Photo Credit: Bob Frid/PNG

First Look: Canucks Swap Prospects

In their second and less-publicized move on deadline day, the Canucks traded Jonathan Dahlen to the San Jose Shakrs in exchange for forward Linus Karlsson.

At first glance, the move looks like a bit of a head-scratcher, at least in terms of what the numbers say about the two players.

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Viewed through the lens of the prospect Graduation Probabilties System (pGPS), players in Dahlen’s statistical cohort have a significantly better chance of graduating the NHL and making an impact than those in Karlsson’s.

Based on Dahlen’s first AHL season, his expected likelihood of success via pGPS is 33.2%, while Karlsson’s is just 4.9% based on his season with Karlskrona of the Allsvensken, Sweden’s tier-2 pro hockey league. When looking at the chance pGPS gives the respective players of filling top-six roles, the percentages are much lower; but Dahlen still ekes out the advantage with 9.5% to Karlsson’s 1.4%.

While I still believe pGPS is arguably the best publicly available tool for evaluating prospects from an analytical perspective, it has obvious limitations. Frankly, I’m getting tired of rehashing what those limitations are, but I’m going to anyway, because for some reason the accusation that the site “only looks at the numbers” have only increased since the site has taken more of a “big tent” approach after losing many of its brightest analytical minds to NHL teams or other hockey media outlets.

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Because pGPS is focused on assembling a cohort of similar players to a given prospect, it can’t account for things like work ethic, context, usage, or any other number of factors. That’s why the system, and it’s predecessor, pGPS, are intended to be used in cooperation with traditional scouting rather than in opposition to it. The goal of pGPS is essentially to identify which players are the best bets, which players you should be looking at, and then hopefully utilize traditional scouting methods to identify which players belong to the percentage that makes the NHL, and which belong to the percentage that don’t. It’s very good for identifying which highly-touted prospects are perhaps overvalued, and which guys ranked in the lower rounds or languishing at the bottom of a team’s prospect depth chart are good bets to take a flyer on. As we get closer to the middle of that spectrum, the differences get less pronounced. Relying too much on just one element is how you end up signing MacKenze Stewart to an ELC or making a the declaration that Jake Wise was/is a superior prospect to Tyler Madden that will follow me to the ends of the Earth until the day I die.

All this is just a long-winded way of saying that the analytical perspective matters, but so does more traditional methods of analysis. I wasn’t very familiar with Karlsson as a prospect, so I reached out to Dobber Prospects’ Cam Robinson for his take on what the Canucks gave up, what they got in return, and his overall thoughts on how the Canucks fared in this trade:

“I always liked [Dahlen’s] play from the hashmarks down. Good nose for the net, strong edges, played strong. Wasn’t overly quick or boasting impressive top speed. He wasn’t big or fast which is a difficult combo to overcome. I felt he has/had some top six upside but likely a 3rd line guy.

It’s disappointing [Pettersson and Dahlen] never got a chance in the NHL together. That said, if he asked to leave because he hadn’t been recalled, that’s on him. I’ve watched him a good amount in Utica this year. He’s been okay but not really pushing for an NHL job. I expect him to be a near-point-per-game guy in the AHL next year, but he’ll be in tough to crack that SJ roster too. Hopefully he has a bit more patience in him.”

“[Karlsson is] a mature, two-way pivot who turned down multiple SHL opportunities to stick with Karlskrona and play 14 minutes a night in the Allsvenskan this season. Needs to works on his acceleration – both with the puck and without. Not an overly creative player, he likes to get the puck and fire it when the opportunity arises. He’s a project pivot with some NHL upside.”

“They won’t need to worry about expansion protection for Karlsson. I think Dahlen has top six upside. Not sure Karlsson has the same. Dahlen wanted a shot and apparently didn’t earn it so he wanted out. Can’t blame [Benning] for that. Like he said, somewhat lateral move.”

