25
Photo Credit: Instagram via @zlodeev36

3 hot takes and bold predictions about Vancouver Canucks prospects

I’ve graduated from texting my hot takes to Sekeres & Price to writing them here at CanucksArmy and of course, I always want to talk about prospects.

The Canucks’ prospect pool has drastically changed over the past two seasons with graduating players and others rising and falling in the eyes of us who follow them closely. There are going to be big changes to the prospect pool after this draft with the Canucks having two picks in the top 40 of the draft.

The top prospect will no longer be Vasily Podkolzin as he moves on to the NHL. Whoever the Canucks pick at ninth overall should immediately become the number one prospect in their pipeline. The second-round pick likely becomes the second-highest-rated prospect as well and I don’t think that’s a hot take at all.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So with that being said, let’s get to the hot takes.

Because who doesn’t love a hot take?

Answer: Most people.

Aidan McDonough signs at the end of his NCAA season and immediately goes to the NHL

It was another big season for Canucks prospect Aidan McDonough. The hulking winger with the power play cannon will turn 22 years old this fall and was recently named an assistant captain of the Northeastern University Huskies.

McDonough told CanucksArmy that there wasn’t much of a decision for him to go pro after this past season. He wanted to return to Northeastern to have at least one more season with the Huskies as this past year was affected by COVID-19.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

After being one of the best freshman scorers during the 2019-20 season, he followed it up with an even more productive season where he improved his even-strength scoring, gained a step in his pace, and was much better at engaging in the defensive zone.

He proved that he can power a line on his own and that his impressive rookie NCAA season wasn’t just because of his Hobey Baker finalist linemate Tyler Madden.

He proved that he could impact a game in more ways than just on the power play and that resulted in him winning the Hockey East’s Three Stars Award for the most combined three stars of the game selections this season. Not only did his scoring improve, but his physical side also began to show more and more and with that, he was able to get to the net more and that resulted in many more scoring chances at even-strength.

If McDonough is able to continue to improve as an all-around winger, he will be a lock to sign after this current NCAA season. There are some who are a bit worried about him going back for his senior season and potentially becoming a free agent after his season and signing with an East Coast team or with the Minnesota Wild to be back with the scouting director that believed in his game enough to take a seventh-round swing on him at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

His stock has risen more than any other Canucks prospect in the past two years and if his trajectory continues, there’s reason to believe that the Canucks will get him right into the lineup after his junior season with Northeastern.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This is going to depend on two outcomes. First off, the Canucks will likely need to be struggling, which is very possible but not a certainty. The Pacific Division is projected to be weaker than the Canadian Division was but if the Canucks find themselves out of a playoff hunt in early April when Northeastern is eliminated from the NCAA tournament or wins it all in mid-April, then a McDonough signing could be in order.

The second outcome is the more important one and could even trump the first outcome if McDonough exceeded expectations. It’s going to take a big year from McDonough to make the Canucks want to sign him and get him onto the NHL roster.

I’d project this being the minimum for the Canucks wanting to sign McDonough and bring him straight to the NHL.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If he is able to score more than 20 goals and has more than 40 points, it’s a no-brainer to get him signed.

From there, it’s going to depend on where the Canucks are in the standings, injuries, and the second power play unit’s progress.

McDonough looks like he’s ready to be a second power play option today but there are definitely parts of his game that need to improve for him to jump into the NHL and have success. He may have to report to the AHL if the Canucks are rolling along into a playoff spot but he will get time on the power play no matter which pro league he lands in.

This season will be very telling for McDonough and if he performs above expectations, he may be able to join his childhood friend Jack Rathbone on the 2021-22 Canucks roster.

Dmitri Zlodeyev and Viktor Persson will be on the AHL team for the 2022-23 season

This one is a couple of years out but seems to be the saving grace for the Canucks’ 2020 draft.

After not having any picks in the first two rounds, the Canucks selected Joni Jurmo with their third-round pick, Jackson Kunz with their fourth-round pick, Jacob Truscott with their fifth-round pick, Dmitri Zlodeyev with their sixth-round pick and Viktor Persson with their seventh-round pick.

