Whoever the Vancouver Canucks select with their first-round pick will immediately become the top prospect in their pipeline.
Jack Rathbone and Vasily Podkolzin are both going to be NHL players next year, and Nils Höglander made the jump last year.
On top of that, whoever the Canucks draft with their second-round pick will instantly become the second-best prospect in the prospect pool.
In a year where scouting has been extremely
difficult different, the Canucks will need to rely on their analytics scouts who thrive in the video room instead of the rink.
There are many different ways to go with the second-round pick and after taking a swing and connecting with Höglander, the Canucks will hope to swing like Vladdy Jr. in this coming draft.
Here are 13 names that you can expect to see drafted high in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Scott Morrow, RD, 6’2″, 192 lbs
Coming up first on the list is the big right-shot offensive defenceman out of Shattuck St. Mary’s high school prep. Scott Morrow possesses a great offensive skill set to go along with his 6’2″ frame.
He has good hands in tight and can maneuver around checking wingers at the point to create space for himself before he checks the ice for a passing land or fires a shot on net. He ran the power play for Shattuck and is committed to UMass of the NCAA for next season.
There are a lot of things to like in his game but the reason he isn’t considered a first-round pick has to be his deficiencies in the defensive zone. He played high school hockey and was clearly the best player on the ice in every game this season. In six USHL playoff games, he didn’t make a big impact offensively and there are question marks around how his game will transfer to the NCAA.
He will get a good chance with UMass as their defence core is open to giving him a lot of ice time early on and that’s why he chose to switch his commitment and go there.
Morrow has a lot of skills that fans will like and his GIF game is strong from playing in the USHS this past season.
His offensive potential is worth a shot early in the second round and he fits a hole in the Canucks’ prospect pipeline.
Bonus: I will be speaking with Scott Morrow on Wednesday’s episode of the Canucks Conversation Podcast
Trevor Wong, C/(W at next level?), 5’9″, 155 lbs
This is one of those big-swing picks if the Canucks were to select Wong at 41.
He is undersized, likely projects to be on the wing, and is going to need to improve in a lot of areas to compete against NHL competition.
Last season, Wong played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and will be back next season to try to once again lead the team in points as he did this past season with 16 points in 16 games.
I like Wong’s ability to be the lower man in a lot of board battles. At 5’9″, it’s kind of expected for him to be the lower man in battles but he does a good job of preparing and exploding into contact. For such a light player, he does not shy away from contact. I like a lot of what I see from him in the corners. He uses his speed to get better positioning against bigger WHL defencemen and gains possession for his team more often than he loses it in the corners.
His strength has to be the first three steps. He uses his impressive acceleration in a way that I loved to see. He would get to open areas of the ice in offensive rushes and consistently moved around defencemen to open up new passing lanes as his team drove the net in three-on-three and two-on-two rushes.
On the power play, he played the right half-wall for most of his time with the man-advantage. There is a need to get stronger and develop a better shot but his speed can carry him for now and the little bit of physicality that he showed this past season was promising. He should have a bigger season next year from a point-producing standpoint and will be the Rockets’ 1C moving forward.
His compete level is very high and though many scouting sites project him as more of a third-round pick, his effort level and commitment to the game of hockey fits the mould of how the Canucks have been drafting hockey-obsessed teenagers in their last couple of drafts.
Wong would be a bold pick but he is a quick skater with nice hands and a willingness to go to battle against any opponent, no matter the size. He was born in Vancouver and played at the Burnaby Winter Club in his mid-teens. He would be a nice hometown pick but still potentially a stretch because of his size and the fact that he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers in his draft year.
If he’s there in the third round for the Canucks, I’d love that pick but also wouldn’t hate it if he went to them at 41.
Samu Salminen, C/W, 6’3″, 190 lbs
The youngest of the three Salminen brothers, Samu Salminen is a big left-shot winger who is offensively gifted and captained Finland at this year’s U18s.
His older brothers are listed at 6’5″ and 6’4″, so there may still be room to grow for the youngest Salminen bro.
He is committed to the University of Denver, where he will play his freshman season next year. Salminen scored 10 goals and added 16 assists in 17 U20 SM-Sarja games this season with Jokerit. In the U18 tournament, he scored seven goals in seven games and was tied with Isak Rosen (SWE) as the top-scoring player eligible for the 2021 Draft.
Salminen goes to the net hard and uses his size to his advantage. He is an ultra-competitive winger who fits the mould of the Canucks’ recent drafting. He played the right half-wall for Finland at the U18s and was very effective with his quick release shots.
For a big man, he skates very well and is a solid pick for the Canucks if they go with him as their second-round pick.
I’m a fan of his game and with him coming over to the University Denver this year, he could be in the AHL as soon as the 2022-23 season. Some of these European NCAA players just do the one year in the NCAA before jumping into pro hockey.
This is one of my favourite options for the Canucks at 41.
Ayrton Martino, W, 5’10”, 170 lbs
A very offensive player who goes to the net hard and isn’t a perimeter player. Ayrton Martino went off in the USHL this past season with 18 goals and 38 assists for 56 points in 38 games. He plays like a poor man’s Fabian Lysell, and when I say that I mean that he can generate rush offence at any time in the game from anywhere on the ice.