At this stage, it seems unlikely to me that this move has a very large effect on either of the teams involved. While I don’t know much about Linus Karlsson, I had plenty of opportunities to watch Jonathan Dahlen since he was acquired and I can’t say anything I saw ever quite lined up with the level of hype he generated during his time in Sweden. He has some upside, but also has a lot of work to do, and with reports indicating he asked the Canucks for a trade, you could do worse than swapping him for a project centre who’s two years younger and has a bit more room to grow. Based solely on the knowledge I bring to the table, it looks like a minor loss for the Canucks, but it’s unlikely this type of transaction would have occurred without the input of Thomas Gradin and/or Judd Brackett, who I generally trust when it comes to prospect evaluation.

In a vacuum, this deal really looks like it could go either way. It reminds me a bit of the Markus Granlund for Hunter Shinkaruk trade: the Canucks gave up on upside for a lower-ceiling player who they think can be a fit in their organization. That move ended up working out, though to what exact end is certainly up for debate.

What’s more important about this move is the discussions it ought to generate about the overall organizational philosophy when it comes to prospects and young players. The Utica Comets have been at the centre of a lot of controversy this year regarding their handling of young forwards, and while I’m skeptical about Jonathan Dahlen’s future, it’s undeniable that the one rookie on the team who’s season could be painted as a minor success story asking for a trade because of how he’s been handled is bad optics. Based on what I’ve seen from Dahlen, I’d say that he’s overestimated where he’s at as a pro hockey player, but with all the negative energy surrounding the Comets right now, I’d say the issue merits further organization if nothing else.

As far as the guy coming in is concerned, there doesn’t appear to be a hole lot there right now, but the Canucks have found diamonds in the rough in places others have looked before and it’s certainly possible they’ll do it again. Karlsson is buried a little bit on a middling Karlskrona team and it’s possible we could see an Adam Gaudette or Tyler Madden-like jump in production next season.

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  • Bud Poile

    Any “negative energy” is media generated negativity.
    What’s not being said is that the Canucks have developed an abundance of young prospect depth now that will create even more competition and longer development time in the AHL.
    The Canucks accommodated Palmu,putting him in a position to develop overseas.
    The Canucks accommodated Dahlen,which was notable given the prospect’s position and demands.
    They did for MDZ,Gagner,Nilsson and now Guddy.
    Markstrom,Virtanen,MacEwen,Sautner,Demko,Brisebois,Gaudette,Biega,Schenn,Goldobin-they all had to pay their dues.

    Corey Hirsch
    ‏Verified account @CoreyHirsch
    I’ve spoken with players called up from the @UticaComets that have worked with Cull and his coaching staff. They all say same thing that they work with them everyday. Video, skills and communication. Its a good staff. Young players need to be patient.
    @Canucks @Sportsnet650

  • livininvic

    My first thought when I heard he requested a trade, was, good riddance. Green is tough on his younger players, especially when he feels they can give more. If Dahlen doesn’t like to be coached on his areas of improvement, then this is not the team for him. He’ll get a life lesson soon. In Van, he could have cracked the roster for 2019/2020. I don’t see that happening in SJ with their depth.

    Some might be worried about Pettersson being sad he’s lost his future friend/teammate, but lets not kid ourselves. Petey is going to win no matter who he plays with. There are lots of friends in the NHL who don’t play on the same team.

    Side note: I’m incredibly impressed with how Goldobin has handled himself over the past few months. A lesser person would be fed up. I was expecting he was going to be traded, not because Benning wanted him gone, but because he would request a trade. Nope. He is so committed to Vancouver. Loves this team. Wants to be here. Hates sitting out, but is respectful of the process. Seems to think the coaching staff and management genuinely want the best for him and from him. He seems poised to start showing what he’s really capable of. Good man! Hope he starts killin’ it from here on out! If only Dahlen had this same attitude…

    • Defenceman Factory

      I sure hope you are right about Goldobin. If he could develop into a consistent high end top 6 forward that would be awesome. He sure does have some offensive skills.

      Unfortunately I just can’t help but wonder if Goldobin played last night with the desperation of a cornered rat. Pearson is on his way likely pushing Goldobin back to the press box. I hope he stays in the line-up tomorrow just to see which take is correct.

