A list of unsigned prospects the Vancouver Canucks could target this summer

Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
17 days ago
We are officially into June, which signals a fresh batch of unsigned prospects to enter the NHL free-agent crop.
Whether it’s due to a crowded farm system, a lack of development in the player’s game, or simply not the right fit, many drafted prospects go unsigned by the teams who hold their rights.
And those who do not ink a contract before June 1st (within their allotted rights timeframe) officially enter the free agent pool, making them eligible to sign with a team of their choosing.
Or at least, a team that will take them on.
If you missed it, the Vancouver Canucks did let one of their prospects walk. After failing to play a single game in the 2023-24 campaign due to an apparent head injury, right-shot defender Viktor Persson has been released and will hit the free agent pool.
Believe it or not, this year’s crop does carry a few intriguing names worth taking a “flyer” on to boost the depth chart.
However, with a handful being 19–20 years old, many will be eligible to return to the draft podium. If there’s a name on the list that you were hoping the Canucks would pursue but wasn’t mentioned on this list, that may be the reason.
First, here is a list of names provided by CapFriendly.

The talent

Graham Sward
Position: LD
Age: 20
Height/Weight: 6’3, 192-lbs
Shoots: Left
First up, and probably the most head-scratching release, was Graham Sward.
The local Langley native was originally a fifth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2022 but was dealt to Colorado at the deadline this year.
After an incredible breakout season in the Western League, there is a good chance that the crafty defender will attract some serious attention this summer.
In terms of need, the Canucks have an influx on the left side and will likely be more inclined to pursue a right-shot defender. However, given the toolkit here, it’s a worthy gamble to make an offer and figure out the fit later down the road.
Finishing second in WHL defenceman scoring, Sward posted an impressive 15 goals and 81 points in his fifth and final junior season, earning him the U.S. Division Defenceman of the Year Award.

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Sward profiles as a mobile and fluid skater with strong offensive instincts and puck-moving abilities. His raw skill from the blue line, particularly in the puck transition department, is exactly the type of dynamic addition needed in Abbotsford.
An offensively gifted and smooth-skating defenceman, you say? You’d think that there would be a size issue. However, Sward breaks that narrative, standing 6’3, 192 -lbs, combining size with his already polished skill set.
Theodor Niederbach
Position: C
Age: 22
Height/Weight: 5’11, 172-lbs
Shoots: Right
Despite being picked 51st overall (second round) in 2020, Theodor Niederbach has struggled to find consistency in his post-draft seasons. Over five SHL seasons between three different teams, he has tallied just 19 goals and 35 points in 135 games, with a few pit stops in the Allsvenskan along the way.
At just 22, however, there’s still time to tap into that potential which earned him his relatively high draft spot. And with a lack of depth up the middle, Abbotsford might be the perfect landing spot for the Swede to do just that. Of course, he’d have young countrymen such as Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson to stick with.
Oh, and don’t forget the two legendary Swedes who are directly involved in the development of the team’s young players, Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
While not necessarily elite in any one area, Niederbach’s true calling card is his high hockey IQ and offensive creativity. His ability to read the game and make precise passes under pressure could make him a valuable asset for any team looking to gamble and enhance its offensive depth.

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Despite his 5-foot-11, 172-pound frame and needing to improve his physicality, Niederbach’s offensive upside is evident, and there could be a nice fit within the Abby system to provide some offensive punch,
Ben King
Position: C
Height/Weight: 6’3, 201-lbs
Shoots: Right
Remember Arshdeep Bains’ incredible 112-point season that earned him his first AHL contract? Well, guess who was his right-hand man?
Ben King ignited alongside the now Abbotsford Canucks’ star, with the duo combining for 217 points to finish one-two in the WHL scoring race during the 2021-22 season – King contributed 105 of those points. Over 236 WHL games, split between Red Deer and the Swift Current Broncos, he wrapped up his career firing just over a point-per-game clip, tallying 240 points.
Much like Bains, he entered the pro ranks as an undrafted free agent, but with the Anaheim Ducks organization. He kicked off his AHL career last year with 30 points in 60 games as a rookie skater, evenly divided between 15 goals and 15 assists.

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King is praised as a dependable two-way center, recognized for his reliability, leadership qualities and willingness to play a 200-foot game. He’s a dual-threat offensive contributor, capable of scoring goals from a distance or in tight, and has a career history of splitting his point totals right down the middle with goals and assists.
As a native of Vernon, BC, and a former scorched earth linemate of Bains, this feels like a match made in heaven.
Zion Nybeck
Position: LW
Age: 22
Height/Weight: 5’8, 183-lbs
Shoots: LW
Zion Nybeck may be small in stature, but that gets overshadowed by his speed and skill.
After spending some time in the SHL, the now 22-year-old has found a comfortable home in the Allsvenaksn, where he’s posted 89 points across 124 games in the past three seasons.
His quick hands and ability to maneuver in tight spaces make him a constant threat in the offensive zone. For the Canucks, adding a player like Nybeck injects much-needed speed and creativity into their forward group.
His skill is potent enough to be a game-breaker (so far, in Euro leagues), while his high-octane motor and tenacity are a welcome addition to the forecheck.
Small waterbug type, anyone?
Kaspar Simontaival
Position: LW
Age: 22
Shoots: Right
Okay, we have back-to-back smaller forwards here, as Kaspar Simontaival’s stands just 5-foot-9, 176-pounds.
But like Nybeck, he brings an intriguing offensive skillset to the table and has been playing amongst men for the last four or five years.
At just 22, he’s already carried a respectable career in Liiga, posting 71 points across 138 over the last three years as a 19-22 year old.

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Simontaival is renowned for his exceptional playmaking ability and on-ice vision. Although he must bulk up to handle the physicality of North American hockey, the offensive potential certainly checks off a few boxes.
Mats Lindgren
Position: LD
Height/Weight: 6’0, 183-lbs
Shoots: Left
Mats Lindgren, whom we have dubbed the “breakout machine,” has been an intriguing prospect throughout his four-year WHL tenure, split between the Kamloops Blazers and Red Deer Rebels. Renowned for his exceptional escapability and stylish breakouts, Lindgren possesses a smooth skating stride and adeptness in his transitional game.
With 129 points across 220 WHL games, his offence has been “okay”, but it’s his agility and vision that make him such an intriguing package.
With the Canucks seeking more dynamic defencemen, Lindgren stands out as an incredible puck mover with upside.
Of course, as a 19-year-old, Lindgren will likely join the 2024 draft pool, but we’d love to see the Canucks take a swing, whether it be as a signing or as a late-round pick.
Here is a great little video of what we mean by “breakout machine”.
At the end of the day, there is the reality that none of these players were deemed fit for their respective NHL clubs. So, should we expect high pedigree NHL upside? Probably not.
Yet, once again, we are faced with a list of worthy gambles to add to the depth chart in hopes of hitting a bullseye with some late-blooming potential.
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