Martino drives play well but needs help getting out of his own end and through the neutral zone. He’s a quick decision-maker, who finds open-ice in a similar way as Cole Caufield, and sends the puck towards the net a ton. He attacks the net in a way that Canucks fans have been screaming at Jake Virtanen to for years.
Martino is a creative offensive player who doesn’t have a standout skill but possesses a good combination of passing and shooting. The shot isn’t amazing but he finds a lot of open ice near the net.
One of the best playmakers outside of the first round who projects as a middle-six scoring threat who will thrive on the power play, he is committed to Clarkson University next season and might surprise many with how many points he puts up as a freshman.
Tristan Broz, LW, 6’0″, 180 lbs
This is another swing for the fences type of pick. Tristan Broz had a good season in the USHL with 19 goals and 32 assists in 54 games but many scouting outlets have him ranked outside of their top-50.
EliteProspects is high on Broz and I think a lot of that high ranking comes from how quick of a skater he is and how he makes quick decisions when under pressure.
The other two big parts of Broz’s game to like are his playmaking ability and his ability to finish good passing plays off with an accurate shot. His shot reminds me a lot of Canucks prospect Aidan McDonough’s. Both Broz and McDonough scored a lot of their goals on the right side on the power play and Broz has that quick release that you need to be successful with the man advantage.
Out of all the prospects listed, Broz is probably the most likely to be a perimeter player. There is a consistent pattern of him being disengaged in the defensive zone and leaving the zone early to look for odd-man rushes.
Right now, he needs to have the puck on his stick to make a difference and will need to round out his game to be an NHLer.
His scoring skills are excellent though, and he will be a big point producer for the University of Minnesota next year as a freshman. I like the swing here but his defensive struggles make him look like a top-six or bust player and those haven’t worked out great for the Canucks over the past few years.
Aleksi Heimosalmi, RD, 5’11”, 168 lbs
After a strong performance at the U18s, I had to ask around about the right-shot defenceman because, well, he’s a right-shot defenceman and I really want the Canucks to draft one with one of their first three picks in the 2021 draft.
He’s got great hands, a good first three steps and gains a lot of momentum with each stride.
No better example of his potential is this highlight from the U18s:
He’s not just an offensively gifted player, scouts I spoke to said that he defends very well with good positioning and a strong stick. A scout told me that since I cover the Canucks, a good comparison is Troy Stecher but with some more offensive upside.
Heimosalmi has excellent footwork and is always working to create new passing lanes and keep defences moving to get them out of position. He is expected to make the jump to the Finnish Liiga next season and will be a fun one to follow if he gets some ice time against men.
This is one of my favourite prospects that should be available for the Canucks at 41. He’s ranked 55th by EliteProspects, 63rd by DobberProspects and 77th by FCHockey.
Heimosalmi is very likely to be there for the Canucks at 41.
Corson Ceulemans, RD, 6’2″, 200 lbs
This one is an interesting one as he is not likely to be there at 41, but if he falls, Carson Ceulemans is a nice fit for the organization’s need at RD.
He played this past season in the AJHL with the Brooks Bandits after having a huge 2019-20 season. There are some scouts that don’t like his defensive engagement but no scout can knock the bomb of a shot that he possesses.
AJHL players are hard to judge but Ceulemans showed well at the U18s and was able to unleash his big shot on his one and only goal of the tournament.
These little hustle plays are what I love to see and though an offensive right-shot defenceman is not the need for the Canucks, any right-shot defenceman would suffice in their pipeline.
Our friends at FCHockey have him as their 11th highest-rated prospect but Dobber has him in the 40s with EP having him in the 60s.
There’s big upside to his game and he is committed to the powerhouse that is the University of Wisconsin for next season.
It was a tough year for Ceulemans to showcase his talent as he played in under 20 games in his draft year. If you are going off the tape of him as a 16-year-old in the AJHL, he definitely impresses.
Ceulemans could go anywhere in the range of 15-50 in this draft. He deserves a long look if he’s there for the Canucks at 41.
Dylan Duke, C, 5’10”, 181 lbs
He’s a smart, offensive centre who just looks like a solid pick for whichever team snags him in the second round.
Dylan Duke was able to score 29 goals for the USNTDP this past season and is committed to the University of Michigan.
The analytic scouting community is high on Duke as he is consistently in the right place for loose pucks and creates a lot of extended offensive time in the attacking zone. Duke is just a good overall prospect who will need a few years to develop his pro game at Michigan.
Most teams will be happy to spend their second-round pick on a centre that creates offence in the way that Duke does. He loves to go to the net and within five feet of the crease is where he does most of his damage. He’s got a quick stick and a smart hockey brain that gets him into positions where he gets a ton of open nets to bury goals.
He’s a competitive centre who competes hard on every shift.
There’s not one skill that really sticks out about his game but there isn’t a real weakness as well.
Not much more to say, Duke fits a need for the Canucks at centre and is a good option if he’s there at 41.
