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Photo Credit: © William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

2019 Pre-Season Prospect Rankings: Recap & Individual Lists

Another year of prospect rankings is in the books, which means it’s time to look back at each of the players profiled over the course of the series, and take a look behind the scenes at the individual rankings of our contributors that led to the final list.

Honourable Mentions

Karel Plasek

“Plasek kept his head above water as 19-year-old playing in the Czech Republic’s top men’s league, where he generally had a positive impact on his teammates’ goal-differential, or at the very least, wasn’t a significant liability.

Offensively, Plasek wasn’t a huge producer in the Czech Liiga, possibly due to his youth and limited ice-time. If he’s able to win over his coaches and play a more significant role in the future, I’d expect to see his offensive totals take a jump.

I’ll admit, Plasek isn’t a player I’ve seen a ton of, but based on what little tape I could track down, he’s got good speed, decent vision and hands, and has a willingness to go to the tough areas of the ice despite his 5’11” frame. He’s not the tallest of players by any means, but I wouldn’t call him small, and he appeared willing to engage physical in the instances I was able to watch him play.

Plasek had one 19th-place vote, from myself, and based on his toolkit and the fact he’s played against men for the past two years he is perhaps the biggest sleeper among prospects that went unranked this pre-season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he slowly raises his profile over the next four years and enters the conversation as a legitimate prospect, much like fellow Czech native Lukas Jasek.”

-Jackson McDonald

Francis Perron

“Scouting-wise, Perron is praised for his playmaking talents—though he previously struggled to bring those skills to the table consistently with the decreased time and space available at the professional level. He has also been criticized in the past for being a “perimeter player,” though that seems to have changed with an increase in confidence and opportunity. Now, he seems to have established himself as a top-line scorer in the AHL at the very least—and may just be in line for a callup or two when injuries strike the Canucks’ forward corps—and that’s more than can be said for the average 190th overall draft pick.

Francis Perron carries an expected likelihood of success of 24.5% via the prospect Graduation Probablities System, and an expected production rate of 30.9 point per 82 games, indicating that he may have deserved a second look from our contributors during the process of compiling our rankings.

Despite not cracking our top 20 this year, Perron is one of the most likely players to earn an extended look with the Canucks this season among prospects profiled this year. While Perron is edging closer and closer to “he is what he is” territory, there’s enough in his profile to suggest he could develop into a bottom-six player for the Canucks within the next couple of seasons.”

-Stephan Roget

Aidan McDonough

“At 6 foot 3 inches and just under 200 pounds, Aidan McDonough is a powerful winger who showed a decent scoring touch last season in the USHL for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Aidan was able to pot 21 goals and a matching 21 assists in 50 games. His game took a step forward in the playoffs not only on the scoresheet, but in terms of performing in high-pressure situations as well.

McDonough is attending Northeastern University this season and will be playing with fellow Canucks prospect and former development camp roommate Tyler Madden. A former two-sport athlete who was given the gift of a late growth spurt that saw him grow about six inches over four years of high school now has found himself more comfortable with his bigger frame and plans on using it to round out his game as a power winger.”

-Faber

It should be noted that Carson Focht received a couple of votes from our contributors as well, and his omission from the honourable mention section was an oversight on my part.

#20 Linus Karlsson

“If there’s a brighter side to be identified from Karlsson’s 2018/19 season, it probably comes from what he did after being acquired by the Vancouver Canucks—namely, what he accomplished in the playoffs.

Karlsson played alright in the Allsvenskan playoffs, though he only notched a single point for Karlskrona in what proved to be a disappointing and short-lived bid for promotion to the SHL. That led to Karlsson being sent down for one last playoff run in the SuperElit, where he scored five points in four games—proving that the offensive punch he showed in junior hasn’t gone anywhere.

One has to hope that Karlsson’s playoff success will springboard him to a major step forward with Karlskrona HK in 2019/20—where Karlsson stands to spend the entirety of the season in the Allsvenskan. If his numbers don’t take a massive leap, it will likely mean the end of his already dwindling chances of NHL success—but if they do, Karlsson is still more than young enough to start climbing the Vancouver depth chart and start garnering recognition as a more legitimate NHL prospect.”

