The Vancouver Canucks entered the 2022 NHL Entry Draft with 6 picks and left with 6 players. Maybe it wasn’t the firework show that many expected, but there’s a new crop of prospects infused into the system. As day 2 of the draft came to a close, the Canucks also released their development camp roster. There are a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones in the mix.
With eyes turning back to Vancouver for camp, here are 6 names to watch this week in Point Grey.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki – Right Wing
5’11, 185 lbs. Last season: Djurgårdens IF (J20), 26 GP, 20 G, 15 A, 35 P; Djurgårdens IF (SHL), 26 GP, 7 G, 2 A, 9 P.
For the first time since 2019, the Vancouver Canucks actually had a first-round pick. With it, they managed to snag a top-10 talent across most draft boards at the 15th overall selection. Jonathan Lekkerimäki immediately becomes the best prospect in the Canucks system, and for good reason.
The top-ranked Swede is a pure goalscorer. Everything from a rocket of a one-timer, a wrister snipe, or a chippy net-front goal that took three or four whacks. Lekkerimäki will put pucks into the back of the net, no matter what he needs to do for it to happen. There’s also a set of silky mitts in tight and offensive vision to exploit any weaknesses that the defence gives him.
If there’s one concern with his game so far, it would be on the defensive side. Lekkerimäki still has to prove that he can be a dependable option in his own end, but that will come with time and experience. He also does have to fill out his frame a bit, a little slight at his height right now. Keep in mind however that Lekkerimäki doesn’t turn 18 until July 24th.
Lekkerimäki is definitely someone to watch going forward. Canuck fans will have their first chance to see him in action at development camp, and he should absolutely be the headliner going in. There’ll be plenty of excitement surrounding Lekkerimäki and his future in the next couple of weeks.
Arshdeep Bains – Left Wing
6’1, 184 lbs. Last season: Red Deer Rebels (WHL), 68 GP, 43 G, 69 A, 112 P.
A Surrey, BC native, Arshdeep Bains’ signing last season was met with plenty of positive reception. As a 21-year-old overager, he finished as the leading scorer in the WHL. Over the course of 5 seasons and 257 games, Bains put up 209 career points, all with the Rebels.
Bains brings a 200-foot two-way style of game that’s complemented by dazzling playmaking. His journey into the WHL saw him move from bottom 6 utility forward to a staple on the top line. There’s a lot to like about the polished package that he brings, being both responsible defensively and able to get into the right spots offensively.
With a work ethic to match, Bains became the first player of South-Asian descent to lead the WHL in scoring. There’s a lot of hometown pride that comes with this player and is sure to get quite the following wherever he goes. Bains is expected to start the year off in Abbotsford as an immediate contributor, but keep an eye out as he might just make an NHL appearance soon enough.
Linus Karlsson – Centre
6’0, 179 lbs. Last season: Skellefteå AIK (SHL), 52 GP, 26 G, 20 A, 46 P.
When the Canucks acquired Linus Karlsson back in 2019 for Jonathan Dahlen, there really wasn’t much hope for an NHL future with him. The former 2018 3rd-round pick has turned that narrative on its head though with some excellent campaigns in Sweden over the past two years.
After posting 51 points in 52 games in the Allsvenskan in 2021, Karlsson made the transition to the SHL look like an absolute breeze with a 46-point campaign in his rookie season. His tally of 26 goals actually broke Elias Pettersson’s record mark, albeit Karlsson doing it at 22 years of age.
Still, there are lots to be intrigued by in his play. Karlsson has an NHL-ready release, one that’s both hard and fast. He’s able to get into the right spots to put pucks into the net. However, question marks still surround Karlsson’s skating. While it’s by no means a weakness, it also isn’t a particularly strong area of his game. It’ll be interesting to see how he transitions to North American ice.
The intrigue comes in where he’ll end up next season. Of course there’s the possibility of running it back in the SHL, but Karlsson could very well be in the AHL if he impresses at development camp and training camp. Who knows, he could even earn a spot in Vancouver’s bottom 9. Whichever is the case, keep an eye out on Karlsson next week.
Aidan McDonough – Left Wing
6’2, 205 lbs. Last season: Northeastern (NCAA), 38 GP, 25 G, 14 A, 39 P.
Talk about rising through the ranks. After being drafted 195th overall in the 2019 NHL draft, Aidan McDonough has seen his stock surge, rapidly becoming one of the Canucks’ best prospects. Whether that’s an indictment on the state of Vancouver’s cupboard or a badge of honour for McDonough is up for the reader to decide.
After his Northeastern linemate Tyler Madden departed for the Ontario Reign, there were many who thought McDonough’s freshman 27-point campaign would be just a fluke. However, he’s gone on to improve each and every year, this year finishing second in the entire nation in goals. McDonough’s Huskie squad unfortunately came up short, losing in the first round of the NCAA Frozen Four this year.
