The Vancouver Canucks selected a high school player with their fourth round selection of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
After selecting a big Finnish defenceman with their first pick of the draft in round number three, they chose to draft another player with size in Jackson Kunz.
Kunz is a 6’3″ winger out of North Dakota who will be joining the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL this fall. He scored 40 goals and added 29 assists in his 45 game high school season with Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep.
Kunz is in a similar situation to 2019 draft pick Aidan McDonough. A big body winger who will participate in the USHL for an overage season before heading off to the NCAA. The big wingers play a similar style to one another, as well.
This pick definitely caught a lot of people off guard as Kunz had good numbers in high school, but he also didn’t look very quick compared to the competition he was playing against in high school hockey. The one thing that really stuck out compared to his competition was his shot.
His shot is very hard, the release is quick, and this is the one thing that sticks out to anyone who has scouted the winger.
Following his USHL season, this winter will be key as he is now moving to a more competitive brand of hockey and will need to put up strong numbers before moving onto NCAA hockey in the 2021-22 season. Right now there are a few things to like in his game for sure but the more I watch of him, the more I crave to see a specific skill that sticks out.
Another thing to note is his willingness to drive the net. He is probably bigger than 95% of the players he played against this season but he doesn’t shy away from driving the net. His go-to move is to come in on the right wing and power his way across the crease to finish on the forehand.
He might rely on that move a little bit too much but it worked for him in high school hockey so good on him for noticing that and taking advantage of it. He’s big enough and strong enough on his feet that no high school defenceman is capable of lighting him up in the crease and he will probably be able to get away with that in the USHL as well. The NCAA and higher levels will be very different though. Luckily, he is so young and is years away from needed to make adjustments for that.
Kunz was one of the youngest players eligible for the draft, as he turned 18 on August 13th. He’s a long way away from becoming a professional hockey player; after a season in the USHL he will move on to North Dakota and that is when Canucks fans should really start to follow his career.
After a strong performance in high school hockey, I would like to see him have a high scoring year in the USHL this coming season. The Green Bay Gamblers are excited to have him on their roster and he should be relied upon to be near a point per game for them and if he is able to get to the net and find openings on the ice to get his shot off he should be good for 25+ goals.
The biggest thing that needs to improve is his skating as it doesn’t look like he generates much force from his stride. That is something that can hopefully be fixed, but is something to keep an eye on nonetheless.
All in all, this pick was a gamble. He has a wicked wrister and consistently goes hard to the net, and If he can gain a few steps, he should be a force at the NCAA level. That’s when he will be on my radar.