Stephan Roget

#19 Jack Malone

“The standout attributes that I saw in Malone’s game were his strength on the puck and ability to dominate along the boards and drive to the net on odd-man rushes. This will be tested as he climbs the latter from the USHL to the NCAA, and hopefully to professional hockey as the skill around and against him improves.

As Malone continues to progress, he’ll have the chance to join prospects like Adam Gaudette and Tyler Madden in the ranks of late-round USHL standouts. As is usually the case with NCAA prospects, patience will be key, but with any luck fans will be treated to another round of impressive NCAA highlight gifs to keep them busy throughout the season.

When viewed through the lens of the prospect Graduation Probabilites System, Malone comes out looking pretty good for a sixth-round pick. pGPS give him an expected likelihood of success of 14.7%, and a top 6 XLS% of 7%. He’s got some impressive players in his cohort, too, with Max Pacioretty, David Backes, and Joe Pavelski among the most well-known names.”

Faber

#18 Petrus Palmu

“There are a couple of ways one can take Palmu’s ill-fated 2018/19 campaign. On the one hand, it can be seen as a reminder that both of Palmu’s breakout seasons were aided by him being older than the competition—he scored 98 points in the OHL only after passing through the draft twice and was older than the average SM-liiga rookie when he won their equivalent of the Calder Trophy. For a player already drafted as an overager, Palmu started his Canuck career a couple steps behind on the development curve—and plateauing this early could absolutely be fatal to his NHL chances.

With that being said, it’s also hard to argue that Palmu got a fair shake with the Comets to start the year. That each of the three rookie forwards with the Comets struggled in their inaugural seasons suggests that the problem didn’t lie entirely with them as individuals—and Palmu definitely seems to be the one who suffered the most from Cull’s perceived lack of patience with inexperience. For a player whose game relies so much on creating time and space, it reasons that the reduced amounts of those two things in the AHL would require some getting used to—and Palmu just didn’t get the chance.

It also may have been too much to expect Palmu to have a third consecutive year of progression after two breakout campaigns in a row. The wheels had to come off at some point, and it’s perhaps not entirely unexpected that he took a slight step back in 2018/19. That he was able to return to fairly successful play in the SM-liiga after such a jarring experience in Utica is probably a positive sign as to Palmu’s general fortitude and ability to bounce back from unfortunate situations—and the Canucks will have to hope he can do exactly that next season. Wherever one falls on the meaning of Palmu’s disappointing year, there’s little debate to be had about the importance of rebounding in 2019/20 if he’s ever going to have a chance of eventually reaching the NHL.”

Stephan Roget

#17 Lukas Jasek

“All in all, he’s been able to flash some of his skill on Comets goals from this past season. It’s not exactly a perfect snapshot of who he is as a player, but generally speaking, he has a shot capable of being a weapon on the powerplay and is able to transition the puck.

He has still yet to put it all together and his development timeline will be coming to a close within the next couple of years, but if the environment is right, Jasek might be able to see a bump in his production this coming season and rise slightly up the ranks of Canucks prospects.

Jasek doesn’t have the highest potential, but if it all works out, he can become a serviceable farm hand or an injury call-up if needed for the Canucks in the near future.

At this age, it’s generally “do or die” time for most prospects. If they sharpen their skills and put up the kind of point totals that get them noticed, then that’s great — but there is always the risk of a fall into obscurity in the world of NHL prospects.

For now, Jasek simply need to firmly establish himself in Utica’s top 9 and make himself a target for the front office to keep in mind if the need for a forward arises.”

Thomas Williams

#16 William Lockwood

“Lockwood has shown flashes of the tools that could make him successful in the NHL, but he has also shown how his desire to do too much can result in plays moving the other way, which is partially what Pearson may be referring to. His shot has improved but but it still has a lot of room to improve. While he isn’t shy to shoot, he doesn’t often beat goalies clean when they can see it coming. It’s not the fastest or most accurate shot, but he has shown the ability to get it off quickly.

There’s been a bit of speculation about his future as he begins his senior year without an NHL contract, but there’s no reason to believe that he and the Canucks don’t want to get a deal done after this season. Up to this point, both sides have shown a desire to reach an agreement when the time comes.

