7 draft prospects for the Canucks to look at with their 5 mid-round picks
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By Faber6 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks will be swinging for NHLers with their bevy of mid-round picks at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Though the team is without a second-round pick as well as a fifth-round pick — they do have five picks in the third or fourth round.
I’ve had a running list of prospects since last year’s draft to keep an eye on. Of the 43 players on this list, some have risen up the rankings to be top-50 picks, some had decent seasons and will be in that 60-120 range, and some had poor seasons and likely slide out of the draft or are potentially late-round swings.
We’ve picked seven players who we like for the Canucks to select with their five mid-round picks.
Axel Landén, RD, 6’1″, J20 (Sweden)
He’s Swedish, he’s a right-shot defenceman, and he’s a feisty piece of business — he’s got a lot going for him and we like him as a third-round pick for the Canucks.
Axel Landén played 44 games in the J20 Nationell league this past season. He had 10 goals and six assists while playing a physical brand of hockey.
He loves protecting his crease, loves banging bodies in the corners and is willing to throw the big hit even though it seems like he lacks overpowering strength. He plays on emotion and if there’s any type of skirmish between the whistles, he is always the guy who is throwing the most punches and never backing down.
Landén attempts high-risk/high-reward passes more often than taking the easy and safe pass and that can be looked at as a negative but we liked it because he doesn’t hesitate at all. He is confident in his passing ability and he snaps the puck with NHL pace. We like to see a player take some risks at the J20 level because those type of plays need to be made to have success at the next level.
He’s not much of a calming presence on the backend but that’s not a knock on his defensive play but more of a positive about his engagement in every play. This kid loves to contribute offensively but he is more of a gritty type of defenceman. His defending skills do lack of consistency, he seems to have short arms at times around the slot and it does allow for the opposition to get shots off or toe drag around him at times.
There’s a really good base for a physical defenceman here. If he continues to get bigger and stronger, he has the potential to be similar to countryman Radko Gudas. We just need to see him have better stick-checking in the defensive zone.
The exciting thing is that on top of being a physical force, Landén has a knack for finding the back of the net. He has a powerful wrist shot and spent a lot of time on the left half-wall on the power play. He gets good wood on his one-timers and consistently found the net with his shots from the top of the zone at even strength. He has good puck-possession skills at the blue line and just seems to have hands that are at a higher level than his SuperElit piers. He battles harder than most in his league and finds open ice well in the offensive zone.
We really like this player for the Canucks in the mid rounds and he has defensive knocks that look like they can be improved with the right type of development in the coming years.
Oliver Bonk, RD, 6’1″, London Knights (OHL)
Another right-shot defenceman. Because honestly, take as many as possible with these five mid-round picks.
Oliver Bonk makes a great first pass out of his zone, he moves well enough to be able to make a prediction that he will be able to keep up with the NHL speed by the time he is 22-23 years old and he projects as a defensive defenceman who may need to rely on physicality more than agility.
In comparison to his CHL competition, Bonk is built like a truck. He may only be listed at 176 pounds right now but he looks like the type of player who will be closer to 200-215 pounds by the time he turns pro. If he is able to add strength, he could be a very well-rounded physical defenceman by the time he makes the jump to the AHL.
His skating will need improvement but that’s why he’s more of a second/third-round projection. Bonk is a good swing in the third or fourth round for the Canucks and adding another CHL prospect is always a good thing as the Canucks tend to lean more on the US and European players.
Bonk is the son of former NHLer Radek Bonk, he defends well at the OHL level and he may take a big step next year and be one of the best defensive defencemen in the OHL for the 2023-24 season. He has the shot ability to beat set-goaltenders at the OHL level but he will need some more strength on his shot to project as a player who will score at the NHL level.
He feels like a support defenceman at the NHL level, if he ever makes it there. We see him potentially becoming a third-pairing defenceman who plays with a Jack Rathbone/Christian Wolanin type of player. If he continues to build his defensive game, he could potentially have a ceiling of being a number four defenceman who plays with an offensive left-shot defenceman on a second pairing.
Anton Wahlberg, LHC, 6’3″, Malmö Redhawks (SHL & J20)
We first took notice of Anton Wahlberg when we saw that he dressed for one SHL game as a 16-year-old last year. He didn’t play in that one game last season but this year, he played in 20 SHL games including five relegation games.
Wahlberg scored three goals in the SHL this season and if you are able to find that type of value in the third round, you are laughing.
We see Wahlberg going somewhere in the 55-85 range of the draft and as the Canucks hold the 75th selection in the draft, they could end up being very happy to see Wahlberg slip down to them with their first third-round pick of the 2023 draft.
He’s got size and a really good shot that can be triggered in a split second. Wahlberg should be a regular in the SHL next season and is a great pick if the Canucks can snag him in the third round. His value in the third round would be looked at similarly to Elias Pettersson’s (D-Petey). This kid has a lot to like about him and he has lots of room to grow the weaker parts of his game.
