4 North American Defensemen the Canucks Should Target in Later Rounds of the Draft

Now that I’ve profiled North American and European forwards that check out as solid bets in the later rounds of the draft, we’ll turn out attention to the blue line.

We have two London Knights and two Kamloops Blazers, which is just a coincidence as I selected the players based on their pGPS ratings without looking at their teams.

One of the players is someone who has been slowly building up steam as a late round option after a good playoff run and Memorial Cup, while the other three are mostly unheard of.

Victor Mete (Rank: 74th NA Skaters)

Bio:

  • Age: 17, 1997-06-07
  • Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Frame: 5’10”, 165 lbs.
  • Position: D
  • Handedness: L
  • Draft Year Team: London Knights
  • Accomplishments/Awards: OHL Championship (15/16), Memorial Cup Championship (15/16), Ivan Hlinka Gold Medal (15/16)

Stats:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.57.02 PM

Scouting Report:

Victor Mete of the Memorial Cup Champion London Knights is the most highly regarded among this group. Mete enjoyed a successful second season with the Knights, scoring 38 points in 68 games in the regular season, 11 points in 18 OHL Playoff games and the one goal in four Memorial Cup games.

Mete is known as a good skating, flashy puck mover that isn’t afraid to jump into the play offensively. He’s not shy to kickstart his team’s transition, often carrying the puck from his zone to the opposition’s if an outlet doesn’t present itself. These qualities do much to ease the concerns associated with Mete’s size, or lack thereof, as the speedy defender checks in at just 5’10” and 165 lbs.

Viewed through the lens of pGPS, Mete’s statistical and stature based comparable players had a 22.2% success rate of developing into NHL regulars. His ranking, 74th among North American skaters, means that he is likely to fall either in the late third or fourth round. Finding a player with a one-in-four chance of developing into a full-time NHL’er in those rounds is value added. He may actually go earlier due to his performance in the OHl playoffs and Memorial Cup.

Nicholas Mattinen (Rank:136th NA Skaters)

Bio:

  • Age: 18, 1998-03-08
  • Birthplace: Karmfors, Sweden
  • Frame: 6’4″, 220 lbs.
  • Position: D
  • Handedness: R
  • Draft Year Team: London Knights
  • Accomplishments/Awards: OHL Championship (15/16), Memorial Cup Championship (15/16)

Stats:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.58.14 PM

Scouting Report:

Nicholas Mattinen, a teammate of Mete’s, sits on the opposite end of the size spectrum. Standing at 6’4″ and weighing a sturdy 220 lbs, Mattinen offers a more defensively conscious skillset than his London teammate. Mattinen’s game is built on his ability to use his size and stick to effectively eliminate the opposition’s time and space.

Don’t be so quick to write of Mattinen outside the defensive zone though. He’s a capable defender in transition and has a hard shot from the point. These aren’t necessarily strengths in Mattinen’s game, though, so I would expect that these are areas of his game he hopes to build on next season.

Using pGPS, 21% of Mattinen’s stature and statistics based comparables went on to become NHL regulars. That checks out higher than likely second-round picks like Libor Hajek and Frederic Allard.

Dawson Davidson (Ranked: NR NA Skaters)

Bio:

  • Age: 18, 1998-04-07
  • Birthplace: Moosomin, Saskatchewan, Canada 
  • Frame: 5’10”, 176 lbs.
  • Position: D
  • Handedness: R
  • Draft Year Team: Kamloops Blazers
  • Accomplishments/Awards: TELUS Cup Top Defenceman (13/14)

Stats:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.51.33 PM

Scouting Report:

The lack of buzz for a player like Dawson Davidson is perplexing given the excitement surrounding a player like Mete. Davidson, who is now unranked by Central Scouting Services, was the 197th ranked North American skater at the mid-season mark, but fell due to an uninspiring second half.

What Davidson lacks in size, he makes up for with his hockey sense and skating. Davidson doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff either, in spite of his 5’10” frame. More often than not, though, Davidson will use his awareness and hockey IQ to avoid it entirely. Davidson’s speed and skating account for much of his offensive production, as he isn’t the flashiest player once he’s in the offensive zone. Still, Davidson did post a lofty 39 points.

Davidson is the highest regard among this group through pGPS. About 29% of his comparable players went on to become NHL regulars.