Coming off a sophomore season cut short by injury, Lockwood played himself back onto the Canucks’ radar with his junior season. However, he will need to build on that in his senior year and dominate against younger competition. If all goes well in his senior year and he inks a deal with the Canucks, expect Lockwood to report to Utica for at least one or two years. While his production has never been breathtaking at any level, he may be able to scratch and claw his way onto an NHL roster at some point in the future. A spot in the Canucks top six is highly unlikely, but he could slot in as a third or fourth-line winger one day.”

Michael Wagar

#15 Guillaume Brisebois

“This will be a big year in Brisebois’ development as he looks to impress the team enough to earn a new deal for next season and beyond. There are other defenders in the system now and if he doesn’t take another step this year and establish himself as a capable call-up, he could find himself passed over for someone else. As mentioned, Brisebois will already be competing for minutes with Juolevi, Sautner, and Teves, but he could soon also find himself battling for minutes with the likes of Jack Rathbone and Toni Utunen in the not too distant future.”

Cory Hergott

#14 Jonah Gadjovich

“Whether one sees Gadjovich’s rating under the pGPS system as a positive or a negative is a matter of perspective. On the one hand, any dreams of Gadjovich turning into a Todd Bertuzzi-lite are probably toast after Draft+1 and Draft+2 seasons without significant growth—but that was always a longshot outcome for a late second rounder.

More optimistically speaking, Gadjovich plays one of the few roles in which a player can plateau offensively and still develop into a legitimate NHL player—and Davis’ charts reflect that possibility.

There’s no doubt that Gadjovich needs to take some major steps forward—literally and figuratively speaking—to further his future with the Vancouver Canucks, starting as soon as next season. He’ll need to further adjust to the increased speed of the pro game, continue to develop his skating, learn to play with consistent physicality, and ultimately produce more points—but first of all, he’ll have to convince Trent Cull to pencil him in to a regular spot in the lineup.

From there, it’s all a matter of building momentum.”

Stephan Roget

#13 Toni Utunen

“Utunen would have to take some big steps in the next few years to be considered a top prospect for an NHL team, but he has the tools to make it happen. The NHL is moving more and more towards speed and skill but there is still a huge market for the services of the smart, defensive minded puck-mover Utunen projects to be. The biggest hurdle for him will be adjusting from European competition to North America. He’s adjuste his style to become more defensive-minded player and has worked hard this offseason to improve his skating, but only time will tell if that will be enough to be an NHL player one day.

Utunen’s a bit of a wilcard as a prospect, making changes to be more useful in North American at a premium position, and this is reflected in his middling spot on our rankings. Utunen’s reputation precedes him, having earned accolades for his leadership qualities and coachability, so there’s reason to believe he’s got a bright future in hockey ahead of him. If that future is going to be in North America, he will have to grow a lot in certain areas of his game and continue to raise his all around skill-level to adapt to the smaller ice surface.”

Faber

#12 Ethan Keppen 

“If there is anything to take away from this, it’s that Keppen can be that perfect all-around player, but right now he’s stuck on a terrible team that’s causing him to be underrated by a lot of stat line scouts.. If he is able to work on his agility — as mentioned in the Scouching video — he can really make most aspects of the game work for him.

He should be able to make the professional ranks easily, but it’s from there that the Canucks should work with Keppen and develop him into that top-line physical and responsible winger that so many fans of every team crave.

It’s a miracle that one player can make a team like the Flint Firebirds watchable and Keppen does that on every shift.”

Thomas Williams

#11 Jack Rathbone 

“How he fares this season at the NCAA level without his Hobery Baker-nominated defense partner will be a very telling sign for Rathbone’s future. He’s shown he can more than keep up with college-level competition, which should at the very least improve his confidence, but it remains to be seen whether or not that will be enough for him to continue improving. If things go well for him, there’s a possibility he could turn pro at the end of next season, making a brief audition with the Canucks or perhaps signing an ATO with the Comets if the big club doesn’t have room to accommodate him.

