The Vancouver Canucks finished last season as the league’s third-worst team and were dealt no such reward for their troubles, as the lottery process bumped them down to fifth overall. Basically, the Canucks are among the league’s first ‘victims’ of disincentivising tanking.
Luckily, the lottery only applies to the first round. Beyond that, it’s based entirely on the standings. That meant that the Canucks were in line to pick 33rd overall before they dealt their second-round selection in the Erik Gudbranson trade. In anticipation of that pick, I highlighted three players that the Canucks would be lucky to have available in that spot.
Next up, I’ll highlight three players that the Canucks should hope are available at 64th overall. Given the sordid history of this franchise at the draft, it’s understandable that the glamour of a third-round selection isn’t exactly bringing people out of their seats. With Jim Benning at the helm though the Canucks appear to be reversing that trend. They’ll get another opportunity to continue towards that goal and I’ve three such players in mind that will help the cause.
Though Golyshev has gone undrafted twice before, I’m getting the sense history won’t repeat itself at this year’s draft. The 21-year-old Russian winger just enjoyed one of the most successful seasons, relative to his age group, in KHL history. And he did so playing primarily on Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist’s third line, as an assistant captain no less.
Another interesting overseas story to watch at the draft: that of Anatoli Golyshev. He had 44 points in 56 games for KHL Yekaterinburg. He would be a free agent if he was 22. But he’s 21 and hasn’t spent at least one season in North America. There’s some buzz. He’s not going in the first-round, but he’ll be a second-day guy and teams are playing coy about their interest. Curious to see how high he goes.
The obvious concern with Golyshev is his size. Golyshev stands at just 5’8″ and though he’s handled himself extremely well playing against men in the KHL for three seasons now, it’s fair to wonder how his body will stand to the rigours of an 82-game season in the NHL.
I’d suggest it’s a risk well worth the late round selection it will cost the team that makes that gamble. Especially in lieu of the glowing review that Jeff Veillette gave Golyshev on The Leafs Nation.
Golyshev wasn’t just one of the best 20-year-olds this year; he was one of the highest performing players in the entire KHL. Despite averaging a very modest 17:14 of ice time per game, Golyshev finished in a tie for 18th in points with 44 in 56 games. More impressively, he finished fourth in the league with 25 goals.; two more than Alexander Radulov, and nine more than Ilya Kovalchuk (who admittedly, is declining hard). Golyshev’s 25 tallies are the most by any Under-21 player in KHL history. Or Under-22. Or Under-23.
There’s certainly a strong case for Alexander Polunin as the next Golyshev. They play a strikingly similar game and bring with them a healthy amount of experience playing against men in the KHL. They’ve also been passed over in the NHL draft. Again, though, that’s not likely to happen this time around.
I’ve been following Polunin closely ever since he caught my eye as an underage member of Russia’s World Junior Hockey Championship roster in Finland. The Russians used Polunin in a top-six role and on special teams. Though undersized, Polunin showed a willingness to go to the dirty areas and left the tournament with three goals in seven games to show for it.
Corey Pronman has Polunin ranked 36th among draft eligible players in this year’s draft. Here’s his take on Polunin…
Polunin had a breakout season after going undrafted last summer, skating a regular shift for his KHL team and playing in the top six for Russia at the WJC as an underage player. There are reasons to doubt him, however. He has never been a top player on a team or in a tournament, he’s 5-foot-8, and he isn’tan All-World skill player. But in every game this season, he looked impressive for an 18-year-old. Polunin is a good to very good skater with a quick burst out of every stride and a dangerous top gear. He’s great in open ice and able to dangle defenders with consistency. Polunin is very smart in terms of his creativity with the puck and being able to set his teammates up with tough passes. He can also finish chances from a distance. On the downside, he is a one-dimensional player in terms of his play away from the puck, but he will hang around the net area and get in tight when he anticipates a chance.
Cliff Pu of the London Knights is a player that, in all likelihood, won’t be available to the Canucks at 64th overall. His strong performance with the Knights in the OHL playoff run and Memorial Cup was enough to skyrocket him up draft rankings — often into the first round, even. Much of that is opportunity based. When the Knights promoted Pu to their second line, his production took off almost immediately.
I’m a fan of Pu’s game. He’s nasty, mean and just an overall annoyance. His game is taylor made for the NHL level as a checking line centre. That said, I think that his playoff run and the rankings that followed have skewed the picture ever so slightly. Using a first round pick on Pu would be absurd, bordering on laughable. Even a second round pick is iffy. Right at 64th is probably where Pu should be drafted.
pGPS suggests that Pu has somewhere in the neighbourhood of a 17% chance of becoming a successful draft pick. I would expect a massive jump to that number next season as he’s in line to centre the Knights second line, likely alongside Max Jones.
Here’s Corey Pronman’s take on Cliff Pu…
Though he scored just a tad over a half-point per game, don’t forget that Pu was buried on a deep London forward group, and showed well in a limited role. Pu skates very well for a player with a pro-sized body. He can jet through the neutral zone and pressure opponents well. He’s got a decent touch with the puck, able to handle in tight spaces just fine and flash some top-level plays. He can play center reliably and be a quality penalty killer. Pu is a very bright individual, but his hockey IQ hasn’t shown well at times.