For most of the regular season, the two days of the NHL Entry Draft were a long time coming. Knowing the Canucks would end up with relatively high picks in each round, the opportunity to bring new players into the organization was an exciting thought. They went into the draft with seven picks total, but that increased to eight when Jim Benning traded a fourth-rounder for fifth and sixth-round picks.
Although some remain unconvinced that Elias Pettersson over Cody Glass was the right move, the Canucks certainly impressed with their picks on Day 2. Judd Brackett checked in with TSN 1040 to give the 4-11 on the newest members of the organization.
Brackett:“I’m not sure [him playing with Dahlen] was a tipping point, but it was a relevant point. Obviously playing together and playing in a men’s league – the success that they’ve had – we took into consideration. You have instant chemistry there and a chance to maybe have them playing together in the top 6 in the future. It’s hard to ignore.”
Brackett on Pettersson’s weight:“He does (have room to grow). He’s 6’2” and the width of his shoulders – he obviously has room to grow and he knows that. Strength is something he’s going to work on. When you watch him play, what’s 165 lbs for him might be 175 or 180 for others. He’s strong and he can leverage and protect the puck along the wall.”
As we are all aware of, Henrik and Daniel are nearing the ends of their careers and will be going into the history books. The Canucks are set up for a great story should Pettersson and Dahlen reach their potentials. As the best two Swedes retire, the next two are just beginning. Temper expectations, however, because both players will likely need some time. Described by Hockeyprospect.com’s Shane Malloy as “A potential No. 1 centre”, the Canucks would have done excellent if Pettersson comes anywhere close to Henrik’s level of play.
Kole Lind is a player whose case could certainly be made to be a first-round pick. Luckily for the Canucks, he barely slipped and they took him with their first second-round pick. Playing in the WHL, opportunities to watch Lind play well be plentiful. He plays for an excellent program in Kelowna that has produced the likes of Jamie Benn, Leon Draisaitl, Tyson Barrie, and yes, Alex Edler as well.
Brackett:“At the close of last night – knowing we had the second pick at the second round – it was easy for us to have a discussion and talk about Kole Lind and what he brings. He’s a smart hockey player, excellent hands, quick release. He has some power in his game and goes to the net. He’s a feisty guy and his 80+ penalty minutes indicate that. There’s a subtlety to his game, but there’s no denying he gets himself involved all over the ice. His awareness and hockey sense is excellent.”
Like Lind, Gadjovich could have easily been a late first-round pick. Picking him up in the latter end of the second round, the Canucks got themselves a big power forward who can shoot the puck. Having played with Vegas first-rounder Nick Suzuki for a majority of the season, the duo is bound to have an even better season next year.
Brackett:“There’s no denying what he is. He is a big body, he’s a net-front presence. His ability on the power-play and what he does in the net-front – gets sticks on pucks and rebounds and creating space for others – is excellent.”
Brackett on Gadjovich’s skating: “We identified it as his weakness right now. We talked to him at the Combine and we talked to him during the year – he knows it and he’s aware of it. I think you get the sense he’s a high-character kid and he’s motivated. He’s aware of his strengths and weaknesses and that’s important.
Although Gadjovich’s skating is the main weakness, he stated in an interview with Matt Sekeres that he is working with skating coach Tracy Tutton. Tutton has worked with the Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and is currently the skating coach with the Oshawa Generals. Contrary to popular belief, she is not the coach working with Bo Horvat. Nonetheless, Gadjovich is aware of his flaw and is motivated to improve it. That’s always a good sign, especially from an 18 year-old.
Benning stated yesterday that he planned on drafting a goaltender sometime after the second round, and that he did. Fresh off a Memorial Cup win with the Windsor Spitfires, DiPietro was regarded as one of the best goaltenders in the draft. Although Canucks Army had him ranked 88th, there was certainly the possibility that he’d be taken by the time the Canucks picked in the fourth round. DiPietro is a promising goaltender who would make a nice pair with Thatchet Demko in the future.
Brackett:“He’s a proven winner – 18 and led [his] team to the Memorial Cup in his hometown. He’s been through some adversity, he’s a hard worker, and he has tremendous athleticism. If you’re looking for the prototypical 6’2 goalie, that’s not him. His power and his movements and desperation and compete are second to none for us.”
With their fourth-round pick, the Canucks went the rare high school route to select their first defenseman. The last time the team drafted a player out of high school was in 2012 when they took Matthew Beattie out of Exeter. Not only is Rathbone a blueliner, but he’s an offensive blueliner and his numbers certainly show it.
Brackett:“I’ve known Jack, he’s actually played some summer tournaments for me back in the day. I have quite a bit a familiarity with him. A tremendous skater, puck mover, likes to get up in the play, has power-play ability, big shot from the point. Very exciting. The level is the level, but I’m not worried about Jack. He’s a self-starter and a go-getter. I expect him to dominate the way he did this year and continue to push the envelope.”
For those hesitant about drafting out of high school, Brackett’s familiarity with Rathbone should ease those thoughts. Rathbone is a project, but he definitely has the potential to be a productive NHL player.
Arguably the most questionable pick of the draft, the Canucks simply added defensive depth to their prospect pool. Not much is known about Gunnarsson, but we’ll have a better idea at development camp.
Brackett:“He’s for sure a defensive-oriented player. He’s aggressive, he’s got some jam to him for sure. When you play against him, you know you’re playing against him. He’s experienced and had a very strong World Juniors. He was the responsible, stay-at-home guy who made guys pay.”
Over the past few years, the NHL has seen a rise in small, speedy forwards. Although many teams have embraced the idea of drafting players of the like, the Canucks never appeared to be one of them. That is until today. Standing at 5’7″, Palmu played on the same line as Jonah Gadjovich and Nick Suzuki in Owen Sound. According to Elite Prospects, Palmu has the speed, offensive skills, and capable defensive play to have been a sure-fire draft pick in the past two drafts. The Canucks got a waterbug who can definitely turn some heads in the future.
Brackett: “We had to (ignore his height). His play speaks for itself. The height is a bit shocking, but it’s never held him back. His success has continued. Physically, he’s short but I would not call him small. He’s got a fire hydrant build and you have to play through him. He’s got a low centre of gravity, great sense, awareness and makes other better, too.”
With their last pick, the Canucks went for another shoot-for-the-fences player, and one who loves to shoot.
Brackett:“When you get to that round, he has a clear, defining separating skill – an ability with the puck, generates shots. We identified him early last year but had limited reps in Barrie. When he was traded, it really sparked our interest so we got into Oshawa quite a bit. He’s been a shooter all along.”
For the second straight year, the Canucks exercised their late-round picks on over-aged players. Last year, the Canucks selected Jakob Stukel (D+1), Rodrigo Abols (D+2), and Brett McKenzie (D+1), and then drew upon the same approach this season.
Brackett on drafting over-aged players: “I don’t know if it’s that they’re more ready, but it’s an organizational approach of continuing to monitor development. We want to see players are still making progress. Just because it’s not their first time through doesn’t mean they’re not a later bloomer or their game hasn’t taken the next big step. We’re not they’re to give up on guys, we’re going to keep watching them.”
Although it was reported by Matt Sekeres that major changes may be coming to the front-office, one can easily say that the 2017 NHL Draft has, so far, looked like one their best. They certainly did good drafting Pettersson, Lind, Gadjovich, and DiPietro in the early rounds, and then took two fliers in Rathbone and Palmu. One can certainly argue against the picks of Gunnarsson and Brassard, though it’s far too early to jump to that conclusion. Overall, the Canucks did very well over the past two days.