Rathbone’s stock could rise dramatically if he can put together another solid season with Harvard and I don’t think it would be surprising if he continues to score some nice goals from the point this season and possibly flirts with top-25 territory in NCAA scoring by defensemen. There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to Rathbone, but the upside is definitely there. He’ll just have to prove he can generate offense on his own if he wants to continue to move up our annual rankings.”

Faber

#10 Kole Lind

“The problem for Lind going forward is whether or not his elite skill at the junior level can translate to success in the professional game. Many players can thrive in their draft plus one season in major junior but fail to continue their success when it comes to being a pro. Kole may have to change his game a bit to become more of a middle six winger instead of a top line scorer, but just from watching the way he enjoyed contact and was tenacious on forechecks, I don’t believe that the transition will be that difficult for him.

The organization’s goal for Lind should be to contribute to a Canucks team when they are hoping to be contenders, adding players like Woo, Podkolzin, Höglander and potentially Lind would be a great boost for the Canucks depth in a couple seasons when they are on the verge of competing for more than just a playoff spot.

He may not make a huge difference on the Vancouver Canucks this season but I would expect his role to grow in Utica. Some powerplay time would not hurt him in getting his scoring touch back. Depending on Trent Cull’s vision for the team, Lind could find some time in the top six but with the additions and returning players he will not be gifted anything and will be forced to earn a spot on the Comets top lines.”

Faber

#9 Zack MacEwen

“This will be a big season for Zack as he is in the final year of his entry-level deal with Vancouver. Although there is a crowd of wingers with the big club, he will be pushing hard for NHL time while rounding out his game in Utica. I expect to see MacEwen take on more responsibility this year for Trent Cull’s Comets, both in terms of offensive production, defensive work, and as a leader with the group.

MacEwen has done a great job of putting into practice what the coaching staff has asked of him. He works hard, soaks up coaching like a sponge, and translates that to his on-ice product. If someone were looking for a poster boy for what the Canucks/Comets are trying to do with their prospects, MacEwen would have to be considered a front runner. He has managed to go from an undrafted free agent to someone who is on the tip of management’s tongue when they speak about the good things that are happening in Utica.”

Cory Hergott

#8 Tyler Madden

“Madden had a fairly unremarkable draft-eligible season with the Storm, scoring 20 points in 32 games, good for just 7th overall in team scoring. He showed flashes of promise and was named MVP of the USHL Top Prospects Game, but at the time of his selection, 68th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, he appeared to be little more than a mid-round gamble.

It didn’t take long for the hype to build around Madden, as he quickly adjusted to college hockey, earning a spot on Northeastern’s top line, scoring at nearly a point-per-game, and leading the Huskies to their second Beanpot win in as many years.

Stop me if this sounds familiar at all.

Yes, Madden’s earned his fair share of comparisons to Adam Gaudette, a former Canucks’ prospect who took a similar development path. The parallels are easy to draw: both players are centres who are comfortable at both ends of the ice, who played significant roles on both special teams for the Huskies; but Madden is shiftier and more creative with the puck. While he may share Gaudette’s tenacity, he doesn’t have his size and wasn’t able to impose his will physically at the NCAA level the way Gaudette did.”

Jackson McDonald

#7 Michael DiPietro

“One of the biggest stand-outs in DiPietro’s game is how accurate and controlled he tends to be. He’s developed phenomenal crease awareness, making it easy to move around and know where he is relative to both his goal line and his posts – and he’s rarely caught playing without good form, keeping his arms close and his stance narrow to avoid wasted movement or unnecessary opened holes.

Those areas of his game are all that keep him from getting peppered with ‘easy’ goals at his size, so it’s easy to write them off as simple survival instincts. After all, he wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t able to use those extra technical advantages to do things like stay on his feet longer (which eliminates that space up high for shooters to pick) and make quick movements back to his post on sharp-angle plays (which allows him to seal his posts more effectively).

In theory, though, every smaller goaltender would be thriving at the NHL level if it was as easy as just learning these ‘survival skills’. The fact that DiPietro has figured it out at the major junior and international level is promising – and not something that deserves the brush-off.