    • wjohn1925

      As I was reading this comment, it crossed my mind that Igor Larionov is the agent for Goldobin (based on memory). Is there a connection between the information / attitude of the prospects and their agents. One assumes they also get a lot of advice from their agents. Larionov was one of the most respected players in the NHL during his day. He was highly skilled but was not a Krutov; Larionov worked hard. Is Goldy’s attitude and understanding of the cost partially a result of the advice he gets from his agent?

    • canuckfan

      I am also optimistic on Goldie his big strides will come in the off season like last summer it will give him time to work on what is needed and to clear his head to get ready for a new season.
      Dahlen may not just have himself thinking he can make the NHL his father may also have a roll in this which ended up for him requesting a trade. Having your good friend excelling at the game he may figure that he is the same as Petey and deserves to be in the line up beside him.
      Whatever the case hope he does well in the future but likely will end up back in Sweden or KHL.

  • MattyT

    My sole focus… does this move ultimately help the team compete for and win a Stanley Cup? Pettersson and Dahlen playing together – YES. This ‘project’ kid the Sharks happily tossed away – NO. Conclusion – Benning bust.

    Another asset management disaster from the third worst run franchise in the league behind only Ottawa and Deadmonton. End of.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Where’s North Van Halen to spew her hatred of Jackson MacDonald and how disingenuous and just plain wrong it is for someone not even living in the city of Utica and watching Comets games in person to have the gaul to form an opinion and write an article on players there???

  • Kanucked

    I would be interested in a deeper dive wrt the concept of a prospect “paying their dues”. I don’t want to confuse the topic with a prospect not being ready.

    Why isn’t going through the juniors/college/European league considered paying your dues? The whole concept of arbitrarily paying dues is antiquated to me.

    I think the experiences with Las Vegas last year and players like Carter Hart this year, show that giving players an opportunity can be a very good thing. Particularly, with a rebuilding team like Vancouver. If they players don’t succeed, fine let them continue to develop.

    Even players like Sautner have shown that they may be legit NHL defencemen.

    Some on this board seem to be okay with giving players like Leivo or Spooner a shot. I agree.

    What did the Canucks really have to lose by giving Dahlen a chance at the NHL level? If it didn’t work out, Dahlen would know he’s not ready or trade him at the end of the season.

    • Bud Poile

      Sautner is 25 in May and has played 8 NHL games and 200 AHL games over 3 1/2 seasons in Utica.
      Jonathan just turned 21 and during his first , full AHL season demanded to be traded.
      Players that aren’t deemed ready for the NHL by their coaches and management,as has been explained applies to this young man, get to ‘pay their dues’ in the AHL.
      Spooner and Leivo,both NHL veterans,plied their trade in the AHL for three seasons + apiece.

      • Kanucked

        Yes, the point is that the coaches and management aren’t omnipotent. Take look at Vegas. Players who weren’t expected by coaches and management to be front line players proved to be that.

        • Bud Poile

          Demanding to be playing in the NHL as a kid just turned 21 years of age is yet another issue.
          The young man’s attitude degenerates and risks adversely manifesting itself upon the rest of the players without entitlement issues.
          His attitude and issues boiled itself into a trade so this young man wasn’t willing to spend a half season in the AHL.

          • Kanucked

            Another strawman argument? What about your contention that management would know when he’s ready?

            So is Eriksson entitled? How about the other players who received big paydays but haven’t lived up to their contracts? Have they adversely manifested themselves on the rest of the players?

          • Bud Poile

            In work place environments a ten/twenty year veteran employee is not a four month employee.
            Eriksson was awarded an NHL contract based upon his body of work.
            FA’s are awarded their individual contracts according to market conditions and specific team needs.
            The free agent CBA clause awards all NHL players in the same manner.Every NHL player is entitled to cash in-each and every veteran that has successfully reached free agency.
            Any AHL player making demands so forceful that he has to be dealt with ,never mind a raw rookie midway through his first season, raises questions of character and attitude.
            This is Erik Lindros type drama coming from a mid-second round pick.
            Expendable and terminated.

