Photo credit:Jeremy Champagne / Brandon Wheat Kings
Are the Canucks eyeing Brandon Wheat King captain Nate Danielson with their 11th pick?
8 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players who could be available for the Vancouver Canucks with the 11th pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
We’ve previously broken down Swedish right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka; last season’s youngest NCAA player, BC’s own, Matthew Wood; Bo Horvat comparable, Slovakian centre Dalibor Dvorský; draft long shot Matvei Michkov; OHLer Calum Ritchie; the fastest skater of the draft, USNTDP centre Oliver Moore; Russian LD Dmitri Simashev; Canuck favourite David Reinbacher, and number one OHL pick Quentin Musty. Today we’ll take a look at a player who might not have ended up on this list if the Canucks’ didn’t take him to dinner during the NHL Combine at the beginning of this month — centre and co-captain of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings Nate Danielson.
Nate Danielson, an 04’ pushed back into this year’s draft class, is an exceptional defensive forward hailing from Red Deer, Alberta. He played a single season for Northern Alberta X-Treme in 2019–20, recording 60 points (26 G, 34 A) in 27 games played. During that season, he would have clashed with this year’s top draft pick Connor Bedard, who was playing for the West Van Warriors in the same league at that time.
Prior to his sole season in the CSSHL, Danielson was selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings with the fifth selection in the 2019 WHL Draft. He was named the captain of the team this season and has scored 150 points (59 G, 91 A) in the 145 games he’s played over the past three seasons. His older brother, Noah, played four seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers, and the two met six times last season. Nate, who had seven points (3 G, 4 A) in those six matchups, came out on the winning side five out of six games against his big brother.
While Elite Prospects has Danielson ranked 26th, when you take a look at his production this season as an 18-year-old captain, it’s clear why the Canucks are making themselves acquainted with the 6’1, 185 lbs, centre. He had a 52.6% faceoff rate, converted for 13 power play goals: the most on his team and a 40% share of his total goals-scored, recorded 25 power play assists, five game-winning goals, three short-handed goals, and one short-handed assist.
What the scouts are saying
Connor Bedard, Regina Pats: “He was probably the guy that maybe gave me the hardest game: he’s so fast, so skilled. So if you turn it over or something, he’s going to go down and do something. He’s a great player.”
Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting: “He went from being considered a two-way forward because he has such a responsible game to where he became an offensive threat, an offensive forward. The ability to show that finishing touch, that creativity on the offensive hockey side, that was something that is important. The game is about scoring goals, the game is about speed and offense, and he showed that he made a significant improvement there.”
Smaht Scouting: “Danielson’s shot is well-developed. His shot selection is quite good. He doesn’t usually take shots from low danger unless he has no other option on the table. If he has a passing lane at his fingertips, he doesn’t debate about whether or not he takes it or not. He takes it. Aside from his shot selection, he has had quite a bit of success from range with his wrist shot this season, especially with the attack closing in on him.”
Derek Neumeier, McKeen’s Hockey: “He hasn’t been a prolific point-producer at the WHL level thus far, nor should he ever be expected to be someone who contends for the Art Ross Trophy. And that’s totally OK, because he still projects as a player who can be a major difference-maker at the NHL level. He is able to affect almost every facet of a game. He routinely leaves his fingerprints all over his shifts. While he might never be a player who scores more than 70 points in a season, it’s easy to foresee him nevertheless becoming a Top 6 center who can play both sides of special teams, succeed in both transition and in the cycle, and match up well defensively against the top centers on other teams. If Danielson reaches that ceiling, he could realistically be a player who eventually crosses the 1,000-game threshold and plays a key role on a Stanley Cup-contending roster.”
J.D. Burke, Elite Prospects: “He’s adaptable in the face of pressure or numbers. But it always feels like he’s flying by the seat of his pants, reacting to what’s in front of him rather than creating or manipulating opponents himself. Mostly, Danielson’s best work occurred in the defensive zone. A lot of proactive support below the hash marks. Some intelligent reads and consistent effort on the track. He doesn’t cheat for offence.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects)
Across all 15 rankings, Danielson is a projected first-round pick — whether that be the final pick or at the highest, 13th overall. On average, Danielson should be selected 19th, which is where TSN’s Craig Button had the centre ranked. Up until the news that Danielson had gone out to dinner with the Canucks’, the forward wasn’t largely deciphered as an option for the Canucks with the glut of forwards anticipated to be available at the same time as Danielson. Out of the five forwards that the Canucks’ did take out, Danielson is projected to go the latest overall in the draft. He is, however, the only true “centre” the Canucks, that we know of, have met with.
There have been plenty of rumours about the Canucks potentially trading down in this draft as well, so it’s very possible that they’re simply doing their homework on a player that they hope is available to them later in the first round.
With less than two weeks till draft day, Nate Danielson is very much in the conversation for the Canucks. A “late” entry to the list, he’s a solid two-way forward whose defence almost rivals his offensive abilities. For a pick just outside of the top 10, some fans might want the team to select a more offensive peril, but the Canucks, although it may have felt like it, didn’t struggle to score last season.
Their 276 goals — 3.37 goals per game — last season was 13th best in the league. While there are certainly flashier players in the draft like Matthew Wood and Zach Benson, who the Canucks also talked to, Danielson’s a safe bet for success. He can score on the power play and kill penalties while generating chances.
“He isn’t a master manipulator or lane-opener, by any means, but his passing skill and touch allow him to connect through sticks and skates with relative ease. It also has to be said that the Wheat Kings didn’t offer Danielson much support,” said Elite Prospects.
You’d like a more skilled selection at number 11, but as, the most stacked offensive teams aren’t always the ones who hoist the cup come June. And if they are, it’s because they’re complimenting offensive firepower with bottom-six role players, that Danielson might end up becoming. He’s not going to be a primary goal-scorer. He’s someone who can give you complimentary scoring at the NHL level, and set up possession in the offensive zone, so that when the top line hops over the board, they’re already primed for a scoring opportunity. It all just depends on if the Canucks decide to select a player with a more immediate skillset, or Danielson, who’s not a dazzler, but in terms of longevity, could stick around for longer.
What would be your reaction to the Canucks selecting an underdog with the 11th overall pick? Let us know in the comment section below!
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