Like Karlsson, McDonough shares the excellent release and knack for scoring goals, as well as the question marks surrounding his skating. It absolutely is much improved since his draft year, especially after hiring a skating coach prior to his junior season. However, it remains to be seen what he can do against higher-level competition.
McDonough has already committed to going back to Northeastern for his 4th and final year, meaning that the Canucks still haven’t signed him. All signs are pointing to him inking a deal after his college time is done though, and fans can get a glimpse of what to expect for a player with top 9 upside.
Jonathan Myrenberg – Defence
6’1, 187 lbs. Last season: Linköping HC (J20), 35 GP, 8 G, 23 A, 31 P; Linköping HC (SHL), 15 GP, 0 G, 0A, 0 P.
Jonathan Myrenberg might just be the best RHD in the Canucks pipeline. When he was drafted back in the 5th round of the 2021 NHL draft, there were a lot of questions surrounding his overall game. Myrenberg was good, but there was a lot of raw talent to be refined before making the step up to the SHL, right?
Well, it only took him a couple of months to figure it out. Myrenberg might not have put up the point totals but as an 18-year-old defenceman, he was putting up regular minutes in a tough adult league. There was no doubting the offensive capabilities, as demonstrated by his J20 point totals. That breakout pass, the ease at which he jumps into rushes, and his shot selection in the offensive zone were all evident.
However, what Myrenberg showed is improvement. He displayed much more attention to detail on the defensive end, a work in progress that is getting better with each game. Myrenberg also showed a more physical play style this year, using his big frame to separate attackers from the puck. Coupled with his transition game, there’s a budding young talent ready to make the leap across the pond.
There’s still work to be done as Myrenberg continues to improve on the back end. However, the improvements he has shown this year have been promising and the defenceman is making a strong case to crack team Sweden’s roster at next year’s World Juniors. Make sure to watch him up at UBC.
Aku Koskenvuo – Goaltender
6’4, 181 lbs. Last season: HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja), 27 GP, 13 W, 10 L, 0 OTL, 2.79 GAA, 0.897 SV%.
A draft without the Canucks taking a goalie in the 5th round is not valid, according to our very own David Quadrelli. In the case of Aku Koskenvuo, the 2021 5th rounder is already presenting to be a very interesting case of his own.
His counting stats might not jump off the page right away, but Koskenvuo has been showing signs of improvement. Early in September 2021, the netminder began to have zoom sessions with Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark, and its been paying off. In his last 7 starts, Koskenvuo posted a 2.57 GAA and a 0.912 SV%. In his last 3 starts, the numbers were a 2.33 GAA on a 0.923 SV%.
With a big frame, much of Koskenvuo’s improvements have been subtle. He looks more composed and in control, with better creasework that allows him to use his height to his advantage. Another aspect that stood out was Koskenvuo’s improved puck-tracking ability, playing a much more Clark-esque reactionary style that both uses his raw athleticism and improved positioning. It’s shown at the international level as well, where he pitched two shutouts for Finland’s U20 team.
Koskenvuo has committed to play for the Harvard Crimson next season, which will be a step up in the level of competition. It’ll be very interesting to see how he fares in the NCAA after an improved draft +1 season. He’ll also be competing against Capitals prospect Mitchell Gibson for the starting spot. With a toolbox that lends well to Clark’s coaching, Koskenvuo might just be a diamond in the rough between the pipes.
Tristen Nielsen – Centre/Left Wing
5’10, 192 lbs. Last season: Abbotsford Canucks (AHL), 41 GP, 7 G, 4 A, 11 P.
Nielsen started off the year as a health scratch and finished it as one of Abbotsford’s most consistent forwards. With a scoring touch that he found later on in the year, the forward’s speed and tenacity on the forecheck was very impressive. Nielsen plays with a style that is very reminiscent of Tyler Motte. Look for him to stand out during development camp.
Connor Lockhart – Centre/Right Wing
5’9, 160 lbs. Last season: Erie Otters (OHL), 64 GP, 23 G, 25 A, 48 P.
Lockhart’s selection in the 6th round back in 2021 looks better by the day. The diminutive winger plays with a ton of pace, reading the play well and forcing opposing defenders to turn the puck over. Lockhart is active on and off the puck to generate chances for himself and his teammates, creating space with his speed and offensive gravity. Could very well be a scoring top 9 option in the future.
Jacob Truscott – Defenceman
6’1, 172 lbs. Last season: Michigan (NCAA), 40 GP, 2 G, 15 A, 17 P.
Truscott found a home on Michigan’s second pairing alongside Luke Hughes this season. Trusted to be the defensively responsible partner, Truscott performed well in his role as the Wolverines made it to the Frozen Four semifinals. Truscott is evolving into an all-around two-way defenceman that can play in all situations, with excellent passing on display as well. He will return alongside Hughes as the maize and blue’s top pair.
The 2022 Canucks development camp is set to kick off on today, July 11th running until July 14th. The camp will be hosted at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in UBC, and we’ll have boots on the ground out at UBC.