This article aims to take a look at the most recent Vancouver Canucks first round draft picks, with the overall goal of determining whether those players have had their stocks rise or drop in the years since their draft date—in other words, is their value trending up or down? Since only a few months have passed since the selection of Quinn Hughes 7th Overall, we’ll have to excuse him from this exercise. Realistically, we should also exclude Elias Pettersson, as well, as the majority of his draftmates haven’t had a chance to crack the NHL quite yet—but it’s just too much fun to talk about how much his stock has risen. We’re also leaving Jared McCann out of the equation for simplicity’s sake.
It should be noted that four of the players listed below—Pettersson, Olli Juolevi, Brock Boeser, and Jake Virtanen—were selected by GM Jim Benning, in addition to Hughes. The last player on the list, Bo Horvat, was picked by Mike Gillis and company.
Methodology: In short, this exercise was done rather unscientifically. We looked at past draft lists, checked their stats, and looked at a few fan re-drafts to try to create a list of players that should rank ahead of the various Canuck first rounders in hindsight. Due to the highly subjective nature of these selections, we split them into two camps—Definitively Better Picks and Possibly Better Picks—and then compared those with the Canuck player’s actual draft position to determine their Adjusted Draft Position. That range of numbers is meant to approximate where each player would go if a re-do of their draft class occurred today—though there is obviously still plenty of room for debate, as you’ll no doubt see in the comments below!
Drafted: 5th Overall in 2017
Definitively Better Picks: None
Possibly Better Picks: Miro Heiskanen
Adjusted Draft Position: 1st-2nd Overall (Trending UP)
It’s been less than a year-and-a-half since Pettersson was drafted, but it’s hard not to argue that his stock has still risen in meteoric fashion in the interim. Pettersson is currently dominating the NHL as a rookie and seems to have catapulted himself ahead of 1st and 2nd Overall picks Hischier and Patrick despite their solid pro performances thus far. The only real contender for Pettersson’s 2017 NHL Entry Draft crown is defenseman Heiskanen, who is also doing things that resemble dominating the NHL as a rookie down in Dallas. The smart money is still on Elias, but there’s a good chance these two will be duking it out for 2017 draftee supremacy for years to come.
Drafted: 5th Overall in 2016
Definitively Better Picks: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Chychrun, Alex DeBrincat, Jesper Bratt, Victor Mete
Possibly Better Picks: Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyson Jost, Dennis Cholowski, Brett Howden, Samuel Girard, Max Lajoie, and possibly more
Adjusted Draft Position: 12th-19th Overall (Trending DOWN)
This exercise was never going to be kind to Juolevi, so we’ve decided to be a bit generous to him in order to compensate. Any way you slice it, Juolevi would be drafted much lower in a 2016 re-draft, as a multitude of his draftmates have gone on to prove themselves as valuable NHLers. That number has increased with Juolevi in the AHL to start the season while others are making their big league debuts, but his success with Utica has at least allowed his stock to remain ahead of those other 2016 draftees still toiling away in the minors. A 2016 re-draft should still result in Juolevi being taken in the first round, but it wouldn’t be entirely outlandish for someone to slot him outside of their top 30—and that says a lot. There’s still plenty of time for Juolevi to climb this list, but he’s got some serious catching up to do.
Drafted: 23rd Overall in 2015
Definitively Better Picks: Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal, Ivan Provorov
Possibly Better Picks: Mitch Marner, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot
Adjusted Draft Position: 6th-11th Overall (Trending WAY UP)
Boeser was never going to surpass McDavid or Eichel, but he belongs in the incredibly solid glut of talent that succeeded them in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. At this point in their careers, Rantanen, Barzal, and Provorov have proven themselves a bit more than Boeser, but there’s still plenty of time for him to catch up to any of them. In order to do so, he’ll need to keep ahead of an impressive cast of 2015 draftees, but in any scenario, Boeser likely jumps at least a dozen spots in any 2015 re-draft—quite a leap just three years after the fact.
Drafted: 6th Overall in 2014
Definitively Better Picks: David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Aaron Ekblad, Brayden Point, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Larkin, Sam Reinhart, Viktor Arvidsson, Alex Tuch, Brandon Montour
Possibly Better Picks: Nick Schmaltz, Kevin Fiala, Robby Fabbri, Ondrej Kase, Danton Heinen, Adrian Kempe, Christian Dvorak, and possibly more.
Adjusted Draft Position: 12th-20th Overall (Trending DOWN)
That being said, this sort of exercise would have looked a lot more unfavourable to Virtanen last year, before his breakout, hashtag-inducing hot start to the 2018/19 season. Yes, #ShotgunJake’s stock has dropped significantly since the 2014 Draft, and there are a litany of players that the Canucks probably should have picked instead of him—including bona fide superstars like David Pastrnak and Brayden Point—but his ranking on this list actually represents a marked improvement on his overall value around the league. Those who persist in referring to Virtanen as a bust should take note of the fact that he would almost certainly stay in the first round if the 2014 Draft were conducted today—and he might even stay in the top half of it.
Drafted: 9th Overall in 2013
Definitively Better Picks: Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones
Possibly Better Picks: Sean Monahan
Adjusted Draft Position: 4th-5th Overall (Trending UP)
Way back in 2013, the Vancouver Canucks shocked the hockey world by trading Cory Schneider for the 9th Overall draft pick, and then they pulled off a slightly smaller surprise by selecting Horvat in that spot though most pundits had him ranked lower. Five years later, it’s hard to argue that Mike Gillis and the gang didn’t know exactly what they were doing. Horvat will probably never reach the lofty heights of his three elite draftmates—MacKinnon, Barkov, and Jones—but he slots in nicely after them as the probable fourth best player in his class. Calgary’s Monahan might also deserve that distinction, but it’s a real toss-up between the two of them. Everyone else in the 2013 draft class is at least a step behind.