sophomore season with 71 points in 58 games and was one of the best in the OHL in points per game. He’s also got some size at 6’3″ and is 205 pounds, and what Corey Pronman calls “the best size to skating ratio in the draft” which sounds legit, I guess. He may be a bit of a character risk, however: per this profile in The Hockey News, it seems that Perlini, who grew up in England while his father played pro hockey there, is a Manchester United fan.
Highest ranking: 10th (Josh)
Lowest ranking: 18th (Rhys)
No. 11 – Sonny Milano, US NTDP (USHL)
Milano was second only to prospective 2015 2nd overall pick Jack Eichel in scoring on the stacked USA U-18 squad. He ~did~ play on Eichel’s line, which does fudge some numbers a bit, but Milano appears to be the guy in the draft who is going to have a lot of videos made about his sick mitts. Milano may have wound up in our Top 10 if Josh ranked anybody who didn’t play in the CHL this season other than William Nylander, but being a player who is underdeveloped on the defensive end, he’s not a player that can jump in and play in the NHL immediately, so probably would be a bit of a reach for the Canucks at No. 6.
Highest ranking: 10th (Cam, Thomas)
Lowest ranking: Unranked (Josh)
Coming Monday: Profiles for the 10th and 9th-ranked draft prospects.