Given all that, it really is surprising that Davidson ended the season as not ranked – he has all the tools there to possibly be a defenceman but just may be a few inches too short. Given the way he plays and the skill level he has shown, he seems like a good dice roll to overcome not being the ‘right’ size.

Ondrej Vala (Ranked: 102nd NA Skaters)

Bio:

  • Age: 18, 1998-04-13
  • Birthplace: Pardubice, Czech Republic
  • Frame: 6’4″, 216 lbs.
  • Position: D
  • Handedness: L
  • Draft Year Team: Kamloops Blazers
  • Accomplishments/Awards: N/A

Stats:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.48.51 PM

Scouting Report:

Staying in Kamloops, we turn our attention to import Ondrej Vala.

Known for his size, physical play and willingness to drop the gloves, Vala looks like a decent bet for teams looking to add some size in their defensive prospect ranks. Vala is good in his zone and can chip in offensively when needed.

Corey Pronman at ESPN has Vala ranked as the 100th prospect available, and has a good scouting report:

At the 100th spot, we have a player that has an intriguing set of skills and tools. Vala is a big defenseman at 6-foot-5, and I think there is some puck-moving upside to his game. Mind you, he’s no Erik Karlsson but Vala has shown the hockey sense to be competent with the puck. And at the under-18 and WHL levels, he has been effective during his time on the power play. He is decent defensively too, using his big frame to clog up lanes and win battles. His skating is poor, with a real awkward stance and stride. He can be turned horizontally a little too easy by quick forwards, which is a major hurdle that he’ll need to overcome on his way to potentially becoming a top prospect.

Using pGPS, 21.8% went onto playing 200 games or more in the NHL. Given where Vala would be available in the draft, like many of the others we have profiled here, he shows to be a very good bet in the second half.


With defenceman, it’s much harder to project where their development path will take them and that is even murky because of how long they generally take to make an impact at the NHL level.

But as we can see with the Canucks selection of Tate Olson, sometimes those dice rolls appear to pay off. Olson has a long way to go, but his ascension up the prospect ranks is very promising.

Tomorrow, we conclude with a look at some European defenceman that are worth a roll of the dice. 

  • Dan B

    Fun facts:

    – Mike Sullivan, coach of the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins was an assistant coach of the Vancouver Canucks, until fired by Trevor Linden.

    – Current Canuck coach Willie D. allegedly was offered the head coaching job at Pittsburgh but instead chose that same position with Vancouver.

    – Former Canuck Nick Bonino played important minutes for the Penguins during their playoff run, and gained infamy for being a part of the HBK line.

    – NM00 has joined the CA staff as a guest animator / greeter.

  • Dan B

    A little bit of a stretch too call these players NA skaters when they only get that distinction because they play on Junior teams in North America.

    Regardless, I was very impressed with Mattinen and his all-around game. Although I only watched him in 5 or so games this season I liked what I saw.

    • Dan B

      The N.A. designation refers to the league, not the place of birth.

      Auston Matthews is not ranked on the list of North American prospects, due to playing in Europe last year.

      Not a stretch, that’s just how the rankings are don…

      • TrueBlue

        Ya I understand that. Austin Matthews is probably the only example of a player born & raised in NA that gets put into the European bracket.

        I was only trying to make a point, which I sure you caught. I was not trying to be xenophobic.

        My opinion is that NA skaters were/are hockeybred in NA, as European skaters are hockeybred in Europe.

        Again I would like to have Mattinen on my team as he has a good all-around game.

  • Cageyvet

    I like this series. Let’s face it, unless you have no life whatsoever like NM00, we rarely have any insight into these lesser-lights until we actually draft one of them.

    Keep this sort of content coming, it’s informative, topical since we’re all focused on the draft, and tends to keep the responses hockey related.

    If I knew anything about these players, I’d weigh in, but since I moved out of my parent’s house long ago, I enjoy the information.

  • TrueBlue

    Maybe it’s the luck we’ve had recently with Horvat & Boeser, but I like the idea of drafting a player with decent skills but poor skating. Both Horvat & Boeser have made huge strides (**cough**) in their skating ability since being drafted.. it seems like a development area in which progress can be made as players approach the professional ranks.

    So a guy like Vala seems like an interesting late-round gamble if he can put in some time with ‘ol Barb Underhill in the summer.