There are questions about Jurmo’s hockey sense, questions about Kunz’s skating, and Truscott is still a couple of NCAA seasons away from potentially being a pro.

The last two picks of the Canucks’ 2020 draft class seem to have the most upside, and in my eyes, they are the two prospects who are most likely to play pro hockey in North America.

Zlodeyev is the two-way centre who will play in the KHL this season and is a lock to centre a middle-six line for Russia at this coming World Junior Championship tournament. This is the final year of Zlodeyev’s contract in Russia and he has told me that it is his dream to play in North America and that he is very willing to work his way up through the minors.

As for Persson, he is coming to North America this coming fall and will play his final eligible year in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers. My conversations with those in and around the Blazers organization say that he will play a prominent role with the team and that he will not be a sixth or seventh defenceman. He’s going to play big minutes on a stacked WHL team and after his season, he will be able to sign with the Canucks and report to Abbotsford to finish his 2021-22 season.

This sets him up to join the Abbotsford team in 2022-23 and work his way up the depth charts. First things first, he’s going to have to prove that he is an elite defenceman in the WHL. Persson is an offensive defenceman who skates well and is physical when he needs to be. He will drop the gloves if someone goes after his teammates and he projects to be a great fit in the WHL.

Both Zlodeyev and Persson have massive seasons in front of them. Zlodeyev can raise his value with a strong performance at the World Juniors to go along with playing in the KHL and if Persson is a top defenceman in the WHL as a 20-year-old, he should push to be an AHLer as early as this coming season.

It will take big years from both of these guys but they are both ready for some normalcy as Zlodeyev battled some freak injuries this past season and Persson was unable to find a true home to play in Sweden through COVID.

If anything, they are the two closest prospects from the Canucks’ 2020 draft class to getting to the AHL and I see a legitimate scenario where they are both in Abbotsford to begin the 2022-23 season.

Jett Woo plays 5 NHL games next season

After looking strong in his rookie AHL season, Jett Woo is on track to have a big year of development in his sophomore season as a pro.

It’s likely going to take a run of injuries on the Canucks’ back end, but Woo has the potential to play his way into the NHL for a handful of games.

The part of Woo’s game that needs to improve is his decision-making, he looked physically capable at the AHL level last season and he skates well for a defenceman who is known primarily as a defensive defenceman. He looked excellent alongside Jack Rathbone for a run of games last year and told CanucksArmy that he can be a “sneaky offensive” defenceman when he plays the stay-at-home role on a pairing and lets his partner be the primary puck-mover.

The Canucks are likely to lose Brogan Rafferty, and Jalen Chatfield remains without a contract for the 2021-22 season. Right now, the Canucks have Tyler Myers, Nate Schmidt (for now), Madison Bowey and Jett Woo as current defencemen under contract who play the right side.

It’s too early to say that Woo makes the team out of camp but as Ryan Johnson told CanucksArmy earlier in the week, with the Abbotsford team being so close in proximity to Vancouver, there will be much more roster movement this coming season and with an injury that bangs up a right-side defenceman, we could see Woo called up for some spot duty just to get a taste of the NHL.

He’s got a ways to go to develop and I noted that Woo may have looked like the worst player at Canucks training camp last season. I’d imagine he would agree with that but he came into the AHL and looked right at home as he played his style and found success.

If he can improve on his reads and decision-making, he will be much closer to being an NHL-calibre player.

Some injuries may rush the call-up of Woo but if the team is out of the playoffs early, he should get a taste of the NHL near the end of the season over guys like Bowey and Chatfield. Woo has the potential to push for the NHL during the 2022-23 season and a quick five-game stint this coming season gives him a headstart on reaching that goal.

So those are my three hot takes and bold predictions on the prospects. They aren’t too out of the realm of possibility and I’d imagine that at least one of them will come true in the next 12-16 months. I’m not saying these are all sizzlers but maybe one or two deserve a pity hot from the Sekeres & Price crew.