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5 WHL players for the Canucks to target with their 5 mid-round picks

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Photo credit:@keithdwigginsphotography on IG
Faber
By Faber
10 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have not selected a position player out of the WHL since the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, where they used a fifth-round pick on Calgary Hitmen centre Carson Focht.
Focht has not worked out as a Canucks prospect and likely won’t get a qualifying offer this summer and will become an unrestricted free agent after spending most of this past season in the ECHL. Before the 2019 draft, the Canucks spend top-40 picks on WHL players in Jett Woo (2018 – 37th overall) and Kole Lind (2017-33rd overall).
Drafting out of the WHL has certainly been a weakness for the Canucks. When you look at the most successful recent draft-and-develop story for a Canucks out of the WHL, the player is Jake Virtanen. We all know how that story played out — it sucked.
The next best draft-and-develop story for the Canucks with WHLer is Michael Grabner, who played in 640 NHL games after being selected 14th overall by the Canucks in the 2006 draft.
I went back and just made a simple pie chart about the Canucks’ last 10 drafts and where they consistently spend their picks.
It’s surprising that the Canucks have taken almost as many WHLers as Swedish players over the past 10 drafts. We will have to see what Jett Woo turns into but you can find better prospects in almost every other area that the Canucks have spent their draft capital on.
Their WHL picks have not worked out well and that’s a shame because the WHL is their scouting backyard. The Canucks should be able to have scouts in WHL buildings on a nightly basis and with what we’ve seen over the past 10 years, the Canucks have done a poor job keeping an eye on their backyard.
I just picked a completely random team to look at their past 10 drafts and see their WHL talent. I chose the Los Angeles Kings for no specific reason. They have three WHL players with 50+ NHL games and they were all selected outside of the top-40 of the draft. Austin Wagner was a fourth-round pick in 2015 and he has played in 178 NHL games, Kale Clague was a second-round pick and has played in 91 NHL games, Jaret Anderson Dolan went 41st overall in 2017 and has played in 96 NHL games.
The Kings found some value in their WHL picks and maybe the Canucks can do the same with their augmented number of middle-round picks at the 2023 draft.
Let’s explore some of the names who we like for the Canucks to target with their third or fourth-round picks.
Carter Sotheran, 6’3”, RD, Portland Winterhawks
This big, right-shot defenceman plays tough from the backend and is a pretty decent skater. His skating doesn’t hold him back at the WHL level but he clearly has a lot of developing to do with his quickness before pro hockey is on his plate.
When you look at bruising defencemen who will be drafted out of the WHL this season, Sotheran is at the top of that list.
Sotheran loves to hit.
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Overall, his offence isn’t something to get too excited about but his skating has flashes of agility that make you believe he could find another gear as Sotheran develops through his final teenage years.
With the right skating work and some added strength to make him an absolute wrecking ball in his next two WHL seasons, he will be very prepared for the jump to the AHL in 20-22 months.
We really like this kid’s profile as a third or fourth-round pick. It’s an exciting prospect to follow in the WHL. Sotheran is only going to get bigger and stronger. This past year was his rookie season in the WHL and it didn’t take him long to feel confident in his own game.
From some interviews we’ve seen, Sotheran comes off as a kid with a tremendous work ethic. He was sent home from the WHL as a 16-year-old and kicked the door down as a 17-year-old to become a steady presence on the backend.
Sotheran was the only Winterhawks player to play in all 68 games this season.
This is one tough kid, folks.

