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2024 midterm Vancouver Canucks prospect rankings: #10 Cole McWard, and #9 Lucas Forsell

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
4 months ago
We have officially dipped our toes into our midterm prospect rankings.
If you missed it earlier this week, be sure to check out our honourable mentions list. In brief, the names that fell outside of our top 10 include Ty Mueller, Vilmer Alriksson, Aku Koskenvuo, Josh Bloom, and Jackson Dorrington.
Of course, we do have some criteria that went into how we compiled our rankings, so make sure to check that out to bring yourself up to speed.
While the Canucks prospect pool may not be perfect and likely falls outside the top 15 league-wide, their depth chart continues to show promising signs of progress. Over the past year alone, they have welcomed 15 new prospects into the fold, whether through the entry draft, trades, or collegiate signings. While many of these prospects are graded as B or A prospects, the influx of new talent is certainly a promising development.
Today, we introduce the first two names of our Top-10 list, including an older yet highly dependable right-shot defenceman and a waterbug forward who carries intriguing long-term potential despite facing challenges in securing playing time.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the details, shall we?

#10. Cole McWard

Position: Defenceman
Handedness: Right
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 192-pounds
Cole McWard is a 6-foot-1, two-way defender who was brought in at the tail end of the 2022-23 campaign following a successful two-year stint at Ohio State University.
After a brief five-game audition in the NHL last season that saw him score his first NHL goal in the process, McWard has spent most of his rookie year manning Abbotsford’s blueline. Though he did sneak into a single game with Vancouver at the end of November.
At 22 years old, he narrowly meets the age criteria for this list but will be “aged out” by our next installment. Since he is now a little bit older with almost a full season of professional games under his belt,  there is a fairly clear picture of his overall upside.
Ultimately, McWard profiles as a dependable two-way defenceman, known for his calm and collected demeanour, good skating, and versatility.
He may not always stand out, but in this case, that’s a positive.
McWard’s ability to adapt to any situation has been a highlight for Abbotsford this season, and he has been a valuable asset both at even strength and on special teams.
With Christian Wolanin, Akito Hirose, and Filip Johansson all sidelined for extended periods in the farm, McWard has stepped up to the plate, logging elevated minutes in the top four while playing a premium role on the team’s power play and penalty kill.
He’s a rare breed in that his game seems to be tailor-made for the professional level rather than the collegiate level, as it is built around structure. He epitomizes the “meat-and-potatoes” style of defending, and what you ask for is exactly what you get. Which, again, in this case, is a positive.
In 39 games for Abbotsford, he sits third in defensive scoring with two goals and nine assists, aligning with many AHL mid-tiered rookie defenders. While we like his booming shot and ability to man the power play in a pinch, it’s his numbers in the defensive zone which stand out from the pack.
He currently holds the third spot on the team, the lead among defencemen, with a plus-minus of plus-10, and a plus-9 5v5 goal differential. He has been one of the more consistent performers on a nightly basis for this banged-up and relatively inexperienced Abbotsford Canucks team.
Ceiling: As we’ve established, McWard is a serviceable and responsible two-way defender. He rarely puts himself into risky positions and doesn’t often make mistakes. However, he doesn’t necessarily possess any elite tools; instead, he relies on simple and reliable ones. While he may be able to step up into a top-four role in a pinch, it’s more likely that he will reach his peak as a solid third-pair defenceman at the NHL level.
Floor: At the very least, McWard is a top-four AHL defender. His well-rounded profile positions him for a lengthy AHL career, where he can be an asset to any minor league defensive corps.
ETA: As a coveted right-hand option, he should be in the mix to earn the final spot on Vancouver’s third pairing. Should he fall short of that, we anticipate him to be used as a solid fringe defender, providing service when needed by the big club for the 2024-25 season. Of course, as a (10.2(c)) restricted free agent this summer, that depends on the team inking him to a new deal.

# 9. Lucas Forsell

Position: Right-wing
Handedness: Right
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 165-pounds
Lucas Forsell, a right-winger drafted in the seventh round in 2021, has faced a challenging developmental season in the SHL.
Of course, much of that comes with being the youngest full-timer (20 years old) on a competitive team vying for an SHL title.
His skill, which we have highlighted in the past here at CanucksArmy, hasn’t diminished; he has simply struggled to find consistent ice time, being primarily used in a fourth-line role. Across 38 games, he’s produced just three goals and four points, averaging 9:07 of ice time, eclipsing the 13-minute mark of ice time only three times this season.
Nevertheless, we still value his skill set and long-term potential.
With 11 goals and 13 points over 35 games as a 19-year-old in Sweden’s top league last season, we were well-versed in Forsell’s capabilities. Given his limited role this year, we’re optimistic that he can return to his 2022-23 form with a higher role.
Forsell sits fifth on his team with 18 hits and third among forwards for blocked shots this season, a tell-tale sign of how this kid plays the game.
He has enjoyed moderate success in the Champions Hockey League–a mid-season tournament which hosts various teams from the top European leagues–where he collected three goals, five points and 16 shots across nine games. During CHL games, he saw an uptick in ice time and even saw time among the team’s top six.
When the stakes are lower and the games hold less significance, he’s been afforded more ice time, and unsurprisingly, he’s always stepped up to the plate.
It’s because of this that we continue to believe in his potential. Forsell’s outstanding feature is his never-quit motor and willingness to give his all on the ice with each shift.
Standing at 6-foot-1 and 161 pounds, he may not carry the biggest physical presence out there or deliver bone-crushing hits. But his strong work ethic and pest-like approach on puck carriers while on the forecheck is what makes him so effective.
He possesses a good shot and solid foot speed off the rush but primarily generates offence by driving to the net, battling in the tough areas, and capitalizing on opportunities.
Whether it’s a crash-and-bang rebound, a slick deflection or an in-tight shot, he gets points from a sheer willingness to grind it out and get to the dirty areas.
We preach Tocchet-type players often here in Canuck Nation, and Forsell screams just that.
Ceiling: If we’re being extremely optimistic, his ceiling could be as a second-line forward with evident potential for net-front contributions to special teams. However, a more realistic scenario sees him as a third-line energy player who can contribute on the scoresheet while excelling in a net-front role on the power play. The hope is that Forsell will earn a much more significant role next year and start producing points that match his heavy motor.
Floor: AHL top-six. If he wants to make the move, he is capable of carving out a top-six role at the AHL level and could probably collect a nice column of point totals.
ETA: Forsell recently secured a three-year extension with Farjestad in the SHL. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue, and if we’re being honest, it is somewhat expected. Forsell has expressed his comfort with continuing his development in Sweden, and it was anticipated that he would sign a new deal at some point. Typically, European contracts include an “escape clause” that would allow him to join the Canucks should they choose to bring him over, and he agrees. Although the road ahead may be long, if he can secure an elevated role next year and begin contributing offensively, we will maintain confidence in his abilities despite the modest statistical output from this year.

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