3 Players the Vancouver Canucks Could Select 5th Overall

The NHL’s Draft Lottery has come and gone and the Vancouver Canucks landed exactly where they were most likely to, at fifth overall. Put in those terms, it’s nowhere near as devastating as many Canucks fans, myself included, are taking the news of today’s events.

Besides, it’s not like there won’t be many great players available at fifth overall. Best of all is that there’s a tonne of discretion involved once you get into that range. Ask any two scouts to fill out the fourth to tenth overall picks and you’re likely to get two very different answers.

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I’m no scout, but I’ve followed many of the highly sought after prospects in this year’s draft and have a list of my own in the works. Nowhere near ready to publish it in full, but I can provide hair insight into what I’m working with by detailing three such prospects that the Canucks are likely to take in their newly resided fifth overall spot in the upcoming draft.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

The Edmonton Oilers would have to make a terrible mistake to afford the Canucks an opportunity to select Dubois. Then again, given the Oilers history at the draft, that’s not outside the realm of possibility. Dubois is an excellent prospect and one that Canucks general manager Jim Benning has scouted extensively this season. I’m sure he’d be thrilled at the prospect.

Dubois is one of the most versatile prospects in this draft, as he’s played both center and left-wing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, since joining them in the 2014-15 campaign. His statistical profile is impressive, as Dubois was a near-point-per-game player in his rookie campaign, with 45 points in 54 games. This season he took that production to yet another level, shattering the point-per-game mark with 99 points in 62 games.

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As the season’s wound down, the scouts I’ve spoken to have grown increasingly fond of Dubois, which makes sense given his meteoric rise up Central Scouting’s draft rankings – jumping from about seventh to first overall among North American skaters. At 6’3, Dubois has an NHL ready body and should be physically mature enough to compete as soon as the 2017-18 season – though I wouldn’t rule out Dubois making the jump next fall. 

Olli Juolevi

If there’s any one reason the Canucks brain trust won’t be overly upset with today’s results is that it grants them licence to select a defenceman of their choosing – in all likelihood, it’s going to be forwards across the board going one through four. The Canucks have gone on record (although, that was in the middle of the season) as wanting to take a defenceman in this draft.

One of the worst kept secrets in hockey is Benning’s affection for Olli Juolevi of the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. Just as poorly guarded is the order in which the Canucks have placed the high-end defenders in this year’s draft. Spoiler: Juolevi is at the top of the list.

Though I might quibble with the Canucks rankings, and Juolevi as the highest defender in particular, it’s an entirely defensible and sound position. Much like Dubois, Juolevi is seen as a late riser in scouting circles. His hugely successful showing at the IIHF U-20 World Hockey Championships helped his stock, as he led the Finnish team from the blue line with nine assists in seven games. In 57 games with the Knights, Juolevi has 42 points this season.

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Mikhail Sergachyov

Though it often goes unnoticed, Benning’s mentioned Sergachyov’s name a few times and it’s always positive. Which is to say that the Canucks think very highly of Sergachyov. With good reason. He brings everything you could want from a defenceman to the table.

Though he’s a relatively modest 6’2, Sergachyov plays much larger than his frame might indicate. He’s a smooth-skating defenceman, that can skate well, pass well and do everything in between. Sergachyov was the first-round pick of the Windsor Spitfires in the CHL Import Draft. In his first season with the Spitfires, Sergachyov is firing at a near-point-per-game pace, with 57 points in 67 games.

If the Canucks are dead-set on taking a defenceman at the fifth overall spot, Sergachyov should be their guy. He makes the game look effortless and I’ve heard him compared to Mattias Ohlund by a very well-respected scout in the hockey community. Landing another Mattias Ohlund would be pretty alright. 

  • Hockey123

    Lots of people clammering for Benning to draft a d-man. It’s worth pointing out that only two of the top 20 scoring d-men in the NHL this year were drafted in the top 5. D-men’s development seems harder to predict than forwards’.

    Look at the Canucks’ 2011 team, which had the second lowest GA in the league. Not a single d-man was a top 5 pick. Some of their current most promising d-men were either late draft picks (Hutton, Tryamkin) or undrafted (Tanev).

    If Juolevi, Chychrun or Servachev is the real deal and a future top pairing defender, Benning should go for it. No question. Hopefully he and his scouts are as astute as reputued. But the Canucks have a lot of needs, including a relative shortage of prospects at left wing. Tkachuk might be a good pick – so might Nylander.

    They should draft the best player available, regardless of position. They’ll have plenty more chances to draft defensemen.

  • Cyclone16

    I see a lot of chatter that sort of presumes the Canucks are better off getting a defenseman. If even a Hanifin-type dman was available this year I could get with this assumed logic.

    But as far as I can tell, it seems like both Dubois and Tkachuck are better prospects than someone like a Sam Bennett.