His biggest weakness, though, may be size-related as well. Although he’s capable of playing successfully with moderate depth, DiPietro sometimes has a bad habit of playing more aggressively than he needs to – which leads to open back door spaces and extra ground for him to cover when the defense collapses. There’s something to be said for having enough pad reach to get across the crease on a nasty cross-ice pass when the defense fails to do its job, and the fact that DiPietro doesn’t quite have the same advantage as Markström or Demko means that he has to work especially hard to remain in an ideal position. Every time he gets caught too far out, he leaves himself vulnerable; he’ll have to continue working on that at the AHL level before he’ll be ready to truly hit the ice with Vancouver.”

Cat Silverman

#6 Jett Woo

“The Hitmen’s acquisition of Woo means that they’re shaping up to be a contender, which has to be considered a positive from the Canucks’ perspective. It means that Woo’s 2019/20 season will either end with a lengthy playoff run or an early audition with the Comets—either of which should be good for his ongoing development.

Beyond that, it seems like it will only be a matter of time before Jett Woo is filling a full-time role on the Canucks’ blue line and Vancouver fans are more than ready to start regularly serenading him with his own name.”

Stephan Roget

#5 Olli Juolevi 

“I’m not breaking new ground by suggesting that Juolevi bears some similarity to Jake Virtanen, another recent first-round selection by the Canucks who has failed to live up to the loft expectations that come with a top-ten selection. I even spoke to one scout in early 2017 who believed the Juolevi selection had the potential to be an even greater disappointment than the Virtanen one. I understand that sentiment, but I also think circumstances have conspired to make the situation appear more dire than it actually is. Barring another catastrophic injury, Juolevi is going to see some playing time with the Canucks in the near future, and should be pretty close to making the jump to the NHL. The same can’t really be said for players like Jett Woo and Nils Hoglander yet, despite the fact that many prognosticators (including some of my colleagues here at CA) have begun to give those players the edge over Juolevi as prospects.

When it comes to Olli Juolevi, it’s important that we all exercise our ability to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. A prospect can be simultaneously disappointing relative to where he was selected and an important piece of the puzzle moving forward. At this point, Cory’s comparison to Dan Hamhuis is probably the best-case scenario, but even if all Juolevi amounts to is a cost-controlled #5 defenseman, that’s far more than most prospects ever achieve; and the fact that things haven’t played out the way fans had envisioned back in 2016 doesn’t change the fact that Juolevi is still one of the best prospects in the Canucks’ system.”

Jackson McDonald

#4 Nils Hoglander

“Canucks fans should be excited to follow this kid as he is going to be a highlight machine for seasons to come. Having two electric wingers in Höglander and Podkolzin who have very different skill sets primed to joined this team in the next couple of years really gives the organization some winger depth in their prospect pool.

You need to draft the best available player when you are selecting in the top 50 and the Canucks did just that at the 2019 NHL draft. Höglander‘s high-end offensive skill combined with Podkolzin’s potential to be a physically dominating force gives the Canucks a nice Yin and Yang set up for their future top-six if these prospects continue to prosper overseas.

As for most high profile prospects, all eyes will be on Höglander this season to continue his success in 2019-20. His offensive numbers should take a significant jump from having 7 goals and 7 assist in 50 games to hopefully close to 20 goals and 20 assists. The ultimate dream would be that Nils Höglander is able to surpass 20 goals or assists, if that’s the case, he will be even higher on next year’s list.”

Faber

#3 Thatcher Demko

“Clearly, though, the patience that the Canucks used with Demko was the right move. He put up quality starts in six of his nine NHL games last year, a pretty nice ratio for a kid without much in the way of NHL experience — and his only two poor outings came in a gnarly mulligan of a game against the Arizona Coyotes in February and a messy affair against the Columbus Blue Jackets in late March.

He’s learned to control his movements a bit and stay on top of plays, leaving his size advantage for only when he absolutely needs it. And although he’ll always be a bit more active than some goaltending pundits would prefer, he knows his style well and he’s comfortable in his own skin; if the biggest key to good goaltending is owning one’s own technique, it’s no surprise that he’s already putting up excellent numbers.