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Connor Levis, 6’2”, RW/C, Kamloops Blazers
Connor Levis has a lot to gain at this upcoming Memorial Cup. The right-shot winger has good size and a shot that immediately catches your attention. His bursts into open ice make his skating look above average at the WHL level. He can beat WHL defenders with his pace but his speed isn’t anything to get overly excited about.
What you should be excited about is his heavy wrist shot. He’s not picking corners with his shots, he’s more just beating goaltenders with well-placed shots through the goalies’ openings.
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Levis plays the left half-wall or the bumper on the power play and is a good finisher with a quick release that generates a lot of power in a hurry.
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After a 27-goal season, Levis has a chance to emerge as one of the WHL’s breakout stars in his draft plus one season — next year.
Levis is still in action, as the Memorial Cup still needs to determine a champion and his Blazers are hosting the Mem Cup this year. Levis has a chance to raise his stock but likely won’t make it into many top-50 lists.
His shot and decent speed are undoubtedly worth a mid-round pick. Levis is also a local kid from Vancouver, who would surely love to play for either Abbotsford or Vancouver someday soon.
Jaden Lipinski, 6’3”, RW, Vancouver Giants
The Canucks have had success with other Vancouver Giants over the past two seasons and Jaden Lipinski could be the next Giant to follow Alex Kannok Leipert and Tristen Nielsen.
Lipinski may also look like a giant next to Kannok Leipert and Nielsen. Lipinski comes in at 6’3” and took off with 51 points in 66 games this season — including 19 goals.
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Many lists have him as a late-third or early fourth-round pick but he has the size and finishing ability that gets you excited about him as a mid-round pick. Lipinski is strong on the puck and uses his body as much as his stick in board battles. He knows that he has the size advantage and he takes advantage of that in the WHL.
The biggest weakness in Lipinski’s game is his skating and that’s likely why he will slide out of the first two rounds. If a team is confident that they can develop his skating, you may even see him have his name called somewhere in the second round.
In the end, you’re getting a good offensive skillset along with a 6’3″, right-shot winger. He needs to improve on his skating but there are enough other tools to be excited about this kid.
We all love to see the Canucks draft a Vancouver Giant, as well. I’d surely be making some trips out to the Langley Event Centre next season.
Sawyer Mynio, 6’0″, LD, Seattle Thunderbirds
There’s not necessarily one trait in Sawyer Mynio’s game that gets you very excited about his game but he thinks the game extremely well, skates with good pace, and doubled his point production this past year with five goals and 26 assists in 68 games.
Mynio isn’t getting power play opportunities with Seattle, and with that, his point production is somewhat limited in terms of high-end numbers. It’s tough to get much time on Seattle’s power play because Kevin Korchinski and Jeremy Hanzel are simply better offensive defencemen at this point in their WHL careers. Mynio is a calming presence on the second pairing and is sneaky with his puck handling. He may not be flashy but he has that ‘pro-touch’ with the puck that I find hard to explain.
It’s almost like he just has control of the puck so well. The puck never gets on edge when he holds possession, he is active with short touches of the puck that give him the flexibility to quickly move the puck. Mynio doesn’t dangle through the entire team but he is just very solid with the puck and doesn’t make a lot of mental or physical mistakes.
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He’s not going to blow anyone away when he is selected somewhere in the 90-150 range but it would be nice for the Canucks to take a kid with a good baseline who plays close to Vancouver. Mynio is probably a player you look at in the fifth or sixth round and hope that he takes a big step in his next two WHL seasons and then can work his way up the AHL depth chart towards some NHL minutes. Mynio is a BC-born kid who grew up in Kamloops. He’d be a good development story for the Abbotsford Canucks.
Yegor Sidorov, 5’11”, RW, Saskatoon Blades
The one and only 40-goal scorer on our list. Yegor Sidorov is a Belarussian, left-shot, right-winger who has some of the silkiest hands out of the WHL draft eligibles. Sidorov can make any move at full speed and though he may not have a 100% completion record on those dekes, he is confident enough to try them and more often than not, his moves find open ice for himself or his teammates.
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Sidorov is a solid pick in the fourth round and the Canucks have three picks in that round. Though Sidorov is a re-entry to the NHL draft, his progression in offensive creation during his sophomore WHL season makes you pretty excited about what he can do next season in the WHL as well as the type of player he could be for your AHL team as soon as the end of next season.
One of the reasons why Sidorov was not selected in his first year of NHL draft eligibility was that he was too much of a perimeter player and that changed this past season. The 18-year-old got stronger and more confident in the WHL after a tough transition from the Belarusian junior league. There were only three U19 WHL players who had 40-goal seasons this past year — Connor Bedard and Koehn Ziemmer (expected to go somewhere in the top-40).
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Because he is turning 19 in June, Sidorov is likely to slide through the third round but should be one of the top re-entries to the NHL draft after being passed on in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. If you would have told the 32 NHL general managers that this kid would have popped off for 40 goals and 36 assists this season, he would have been selected somewhere in the 2022 draft.
Sidorov played with Danila Klimovich on Belarus’ U18 team and the two spent time together throughout international play with team Belarus. Sidorov has now been in the WHL for two seasons and the expectation should be for him to pot 50 goals next season and be one of the best offensive talents in the WHL. We don’t think he will slide out of this draft.
Oh, and we almost forgot to mention…
Sidorov is a Dan Milstein client.
Hopefully, this quenches the comment section’s hunger for WHL players to look for in the 2023 NHL draft. The Canucks’ middle-round picks are probably the way that the Canucks should draft WHLers. Their 11th overall pick might present Zach Benson, Nate Danielson, Brandon Yager or Andrew Cristall as a serious option out of the WHL but we’d be surprised if the Canucks walk away from day one with one of these guys unless there’s a trade down from 11 to a later first-round pick.
If you were in the Canucks’ GM chair, which WHL prospect would you spend a third-round pick on?

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