        • North Van Halen

          So is your thought that players shoudn’t be rewarded for working hardest and actually being the best players on the team but be gifted ice time so that they don’t complain?
          I can’t say I could ever get on board with that thought. To move to the next level you should prove you are good enough. No one on Vegas was a career minor leaguer not good enough to make their NHL team then exploded when gifted an opportunity. They were career NHLer’s that got more opportunity in Vegas after being deemed expendable by their old teams. Now if you can find me one example of a guy struggling in the minors that was promoted undeservedly to the NHL and thrived I’ll listen but I’ve never heard of that scenario.

          • Kanucked

            All this righteousness about earning a spot, where was this when the Canucks signed Griffen Molino right out of college and gave him 5 games in the NHL?

            Come on, nobody is gifting anybody anything. The point is “earning a spot” is at best applied unevenly.

            The reason to give a prospect like Dahlen that has had success at other pro-levels is that it gives the CANUCKS the benefit to know what they are giving up before they trade him.

            If Dahlen becomes a legit top six player and Karlsson doesn’t, I hope all of you will stand by your claim of “earning it”.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            The other issue here is that Dahlen was friends with, had played with, and showed chemistry with their franchise player, yet was never given a chance to prove that at the NHL level. That seems stubborn and shortsighted on the part of management, IMO.

    • TheMoustacheofDaveBabych

      I don’t totally disagree, but having watched Carter Hart play in the WHL . . . that kid is a special player. The vast majority of hockey players are nowhere near that good at the same age. He isn’t the best example to use in this instance.

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      You don’t give players a shot unless they work and deserve it. Not because they whine and complain that they want to play in the NHL right NOW!!!

    • canuckfan

      Dahlen was given a chance at the young prospects he looked good, but then when it came to playing against men he was not very effective and could not make the team. They don’t hand out opportunities just because you have to show that you belong in the NHL. Lots of great prospects die on the vine because they just don’t have that extra gear. Some have that extra drive like Burrows that got him to where he was and these scouts can see that drive.

    • TD

      I don’t think the Canucks make players pay their dues. Pettersson didn’t have to go to Utica. A player has to be ready for the NHL. I was hoping Dajlen would be ready, but the preseason clearly indicated he was not ready for the NHL. Dahlen played lots of top 6 minutes in Utica and put up ok numbers. MacEwan put up way better numbers in the AHL as a projected bottom 6 NHL forward. Not sure how Dahlen’s numbers would justify a call up to play top 6 NHL minutes. I think it has way more to do with performance than paying dues.

        • KGR

          Team was at a different point back then. No depth and injuries. And I also suspect management wasn’t sure what they had in Molino. Expect more auditions as the Canucks slip in the standings. Dahlen may have been given a few games by the end of the season..who knows?

        • TD

          the main difference is that Molino was a free agent being pursued by a number of teams. Promising him some games was probably part of the reason they signed him. Molino played those 5 games at the end of the year when they weren’t in a playoff race.

          I had really high hopes for Dahlen after last season, the rookie showcase and the young stars tourney. But he didn’t look anywhere close to being ready in the preseason.

  • TD

    I heard Karlsson is a center. I wonder if that accounts for some if the different numbers. The Swedish leagues are very defensive. Pettersson played wing for most of his time last year and this year he is playing center in the NHL. If they are playing Karlsson at center he may be playing limited minutes and being brought along slowly.

    • MattyT

      Yes… no need to ‘rush’ these guys in your myopic world eh TD… let them marinate in the minors for YEARS eh …

      “Pettersson may need time to adjust to the smaller ice. I would rather he develop properly in utica than getting rushed into the lineup.” – TD

      “Bo isn’t ready to be a number 1 centre.” TD 2017

      • TD

        Ah PDQ, you never disappoint. Where did I say we should marinate players for years? Pettersson did not need it, Boeser and Bo did fine, while other may take more time.

        As for your quotes, I said Pettersson may need time not did need time. Turns out he didn’t. As for Bo, are you saying he was a #1 centre in 2017?

      • TD

        My point was also that maybe the Swedish leagues were bringing Karlsson along slowly, not that I agreed with it. Pettersson has proven he can be a #1 centre in the NHL this year, but was put on the wing in Sweden last year.

