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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The top 15 prospects in the organization, Luke Hughes, and are the Canucks a playoff team?

Another week, another mailbag.

Let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!

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This is a bit of a loaded question, but the short answer is yes.

The longer, more thoughtful answer is that if there’s an injury to anybody in the top four or to a top-six forward, the Canucks could be in serious trouble.

You’ve read countless times already about how the Canucks got worse on offence and in the crease but improved their top-four defence with the acquisition of Nate Schmidt.

Considering the Canucks were a bubble team while getting some of the best goaltending in the league from Jacob Markstrom — who has since departed to Calgary — it’s fair to be concerned that Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby won’t be able to fill that void.

Last Friday, I outlined what the Canucks would have to do in order to help both of their goaltenders find success. The short answer is, well, play defence.

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The Canucks tightened it up against Vegas and limited east-west movement, which allowed Demko to shine bright. He was great, no doubt, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if the Canucks just commit to playing defence like they did against Vegas, that Demko and/or Holtby can be sufficient replacements for Markstrom.

Neither goalie will be as good as Markstrom, but hopefully, with some commitment from the Canucks in their own end, they won’t have to be.

Additionally, I think it’s important to remember that players like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are only going to get better from here. I’d say you can expect more or less the same kind of offensive output from J.T. Miller, but can expect Pettersson’s point totals to rise dramatically as he continues to blossom.

The big determining factor will be health for this Canucks team, and in a condensed season, it will be even more important than in years past.

To answer the question in short: when healthy, this is a playoff team. Are they bonafide cup contenders? No, not quite yet. Do they have the depth to keep their heads above water if somebody important goes down? No, not quite yet.

It’s a fine line, but if the injury bug avoids them as it did for most of last year, the Vancouver Canucks should be a playoff team.

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Funny that we were just talking about playoffs, because if the Canucks are in a position to draft the youngest Hughes brother, something went terribly, terribly wrong in their season.

Most early rankings have the 6’2 left-shot defenceman as a top 10 pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects tells me that Hughes could go anywhere from 1st overall to 10th overall, it’s just too early to tell.

That being said, the prospect of the Canucks drafting him depends entirely on who’s still available when they pick. They’ve made a shift away from drafting for need and going with the best player available, but it’s very possible that the best player available is Luke Hughes, depending on where they draft.

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It’s too early to take a firm stance on this, but what I can tell you is that the Canucks likely ran into some absolutely horrible injury luck if they’re in a position to snag Hughes.

On the topic of prospects, this an excellent question and a good reminder to me that we should probably put out an updated list as a site of the top prospects in the Canucks’ organization.

I’ve put the message in our group chat and am hoping to have a nice and neat list with loads of analysis and quotes from scouts in it published by Wednesday, but for now, here’s my list (full and detailed explanation to follow this week).

1. Vasili Podkolzin

2. Nils Hoglander

3. Jack Rathbone

4. Olli Juolevi

5. Michael DiPietro

6. Kole Lind

7. Brogan Rafferty

8. Jett Woo

9. Joni Jurmo

10. Dmitri Zlodeyev

11. Aidan McDonough

12. Viktor Persson

13. Arturs Silovs

14. Jacob Truscott

15. Will Lockwood

The main names that may come as a shock are Dmitri Zlodeyev and Viktor Persson, the Canucks sixth and seventh-round picks from the 2020 draft.

Both have had excellent early showings in their respective leagues, and in the case of Persson, he’s going to be coming to the WHL this season and could prove to be a real diamond in the rough pick.

The same can be said for Zlodeyev, who has all of a sudden forced his way into the conversation to make the Russian World Junior team.

We’ll keep you up to date on all the happenings in these young prospects development, and again, will have more in-depth analysis on each of these prospects coming this week.

To close it out, this is a very interesting question. Most teams that made side deals with the Vegas Golden Knights did so to get Vegas’ word that they wouldn’t select a certain player that the team couldn’t protect.

Most teams also came to regret it later on (see Shea Theodore).

But what would the Canucks have to give up in order to make Vegas want to take on the last year of Loui Eriksson’s contract? Better yet, should they?

It depends entirely on the cost and the Canucks cap situation, which has numerous variables.

Everybody knows that Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are going to command at least $15 million in total, but what if Thatcher Demko — who has arbitration rights — blossoms into a starter? What about if Adam Gaudette has a big year?

Having your young players exceed expectations is a champagne problem no doubt, but it’s still something to be aware of when looking at the Canucks’ cap situation for next offseason.

So right now, I’ll say no, it doesn’t make much sense for the Canucks to give up any assets to make Seattle take Eriksson.

Lots of things can (and likely will) change between now and the expansion draft, so ask me again in 2021.

That’s all for this week! Thanks to everybody who asked a question. To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli and keep an eye out for the weekly mailbag tweet!