It’s no secret that the Kelowna Rockets are a CHL powerhouse, and it’s also no secret the Vancouver Canucks have rarely recognized this when looking to draft out of the WHL.
Last year, the Canucks finally tapped into the Rockets talent pool and drafted Kole Lind with the 33rd overall pick — needless to say, an individual fan from the same city Lind plays in was ecstatic. A year later, Canucks general manager Jim Benning will once again be looking for diamonds in the rough late in the draft, and taking a chance on Lind’s teammate Kyle Topping might be a good idea.
Topping is having a decently productive season this year with 19 goals and 36 assists. He has a 0.93 points-per-game clip while centring a line with the aforementioned Lind. Looking below, you will see Topping has won 53.20% of his faceoffs. Vancouver should be stocking up on defensemen, but again, a later round pick on a potential third-line centre isn’t a terrible pick to make.
He isn’t a “blow your mind” pick, but his efficiency with Lind is evidence he performs well with good players. According to Elite Prospects, Topping is the 64th ranked NA skater so he could be had anywhere from the third round on. Benning hasn’t been good at stockpiling picks, but if his direction is to continue to fill the cupboards, Topping can develop in Kelowna and most likely a few seasons before getting a chance to try his skills for the Canucks.
At that point, assuming Vancouver uses a pick on him, there should be a need up the middle once again for the Canucks (approximately five years from now). Taking an overall approach, Topping is scoring 75% of his points at even strength and just over 67% at 5-on-5. When he does reach the score sheet, 58% of his points are primary points; if the puck is going in the net, he is the main reason more times than not.
Based on the Canucks recent draft history, dating back to 2010, using a third or fourth round pick on a centre has happened on two of the eleven picks in those rounds or just over 18%. Not exactly promising if you plan to make the NHL as a Vancouver Canuck. In all fairness, defencemen should be the name of the game for Vancouver, but just like defencemen, depth pivots are hard to find as well.
Fellow CanucksArmy write Jeremy Davis’ pGPS (Prospect Graduations Probabilities System) system has Toppings NHL comparables, WOWYs, and point tracker.
Some notable comparables carved out decent careers (Kris Versteeg, Ray Ferraro, Wendel Clark, and hey, Linden Vey) that any Canucks fan would be thrilled to see. This shouldn’t be taken as gospel but as yet another way to see what the Canucks could get out of a player like Topping.
Lind is the obvious standout here, but then again, they do play on the same line. The injured Nolan Foote has seen better than average success with Topping as well and hopefully that connection re-ignites in the playoffs. James Hilsendager is another intriguing option, but that’s for another day.
Overall, Topping is a player worth taking a chance on later in the draft. He won’t be the crown jewel of the franchise and could potentially never materialize as an NHL player but considering the Canucks are pretty low on hope these days, if you throw enough darts at the board one of them might be a bullseye.
As the Canucks approach this year’s draft, it would be comforting to know they are looking at local (WHL/BCHL) players. Certainly, Topping has given them reason to in an area that’s already drawn their attention.