    • Bud Poile

      I heard and read that Dahlen would have had to be exposed to the Seattle expansion draft whereas Karlsson will not.
      Benning stated his scouts liked Karlsson.Hard to argue with the track record of Gradin,Jonsson and Lindgren.
      With what appears to be Dahlen’s prima donna attitude this is another addition by subtraction.

    • Tedchinook

      And the other thing is that so many of these clowns are judging the two players strictly on scoring points. And if that was a valid criteria on its own Linden Vey would be a star in the NHL.

      From what I’ve read Karlsson already plays a 200 foot game, is a very good skater, has an excellent shot and has grown to 6’2 1/2″ which means he’s going to be a big centre. Listening to Shane Malloy on 1040 he feels this kid’s potential is to be a very good 3rd line centre, while he’s not so sure Dahlen is going to ever establish himself as a regular NHLer..

  • KGR

    Hey Jackson. I have been critical of some of your articles in the past. This is one I like. Gets the point across without judgement and allows for a different perspective. Having an opinion is fine and expressing it respectfully is important.
    I have always been one who appreciates “the show me rather than tell me” way of writing. Cheers

    • DeL

      I too have been critical in the past but agree this article gave a well balanced overview of the situation and gave the facts and perceptions of the situation in Utica. Very good informative article covering all the bases

  • Freud

    I’ll ask again. Why do the successful teams like Tampa never have their prospects leave for Europe or ask for trades? No entitled kids over there that we can wag our finger at and lecture about not knowing their place. Must just be bad luck for Benning. He always has bad luck, poor guy.

    7 of the top 10 scorers for Syracuse are 21 yrs old and younger. An infinitely better team than Vancouver right now, with a better farm team of prospects too. All their kids know Tampa is stacked and they aren’t going to the bigs anytime soon, but no complaining, no defecting.

    Utica has 2 players under 21 in their top 10. Juolevi is one of them.

    There are 3 total players left in Utica that are 21 or younger.

    • Bud Poile

      Perhaps because you don’t live in Tampa and have no intimate knowledge of their prospects.
      Ben Birnell from the Utica Dispatch-Observer ,whom actually follows and professionally writes about the Comets talks was interviewed and talks about Dahlen,Palmu,Lind and Gadjovich.
      Dahlen-relationship seemed fine.No issues between Jonathan and management publicly.
      It takes time and patience for young players to step in and do well defensively,not just offensively.
      Needed to round out his game more and help in all three zones.
      Did not yet have a polished defensive game as the organisation demands in both Utica and Vancouver.
      Palmu had moments but was not consistent and did not gel.
      Lind,Jasek and Gadj all elevating their game since Christmas and figuring it out.


      • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

        Ben Birnell’s interview only demonstrated that he has a very rudimentary knowledge of the specifics of the players and coaches in Utica. He gave very vague and short answers to all questions that specifically adddressed issues regarding communication, development and relationships between the coaches and players.

    • MattyT's Mom

      Fraud…I’ll ask again, just as the others have, dummy up and check your BS. What about Drouin asking for a trade and refusing to report to the A? Wasn’t he with Tampa? You are a FRAUD. You should stick with commenting on hairstyles.

    • Defenceman Factory

      Wow Freud way to go. You got every one of your so called facts wrong.

      I guess the question to you is do you just fabricate stuff or are you just really bad at looking things up?

  • Rodeobill

    Some people have a really thin skin playing in such a rough sport. I don’t know the story, and we only are privy to the facts and speculation thereafter, but the fact is a trade was requested. IF, as is speculated, it is because he felt unjustly held back or deserving to be there above someone else already in the line up, then he is fighting a battle that hinders own development, namely his own sense of entitlement. I get the sense that this is becoming a greater issue more and more with prospects. Harumph! Kids these days.
    I would assume that this is becoming one of coaching’s biggest challenges, getting people out of their own egos long enough to consider playing as a team of for each other. It is hard to learn anything when you know everything already better than everyone else, and it is hard to change peoples minds about that when our world is becoming hyper-sensitive about anything remotely harsh. What is a coach supposed to do? A drill Sargent tears you a new ass until you drop your ego, but I guess a coach can only really bag skate you or put you in the press box. What can you say? I guess this is one of the challenges becoming more apparent in the game. When evaluating prospects, one box should be left on the list for “snowflake factor.” Some prospects will have skill to make it regardless of how much mental fortitude they have, maybe a few each draft, they will play because they are too good to not put on the roster. Having said that they will be much better still with some mental toughness and humility. Everyone else needs that ability to work and develop, hear criticism, and empty the cup sometimes or they stagnate or just fail.

