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Gracyn Sawchyn is an all-around player the Canucks shouldn’t sleep on at the draft

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Isabella Urbani
9 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players the Vancouver Canucks could select with the 11th pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. 
We’ve previously looked at 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; number one OHL pick Quentin Musty; Brandon Wheat King captain Nate Danielson; draft riser RD Tom Willander; sniper Colby Barlow; playmaking wizard Zach Benson; wall specialist Samuel Honzek, and Boston College commit Ryan Leonard. Just mere days before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville, we’ll take a look at another centre for the Canucks’ taking, Seattle Thunderbird Gracyn Sawchyn. 
Who 
Alberta-born Gracyn Sawchyn played his junior hockey in the US. However, as most of the other first-round prospects did, Sawchyn played at the Brick Hockey Tournament, designed for the most elite nine and 10-year-olds, where he represented Team Alberta. He played his bantam and midget years for Shattuck St. Mary’s, an illustrious athletic boarding school which has produced NHL players like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon. Sawchyn put up 83 points (32 G, 51 A) in 54 games during his first season and 60 points (14 G, 46 A) in 47 games in his final season with the academy.
Although Sawchyn would eventually end up playing for WHL Champions the Seattle Thunderbirds, after an impressive first season with Shattuck, he was the first player selected in the 2021 WHL US Draft by the Red Deer Rebels. However, he continued to play in the US — this time on the U17 USNTDP, registering 33 points (10 G, 23 A) in 52 games. After a subpar season, Sawchyn decided to play in the WHL. By this point, the Thunderbirds had acquired his playing rights after a trade with the Rebels in 2021. In his first season in the WHL, Sawchyn had 58 points (18 G, 40 A) in 58 games. He picked up 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in 17 playoff games for Seattle, but was scoreless in five games at the Memorial Cup, where his team fell short in the final to Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts. Sawchyn played as a centre for Seattle last season, but can also be used as a right-winger.
What the scouts are saying 
Smaht Scouting: “Sawchyn can be a well-rounded offensive asset at the NHL in a middle six role. But with where Sawchyn is right now in his development, I would put deploy him as a winger instead of a center. He doesn’t have a power stride yet. If he does develop a strong power stride, I would definitely without a doubt deploy him at center because the combination of his handling, mobility and strong north-south strides would pave the way for Sawchyn to create more chances on his own with the puck in medium and high danger [opportunities].” 
Brock Otten, McKeen’s Hockey: “He’s not the world’s most dynamic mover for a sub six-foot player. That said, he does so many other things well as an offensive player and makes his linemates better with his vision and play driving ability.” 
Jason Bukala, Sportsnet: “Gracyn Sawchyn was the most creative “small area” playmaker in the *game. He’s not exceptionally fast in transition, but he has elite puck skill and can beat opponents by keeping the puck close to his body and dragging it under sticks and through legs.”
*This was said about Sawchyn during the Top Prospect Game, which took place out of the Vancouver Gaints’ Langley Events Centre. 
NHL scout: “He’s on that stacked Seattle team. You have to look at it with that context. He’s not getting first-unit power play time, first line time like Brayden Yager, but very skilled. Great offensive stick. Really good one-on-one. Can make a lot of plays. Needs to improve his scoring finish. Has great hands but lacking a bit around the net. Has some bite to him. Has killed penalties. Has to improve his skating.”
David St-Louis, Elite Prospects: “I love this prospect. His playmaking and passing game and vision are just as good as some of the top players we have on our board right now, like Ryan Leonard, and he has more energy than him and he’s playing against tougher competition. The hockey sense is a 6.5-7 for me, the skating a 5 (average), the handling a 6, and there’s the physical play that at least deserves a 6. An easy NHL projection based on his pace and forechecking and net-driving and supporting game with a thick layer of skill that gives him top-six upside. I’d draft him in the top-15 for sure.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects) 
Here’s where it gets interesting. There’s no bigger mixed bag than Sawchyn in the first round. Debates on where he should go transcends more than just a few picks or a single round. It’s as extreme as 13th all the way to 90th overall: covering more than three rounds. Because of that, Sawchyn is projected to go 38th overall, based on this list. But, hear me out. Elite Prospects has stuck their neck out for Sawchyn, placing him in the top half of the first round.
Even if they admit it might be a terrible overshooting, if they’re right, they’ll be the only ones to have assessed Sawchyn correctly. It’s not as though Sawchyn’s name was pulled out of a hat. As a Canadian-born player, he was the first player selected in the WHL Import Draft. He’s played for the most reputable schools and programs and put up a point per game on a stacked Seattle time that loaded up on previous NHL first-rounders like they were infinity stones. Going forward, Sawchyn will not only have an elevated role on the team but he’ll be looked at as a leader in just his second season with the team, as a lot of rookies will replace a predominately senior group. Scouts will get a better assessment of Sawchyn then, but as noted, there’s no one with better puckhandling than Sawchyn, other than first-overall selection Connor Bedard. That’s got to mean something. 

PROSPECT COVERAGE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

Conclusion
Are there better offensive centres than Sawchyn in the draft? Yes. There’s a huge cluster of them projected to go right before or with the 11th overall pick if the Canucks are lucky. But after that, in terms of centres, the pickings are slim. It’s not like Sawchyn doesn’t produce at all. He’s almost always been a point-per-game player. What’s holding him back from being a first-round projection in every scout’s eyes is his “low” upside. Skating for starters, isn’t a highlight. Elite Prospects noted Sawchyn’s not going to outskate an opponent to a puck or catch an opponent on the rush with his speed alone. However, offensively, he does just fine timing himself with teammates and making sure he’s where he needs to be on the ice.
With the puck, there’s no question he’s a first-round pick. Passing is fantastic. “He’s a cunning, manipulative passer who always makes the right play.” He’s a little scary on the rush sometimes. Sawchyn’s been known to just make a beeline to the offensive zone and keep skating directly into trouble if there’s no passing lane available. He struggles a bit in tight, so his game has been called basic at times. It’s not super complex, which doesn’t make him a risk on the ice, but subsequently doesn’t make as much of a threat as some other players in this draft class. I, however, wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if another two years in the WHL turns him into a completely different player. You have to remember, it was his first year in the WHL. He wasn’t relied upon as much as he would be if there weren’t upper-echelon NHL-bound players already like Canuc— I mean Arizona draft pick Dylan Guenther.
Elite Prospects compares Sawchyn to Troy Terry, and I couldn’t agree more. He’s not going to be the biggest player, but he’s a hidden gem. Give him a few more years to develop, and the return on investment is going to be nice. With the 11th pick, you’d like a player who could make a more immediate impact, and one you can bank on now, but worst case scenario with Sawchyn, you still get a talented middle-of-the-lineup player who can play on the powerplay, kill penalties, and finish checks. He’s not the Canucks’ first pick, may not be their second or third. But, if things, for whatever reason, don’t fall into place this Wednesday, Sawchyn’s a mighty good safety plan. 
What would your reaction be if the Canucks drafted Gracyn Sawchyn? Let us know in the comment section below!
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