    True, it’s not as easy to grab a top four dman outside the draft as it is a winger. At the same time, I have to agree with Jason Botchford: we’re just nowhere near as poorly set up on defence as it’s often just automatically presumed.

    Ask yourself what was the more serious issue for the Canucks this years: offence or defence? Pretty sure it’s offence. If anything, the biggest issue we have with our D is their lack of offensive production.

    But let’s catalogue. Tanev is still young, a decent contract, and one of the best first outlet passers in the league. Edler may never be ‘that guy’ we were hoping he could be but he will be a top four for at least another two-four seasons. Hutton is found money: he’s already a top four defenseman with the potential to improve much more yet. Do we really imagine that Hutton is somehow going to regress out of the top six anytime soon? He’s 22 without a history of injuries that could leave some doubt. Tryamkin it’s obviously still too soon to say but even in the small sampling we got it seemed like he was already capable of being at least a bottom pairing guy with a potentially high ceiling. Pedan didn’t thrill but I feel pretty confident with him as a bottom pairing guy last year. We’ve got Stetcher, Suddan, Larsen, Brisebois…if even one of these players turns into a bottom pairing we’re laughing.

    Sure, we don’t have that stud 1D, and someone in this draft may be that 1D, but which one is it? Should we pass on what seems like fairly surefire first line forward talent when it’s on offer when it’s not as though we can feel any real confidence that we’re getting a potential 1D stud?

    Do we expect Baertschi to put up 25-30 goals and 55-70 points? Is this not the best out of what we can expect from Boeser? Are Virtanen and Horvat likely top line players? They seem like, at best, good second liners on a good team. We need scoring more than we need anything else.

    Especially if Dubois is still available at 5, it just seems insane to pass on the opportunity to have a clear succession plan for Henrik to take a Hamhuis-like player.

    Aside from how great it would be to have a 1D stud I have no idea why it’s popularly perceived that Vancouver is somehow much better set up in the future at forward than defence. Yeah, you can sign wingers but are you ever going to sign a core-quality winger in his prime for decent money? That’s even more rare than picking up a dman through a trade or signing.

    It just has to be Dubois or Tkachuck from my perspective. To go through this season and only get a solid, Hamhuis-like prospect out of it really just doesn’t get the juices flowing like a potential offensive dynamo with grit and heart. Both my head and my heart wants a forward and I will be quite disappointed even with Juolevi, whom I otherwise presume will have a very solid NHL career and could very well be a top pairing guy.

    But we need top 6 guys who can potentially get 70 points. We have done nothing to ensure a transition away from the Sedins. This is the glaring issue.

  • andyg

    Ok we have a need for defence but the top defence men in the league are not usually first rounders or are near the bottom of the round.

    We need to replace the sedins and have sold secondary scoring until they drop to a second line role.

    Not taking a forward with our first pick would be a mistake.

    • Spiel

      I’m not convinced on this line of thinking that defense can be taken later.

      Sure Subban and Weber were 2nd rounders, but Doughty and Hedman were 2nd overall.
      There are also great forwards taken later in the draft like Jamie Benn (leading NhL scorer) and outside the top 5. Plenty of bust forwards too.

      My thinking is that if you are confident you can draft a #1 pairing D, you do it. Wingers are much easier to obtain outside of the draft. Drafting a d-man puts more pressure on your scouts. Forward could be the safe pick but not the better long term choice.

      I hear Dubois being compared to James Neal. Good player, but a #1 D is more valuable than James Neal in my opinion.

  • Hockey123

    Kind of ironic that the lottery was put in place to limit a team’s desire to tank yet the team who clearly tanked this year picks first.

    I feel frustrated but glad Winnipeg got #2 and not Edmonton. Although, Columbus getting #3 seems like such a waste.

    Hope Benning has his eye on someone good.

  • andyg

    I’d be happy with any of the top three defensemen, its hard to really differentiate amongst them. I would be really happy with any of them joining our blue line.

    The only caveat would be if Tkachuck fell down to 5th, he scores and isn’t shy about going to the front of the net….don’t underestimate how valuable that is compared to the Nylanders or Ehlers of the drafts we’ve been in. He gets some flack for being on a line with Marner and Dvorak but it’s not like he’s a total plumber out there.

    And Benning really values players that go to the front of the net, we’ve seen that with the selections of Virtanen, McCann, and Boeser. None of them are shy about going to the tough areas to score where others (Shinkaruk) were more perimeter players.

    • TrueBlue

      I saw Tkachuck at the prospects game and was not impressed. I spoke with a scout friend who was there and he said that he agrees that he is slow a foot and benefits greatly from his line mates in junior. I would not take him 5th and frankly would not take him in the top ten. One of the top dmen would be a much better use of this pick.

  • andyg

    We will still get a very good prospect but not one who will play next year.

    So no one to excite the paying fans. I am sure that is what Linden was hoping for, it would have made selling season tickets a lot easier.