  • Larionov18

    Not like the Canucks had a good choice here. He wanted out. This is not on the level of a proven veteran layer wanting out so return is hard to judge. He was not even an A level prospect. I would say he was a c plus at best.

  • Bud Poile

    There is an interview done by a Canucks fan/blogger with Dahlen after his San Jose debut last night.
    LachInTheCrease via Twitter:
    Dahlen says he “doesn’t think” his agent asked for a trade.
    Dahlen said he “doesn’t know” what Benning meant when he said “Some young players don’t want to pay their dues.” .

    “His agent asked me a couple of weeks ago if we could move him,and if we could trade him.I told him that if we could do a lateral move where we got a player back we liked we would look to do that,otherwise we wouldn’t do it.I find young players now sometimes they don’t want to pay their dues in development time and be given an NHL opportunity right off the start and we just felt there development left in his game and that is where the discrepancy on what they thought and what we thought was.” JB

    • canuckfan

      Dahlen mentioned that he was losing his confidence in Utica and in the interview said he was already feeling more confident with the new coaching staff. Just wait until they start speaking reality to him about what he needs to improve, hopefully he will work hard to make the improvements rather that thinking the coach does not realize his potential and what he is good at. I predict he will be going back to Sweden too bad I was hoping he would reach his potential. Funny how he was traded for Burrows a guy who worked his ass off to get where he was if only Dahlen had Burrows attitude let alone Burrows talent.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Think of Jonathan Dahlen this way. Why did Ottawa part with him for an aging Burrows while still in his teens and not even having played a second of North American hockey? Why did Benning part with him four months into the Utica program? Does this mean Ottawa and Vancouver have moronic management groups where this kid is concerned OR is there something wrong with this guy? Now in his third organization without even taking one NHL shift and being so young should tell you something.

    • Here are my answers to your rhetorical questions. I had to remove all of my hyperlinks to articles so the comment would post:

      1) Ottawa overpaid for Burrows because Dorion is a terrible GM (e.g. trades for Karlsson, Stone, Hoffman, Duchene x 2, Brassard, Bishop, Gaborik. Amazing track record since April 2016.).

      2) Benning traded Dahlen because he didn’t want to be here. Read the CA recap from February 2019 about Brian Burke on Markus Naslund’s near-trade request.

      3a) Ottawa has a moronic management group.

      3b) Vancouver = Dahlen has *always* had criticisms about his skating (though debatable), just look at his draft scouting report and subsequent player grades. CA recapped some opinions in March 2017. Benning has said getting separation was Dahlen’s main problem, which is the issue that killed NHL careers for guys like Gaunce and Pulkkinen and a problem that Horvat overcame to become a Top 6 centre. As Cory Hergott alluded to, the Canucks felt Dahlen’s stats were padded by PP points and a statistical analysis shows that compared to guys like Gaunce, Boucher, Kero, Gaudette, MacEwen, even Shinkaruk, that Dahlen was a terrible point producer at even-strength.

      Excluding the trade request, I think we would have been better off rolling the dice to see if Dahlen could improve his game in Utica and then compete for an NHL roster spot in 1-2 years, rather than trading for Karlsson. That being said, I agree with Brian Burke and that a trade request is a done-deal – you’re gone. By the time a player has gotten to that point, they’ve rationalized their position and can’t give the dedication required by the organization. As a Canuck fan, I sincerely hope that the fault lies entirely with Dahlen’s lack of maturity and not a issue with Comet/Canucks management.