Prokhor Poltapov, RW, 5’11”, 180 lbs
Our first Russian on this list is the bull that is Prokhor Poltapov.
A shorter power forward who had a heck of a year in the MHL and even got into one KHL game with CSKA this year.
Playing in the KHL as a draft-eligible player is a tremendous achievement and that’s just the cherry on top of his year where he put up 25 goals and 27 assists in 61 MHL games.
I’m going to throw this one over to my buddy Dylan Griffing from EP Rinkside for the rest of this evaluation.
“Poltapov is a rare power forward to come out of Russia’s junior ranks. He’s a bulldog on the ice, chasing hits and getting in the opponent’s faces, but can quickly shift gears into a sneaky offensive gem. His skill was really on display at the U18s, but he also kept up his high octane, highly physical style of play. While he does read like a quality junior player, there are certainly good tools to work with.”
-Dylan Griffing, EPRinkside
If Vancouver wants to go the Russian route with their second-round pick, Poltapov is an interesting option.
Sasha Pastujov, LW, 6’0″, 183 lbs
As the leading scorer of the USNTDP, Sasha Pasujov is a potential steal at 41.
He is a strong winger who likes going to the dirty areas of the ice. He follows up his scoring skill with above-average playmaking ability. He is committed to the University of Notre Dame for next season.
Pastujov is a point producing machine but scouts say the reason he won’t be a first-round pick is because of his below-average skating ability.
He put up 91 points in 59 games with the USNTDP this season and scored five goals in five games at the U18s.
The kid can score but with the game getting faster and faster every year, scouts tell me that this is somewhat of a stretch at 41, though others have him ranked very high. Bob McKenzie has him at #29 on his list. A team might fall in love with his overall scoring ability and think that the skating can improve by the time he is ready to make the jump to pro.
Olen Zellweger, LD, 5’10”, 174 lbs
You can never have too many puck-moving defencemen in your prospect pool and Olen Zellweger is exactly that.
Zellweger shot up draft boards after an impressive 2019-20 WHL season where he was a transition monster for the Everett Silvertips as a 16-year-old. He has one of the later birthdays in this year’s draft and is going to be a power play star for the Silvertips next season.
His hands are the strength of his game and he’s got a hell of a basement set up for a hockey prospect. The kid makes a lot of smart decisions and his light feet on the ice make him stand out as one of the most agile skaters in the draft.
He had a four-assist game in the U18s and has scouts excited about the mobility that projects him as a player who can step right into pro hockey after his time in the WHL.
There’s a good chance that he is there for the Canucks at 41. Bob McKenzie has him at #88 on his list and FCHockey has him at #55 while EliteProspects projects him as a late first-round pick.
Ty Voit, C/W, 5’10”, 161 lbs
A true unknown as we head into the 2021 draft, Ty Voit did not play hockey this past season.
The OHL didn’t return to action so all the tape on Voit comes from his 16-year-old season with the Sarnia Sting. Scouts will have to hope that his game continued to evolve from his 2019-20 season.
From looking at the film, there are some things that I really liked. His acceleration is impressive as he gets his feet moving very quickly in the initial burst. I’d have to imagine that with some added muscle through the year off, he might be even quicker.
Voit also did not play with Team USA at the U18s and that tournament would have given him a chance to boost his stock for the 2021 draft.
Right now, he is outside the top-50 on most major scouting sites’ boards.
In Sarnia a season ago, there were times where he looked like a bit of a passenger through the neutral zone but when engaged in the offensive zone, his ability to funnel pucks towards the net was impressive. I also liked his aggressiveness in the defensive zone when playing the wing. He attacks the point well in his own zone and was consistently helping around the crease when the defence was collapsing to defend against extra bodies around the goaltender.
A true unknown commodity in this draft, it will be interesting to see where he falls in the draft and could end up being a steal for a team that did their homework on him and wants to take a swing on the aggressive American.
Victor Stjernborg, C, 5’11”, 205 lbs
Could the Canucks go back to Växjö for their next Swedish centre?
If so, Victor Stjernborg is a serious option. Stjernborg is coming off a year where he dressed for 30 SHL games as a 17-year-old on the SHL championship-winning team.
It took a few weeks of games but by mid-December, Stjernborg was playing 12-14 minutes a night on a fourth line and was making a difference as a very young player playing in one of the best leagues in the world. He was tied for second in scoring for draft-eligible players in the SHL and is more known as a two-way defensive centre who is built like a Jack Daniels whisky barrel.
He does his best work in front of the net and his next season will feature even more ice time and more points to go with it.
Scouts love the way that this kid attacks loose pucks and goes into corners with the belief that every puck should be in his possession by the end of a battle.
He has pretty good English and could potentially make a move to North America after one more SHL season. He is the type of player that I’d like to see develop in the AHL after playing one full season as a middle-six centre at the SHL level.
I’m hoping you made it through this information dump and learned some names in which the Canucks will be exploring with their second-round pick at the upcoming draft.
There are plenty of options and in a draft like no other, it’s likely that we see some off-the-board names selected in the first 50 picks.
We will have to wait and see what the Canucks do on July 24th but this article should help you get to know some of the options for them!