The argument for the Canucks trading down in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft
Photo credit:© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
13 days ago
As it stands with the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks are on the outside of the top-ten looking in.
Post-lottery, they’re slated to select at 11th overall on June 28, and while that’s still in the first half of the draft, it’s not quite as high as some fans would have liked.
We’ve been hearing for years now that the Draft Class of ’23 was a special one, and with the season the Canucks just had, many hoped that an exceptionally-high pick in an exceptionally-strong draft would be just what the doctor ordered to kick the Vancouver retool into hyperdrive.
But that does not appear to be happening.
Earlier in the week, we looked at the possibilities of the Canucks trading up in the draft, and found them to be limited. In short, if the Canucks are able to trade up, they probably won’t be able to trade up very high, which makes it a bit of a moot point: useful if the Canucks really want a certain prospect, but otherwise unlikely to add much value to the franchise.
The likeliest outcome, then, is that the Canucks just stay at 11OA and make their pick there.
But what about trading down?
Would the Canucks really consider further lowering their slot in the 2023 Draft, especially after fans and media alike excoriating them for doing so via a late-season push up the standings?
It’s not as outlandish an idea as it sounds at first blush.
The argument against trading down is fairly simple. If the 2023 Draft is set to be the strongest in years and the strongest for years, it’s the single-best opportunity in a while for any team to add young talent, and that’s something that the Canucks especially need. An 11th overall pick this year should be worth more, in the long-run, than an 11th overall pick most other years, so why not just spend it?
But the strength of the draft works both ways.
With five or more potential franchise players at the top of the draft, a lot of talent that would have otherwise gone earlier in an average draft year is going to slide and shuffle to later in the first round, and even beyond.
So, sure, the 11th overall pick is more valuable than it is in most years, but so is the 15OA, the 20OA, the 32OA, and so on.
There’s talent to be had all over this draft.
The strength of the draft class also works to entice those teams who might be willing to trade up into the 11th overall slot, which should in turn increase the offers that the Canucks get. Some team somewhere is going to get to that point in the draft with “their guy” still available, and that player could definitely be seen as more valuable than the average 11th overall pick.
If the Canucks are able to wring multiple assets out of another team in exchange for moving down, it’s something that they should consider.
The Canucks, as an organization, are asset-poor when it comes to prospects and picks, the end result of years of iffy drafting and the constant churn of future assets in exchange for short-term gains. The Canucks have traded three first round picks and three second round picks over the span of the last four drafts, and now they’re left with one of the worst developmental cupboards in the entire league.
And when a team is asset-poor, shopping in bulk makes some sense.
Right now, the Canucks’ best prospect is down to a competition between Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Aatu Räty. Both are fine pieces loaded with potential, but neither would be attracting a large amount of attention if they were slotted into the ’23 Draft Class.
If the Canucks stay at 11th overall, the player they pick almost automatically leapfrogs Lekkerimäki and Räty to the top of the prospect depth chart. But that’s not just true about 11OA. The same could probably be said for most players picked in the first round this year, and maybe even some players that slide into the second.
If the Canucks are able to add two prospects with a genuine future within the organization, instead of just one, is that preferable?
The argument, when it comes to hockey assets, is that quality is preferred over quantity. But that might not be true of the Canucks’ specific situation. They don’t just need one prospect, they need many. Already capped out in the present day, the team is going to need an influx of young, effective talent on entry-level contracts if it’s ever going to want to compete and stay competing. That process needs to start sooner, rather than later.
And trading down for quantity, while still maintaining some pretty high quality in those multiple picks acquired, is definitely one way to speed up the process a little.
This draft, for all its strengths, will be an unpredictable one. Beyond that top-four or -five, there’s little consensus to be found in draft rankings.
Take David Reinbacher, for example, the Austrian RHD described by some as Moritz Seider 2.0. Obviously, the Canucks would love to add this player to their prospect pool.
Our own DailyFaceoff crew has Reinbacher at 8th overall. Corey Pronman has him even higher at 7th overall. Sam Consentino has him at 9th overall. Bob McKenzie has him at 10th. Dobber Prospects has him at 16th. Smaht Scouting has him all the way down at 19th.
That’s quite a range, and it speaks to the enormous conglomeration of prospects in play at this draft, and how little separates those picks beyond Conor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson, and perhaps Will Smith, who seems to have rounded out the consensus top-five of late.
In other words, a team might very well get a player at 20th overall that they think is a better prospect than the player select at 10th overall. It’s that kind of draft, and that’s the kind of draft that, circumstances permitting, it might make sense to trade down within.
Such a decision would almost have to be made on the draft floor. No doubt the Canucks have some of this mishmash of strong prospect ranked far higher than others, and if any of those players are still around at 11th overall, they probably won’t hesitate to pick them.
But if those players are gone? If the Canucks are, say, dead-set on Reinbacher and Oliver Moore being their prime choices, and then watch those players get picked in the top-ten?
Suddenly, trading down makes a lot of sense. In a draft like this, there’s every possibility that the Canucks trade down and, as a result, wind up walking away with more cumulative talent than they would have had they stayed in their spot.
At this point, it’s too early to say anything other than this: trading down should be at least on the table, and some preliminary discussions about it should probably already be happening with other teams.
If it’s something that ends up happening on the draft floor, the Canucks won’t have very long to make their decision, and it could be an incredibly important one.
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