Anton also has a twin brother. He plays defence but isn’t expected to be drafted this year.
Jakub Dvorak, LD, 6’4″, Extraliga (Czechia)
The size and skating is intriguing from Jakub Dvorak. He’s a 6’4″ defenceman with a long reach and played relatively tough in Czechia’s top men’s league this past season. His size leaves you wanting to see more aggressiveness as he plays passively in his zone and that passiveness sometimes finds him out of position when defending.
He has some transitional skills that are exciting, his best trait is probably how he moves the puck through the first two zones. He is comfortable being the primary puck-mover on a pairing at the level that he is playing at and though we see him as more of a secondary puck mover in North American pro hockey, he at least has confidence in his own puck-moving abilities. It’s not just the passes that he excels in, he can skate extremely well for a guy his size. He won’t be winning races against speedy sub-six-foot guys but once he gets a few strides into a breakout, he used his length to get around the opposition in the neutral zone and isn’t afraid to chase down his own dump-ins.
We’d like to see him have better gap control when transitioning from the neutral zone to a defending position. He doesn’t get beat outside often but seems to give up the slot a lot more than you’d like. It’s almost the opposite of what type of defending you’d expect from a 6’4″ defenceman. His skating helps his defending but his physicality and stick-checking are the parts of his game that hurt him.
He’s got good skating and some good puck-moving abilities. We expect him to be a pick in the 50-90 range. His 6’4″ size may even move him into the 30s — there are teams who had him as a first-round talent but he broke his collarbone late in his season and will likely slide in the draft. (He is healthy now though, he just played in the U18s)
Dominik Petr, LHC, 6’2″, Lukko U20 (SM-sarja — Finland)
One of the more interesting players on our list, Dominik Petr is not going to show up in the top-75 of many lists but we like the size, style of play and finishing ability from the Czechian centre.
He didn’t find a good fit with his Finnish junior team this past year and has some skating issues but is very strong around the net and might be a candidate to develop in an NHL team’s AHL system.
Petr moves decently well once he is up to speed but his stride makes you believe that the right skating coach can find another gear in his game or perhaps he just needs to add strength to his lower body before he can find that next gear. He’s lanky and is listed at just 165 pounds but his best trait is keeping his stick on the ice around the crease and being quick enough to win battles for the puck in high-danger areas.
We look at him as a candidate to join an AHL team as a teenager and this would give an AHL development team a challenge to get the best out of this raw talent. He’s more of a fourth-round option for us and we see him going in the 95-140 range of the draft.
Petr showed well in the U18s, with two goals and two assists in four games. He’s got good instincts but just needs a lot of development over the next couple of seasons.
The size and willingness to go to the dirty areas are nice and you hope that he continues to develop as a centre.
David Edstrom, LHC, 6’3″, Frölunda (SHL & J20)
After a strong performance at the U18s, David Edstrom is looking more and more like a top-60 pick and even came in at #22 on Craig Button’s last rankings.
We’re not so sure he will be a first-rounder but have a good feeling that someone will take him in the second round. If he slides to the third round, the Canucks should be all over this kid. He played in 10 SHL games this past year but spent the majority of his season in the J20 league. He’s a point producer who lives in the slot and does a lot of work on the boards to create offensive opportunities for his linemates.
He’s a bit of a riser but would be a player to look at very intently if he is available for the Canucks’ first third-round pick.
His skating is what is holding him back from being a first-round pick but he plays tough and is a great teammate. There’s not a lot of selfish plays in his tape — he works hard, plays well in structure and can finish when scoring chances come to him. He finished his J20 regular season at a point per game with 15 goals and 13 assists in 28 games.
Rodwin Dionicio, LD, 6’2″, Niagara IceDogs & Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
A big and strong, two-way defenceman who leans a bit more to the offensive side of things after showcasing himself with 11 goals and 32 assists in 33 OHL games this past season.
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Rodwin Dionicio is a re-entry into the NHL Entry Draft after he was passed on during his first eligible draft in 2022.
Dionicio was born in New Jersey, grew up in Switzerland, and currently plays in the OHL.
He’s got a great story and his play took a big jump this past season.
He’s the guy who hit the gritty at the World Juniors this past winter.
His stride lacks power but he excels in almost every other skill. He’s got an accurate wrist shot and above-average hands for a defenceman.
This is a kid who is going to stick up for his teammates, be reliable in the defensive zone but also have some creativity in the offensive zone.
One big worry in his game is his defence of the rush. He doesn’t move well when he’s skating backwards but does have a good stick when the attacker comes within his reach. He will need to re-invent his skating technique to one day become an NHL player. For now, he has a floor of being a tough guy in the AHL and valuable defence prospect depth. We expect to see Dionicio go somewhere in the 90-160 range of the draft. His profile is certainly something that teams will be looking for in the third-fourth rounds.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed the scouting reports. We will be back with more in the coming weeks.
It’s time to get back on my couch and watch more junior hockey.
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