There was plenty of disappointment in Vancouver when the Canucks fell to 10th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery.
Not only did they drop from their original spot at ninth, but they lost out on the chance at selecting highly touted center prospect Jack Hughes.
Hughes, who is the brother of Canucks’ current defensive prospect Quinn, recently passed Alexander Ovechkin for the all-time points record at the U18 World Championships. The 17-year-old was a monster for Team USA, helping the Americans capture a Bronze Medal with 32 points in 14 combined games.
Hughes projects to be a franchise player. He has an incredible offensive skill-set that includes elite vision, great hands and excellent skating.
Hughes is going to be a gamechanger for whatever NHL teams lands him. The New Jersey Devils have the first overall selection in 2019, while the New York Rangers are picking second. The Chicago Blackhawks slot in at number three.
It’s a general consensus that Hughes and Finnish forward prospect Kaapo Kakko are going 1-2 in this year’s draft. Either Hughes will be a Devil or he will be a Ranger. This means if the Canucks wanted to trade up, they would be negotiating with either the Devils or the Rangers.
The problem for the Canucks when it comes to Jack Hughes is that he is a center. The Canucks already have a great 1-2 punch in the middle with Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. Adam Gaudette is also a center and he proved in the latter half of 2018-19 that he deserves more ice time and a bigger role.
Having Hughes in the picture would make things very crowded in the middle. Of course, that wouldn’t be a deal breaker if the right trade was on the table. But it should prevent the Canucks from going out of their way to try and force a deal that just isn’t there.
Hughes is also a smaller player, currently listed at 5’10” and 170 lbs. The league is very much heading in the direction of speed and skill. Size simply can’t be used as a knock on a player. Just take Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau and Mitch Marner as recent examples. The list goes on. It can be used as an argument when it pertains to the Canucks, however.
Elias Pettersson had a terrific rookie campaign, but he got thrown around at times and suffered two injuries. When you look at the playoffs and what it takes to win, you need to look at the bigger picture. Would trading a bunch of important players for Jack Hughes improve the team’s chances of defeating the Blues, Jets, Stars, Sharks, Predators or Avalanche in the postseason? It very well could depending on the other moves the Canucks make, but these are the questions that need to be asked.
When you take these factors into consideration, it seems logical for the Canucks to stay the course and address a true need by drafting the best winger or defenseman available at 10th overall.
The Devils would almost certainly want a Pettersson, Boeser or Horvat as the main piece in a deal. Pettersson is basically untouchable after his sensational rookie season. There’s no point even entertaining his name in any rumours. He’s a franchise player on his own.
Horvat is developing into one of the better two-way forwards in the game and is perceived to be the future captain of the team. He brings so much to the Vancouver roster that is value goes way beyond the scoresheet. He’s invaluable and almost certainly wouldn’t be moved by GM Jim Benning.
Boeser has proven with back-to-back 25-plus-goal seasons that he can be an elite goal-scorer. He’s shown great chemistry with Pettersson and is currently working on a contract extension with the team.
Even if the deal didn’t have to include one of these players, the Canucks would be asked to give up significant pieces of the future. It’s not like the team has been stockpiling draft picks in recent years. It would likely take an overpayment for a player of Hughes’ calibre.
The Devils definitely need a defenseman more than they need a forward, but it’s hard to see them trading the pick. Hughes could center Taylor Hall and form a lethal 1-2 combination down the middle with Nico Hischier.
Even if Hughes went to the Rangers, it’s highly unlikely they would want to move him. Hughes is exactly the type of franchise player they need to lead their rebuild and return to being a contender after their great run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
You almost never see a team trade the number one overall pick at the draft. It’s very rare. Especially when there is a player of Hughe’s calibre. It’s being entertained more this year because the projected number one overall pick has a talented brother already drafted to an NHL team. Unfortunately, that doesn’t increase the odds of it happening by that much.
A player like Jack Hughes changes a franchise. Accordingly, the price for such a player isn’t cheap. The Canucks don’t appear to be in a position where they should make a move to trade up and draft Hughes.
Would you really want to disrupt the young core and ruin years of development? That’s the question Canucks fans will need to ask themselves as the June. 21 Draft Day approaches and rumours run rampant. When you take a realistic look at the situation, the Canucks shouldn’t feel the need to mortgage the future to try and get Jack Hughes. The Canucks will still get a great player at 10th overall and are best off staying the course.