The key question for the upcoming season will be continued maturity as he takes on a heavier workload at the NHL level, as he’ll presumably share the crease for the full season with Markström and take on more than just nine NHL appearances before the regular season is through. The grind of the NHL can cause younger, inexperienced goaltenders to slip back into bad habits, and the faster rate of second shots and rebound attempts make it much harder to thrive on a purely reactionary game over the long term; if he starts to lose some of his newly-developed composure, it could cause a dip in his numbers.

That, of course, is only the worst case scenario, though. Ultimately, there’s very little to dislike about how Demko has developed during his last handful of seasons — and if he manages to keep his development consistent with added game loads, it’s hard not to consider him the starter of the future for Vancouver.”

Cat Silverman

#2 Vasili Podkolzin

“There isn’t much to knock Podkolzin for in terms of his skill set, hockey IQ, and effort. Offensively, his passing is good and he’s able to couple that with his creativity, finding passing lanes and open teammates that other players his age wouldn’t. That creativity also makes him a threat one-on-one, where he’s shown the ability to beat defenders and goaltenders.

When he finds the space to unleash his shot he isn’t shy to do so. Whether it be creating enough room himself to get a wrist shot off or finding a soft spot to receive a one-timer, he’s able to get it off his stick quickly. Coming into the draft, his shot was regarded as one of the best in his class.

Above all, he is known for his sheer power and determination with and without the puck. When he has the puck, he is able to protect it until he finds an open teammate or a shot. If neither presents itself, he can also be counted on to make the safe play, limiting turnovers and reflecting a maturity in his game that’s allowed him to play in the KHL as a 17 year old.”

Michael Wagar

#1 Quinn Hughes

“Overall, Hughes’ body of work over the past three years is so impressive that virtually nothing could have kept him from taking the top spot in our rankings. He boasts the combination of speed, vision, playmaking, and hockey IQ that the Canucks have been looking for in a defenseman for their entire 50-year history in the NHL, and if he hits his ceiling, he could end up being the best offensive defenseman in team history. That’s something fans haven’t been able to say about a prospect in at least a generation. ”

Jackson McDonald

Individual Lists

As is customary, I’ve included the lists each of our contributors submitted that led to our overall site rankings. Outside of the top 2, there was very little consensus among our contributors regarding the placement of each prospect within the rankings. That’s either a testament to the depth of the Canucks’ pool, or an indication of what a crapshoot it is after the first tier of players, depending on how you look at it.

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Jackson

1. Hughes
2. Podkolzin
3. Juolevi
4. Demko
5. Hoglander
6. Madden
7. Woo
8. Lind
9. DiPietro
10. Keppen
11. MacEwen
12. Rathbone
13. Jasek
14. Utunen
15. Gadjovich
16. Malone
17. Lockwood
18. Palmu
19. Plasek
20. McDonough

Stephan

1. Hughes
2. Podkolzin
3. Demko
4. Hoglander
5. Woo
6. Juolevi
7. Madden
8. DiPietro
9. MacEwen
10. Rathbone
11. Lind
12. Keppen
13. Gadjovich
14. Focht
15. Brisebois
16. Lockwood
17. Karlsson
18. Perron
19. Utunen
20. Malone

Michael

1. Hughes
2. Podkolzin
3. Demko
4. Hoglander
5. Woo
6. Juolevi
7. DiPietro
8. MacEwen
9. Madden
10. Lind
11. Brisebois
12. Karlsson
13. Rathbone
14. Lockwood
15. Keppen
16. Focht
17. Gadjovich
18. Malone
19. Utunen
20. Jasek

Faber

1. Hughes
2. Podkolzin
3. Demko
4. Hoglander
5. Juolevi
6. Woo
7. DiPietro
8. Lind
9. Madden
10. MacEwen
11. Gadjovich
12. Utunen
13. Rathbone
14. Brisebois
15. Lockwood
16. Palmu
17. Jasek
18. Keppen
19. Malone
20. McDonough

Thomas

1. Hughes
2. Podkolzin
3. Juolevi
4. Hoglander
5. Demko
6. Woo
7. DiPietro
8. Utunen
9. Palmu
10. MacEwen
11. Jasek
12. Lind
13. Keppen
14. Brisebois
15. Lockwood
16. Gadjovich
17. Madden
18. Rathbone
19. Malone
20. McDonough