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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.