Now locked in at 11th overall, should the Canucks still draft BPA, or is it “BCDA” for them?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
We’re sure you’ve heard by now that the 2023 Draft Lottery did not go in the Vancouver Canucks’ favour.
In fact, it may have been a worst-case scenario outcome, with the top-two draft picks being awarded to the evil empire in Chicago and a divisional rival on the rise in Anaheim. But the Canucks only ever had a 3% chance of winning, anyway, and ultimately wound up staying in the original spot afforded them by their finish in the standings: the 11th overall selection.
We’ve been hearing for a few years now that the 2023 Draft Class was going to be a special one. As the draft date has moved closer and closer, however, the class has increasingly been described as “top-heavy,” with the general perception being that the top four or five picks are of the sort that might go first overall in an ordinary draft year.
Way back in the double-digits, the Canucks aren’t going to get a crack at any of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, or Leo Carlsson. Those franchise-altering talents will all be long gone. But the mere presence of those players in the draft should have a shuffling-down effect on all the rest of the prospects up for grabs.
With four 1OA-worthy players up top, a team might draft a player at 5OA that would go in the top-three in an ordinary year. They might draft a player at 9OA who should have gone in the top-five.
And at 11th overall? The Canucks should still walk out of this draft with a prospect they would have normally had to finish in the absolute basement to have ever had a chance of selecting.
In other words, this draft pick is as important as any in recent memory, and it’s vital that the Canucks nail it if their retool is ever going to turn into a retooled.
And what makes their upcoming decision all the more difficult is that ol’ time-tested debate of whether to draft the “best player available” or to draft for team need.
Drafting the “BPA” is generally the accepted wisdom in this sport. Teams are best built through the draft, and sometimes the draft is the perfect place to find that “missing piece,” but most players selected each year will take at least a couple of seasons before making an impact at the NHL level. By that point, a team’s needs could drastically change, which would make them feel pretty foolish for drafting based on now-outdated needs. As well, there’s always the risk of a draft pick busting, and that’s mitigated by always just picking the player one thinks will be most successful in the NHL, period, as opposed to trying to slot them into some imaginary future lineup.
All that being said, BPA might not be the way to go for the Canucks this year. It might be more like “BCDA” for them, or “Best Centre or Defence Available.”
As in, just don’t draft another winger (or goalie, but that’s another story).
Organizationally-speaking, the Canucks are loaded up to the brim with wingers. On the roster already, they’ve got Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, Anthony Beauvillier, Vasily Podkolzin, Vitali Kravtsov, Dakota Joshua, and more.
Then waiting in the wings, they’ve got last year’s 15th overall selection Jonathan Lekkerimaki at the head of a list of prospects that includes Danila Klimovich, Arshdeep Bains, Aidan McDonough, and Lucas Forsell. Each of the five fits neatly within the Canucks’ top-ten list of future assets.
And let’s not forget about Nils Höglander!
The Canucks have wingers for days, and for days to come.
Compare that with the organizational depth at centre, where the Canucks have Elias Pettersson and JT Miller at the NHL level, Nils Åman as a potential long-term bottom-six option, and top overall prospect Aatu Räty, but that’s about it. Sure, there’s Linus Karlsson and Max Sasson to consider, but they’re more of the longshot variety.
And especially compare that wing depth with the organization’s depth, or lack thereof, on defence. There, the Canucks have Quinn Hughes, Filip Hronek, and maybe Ethan Bear, and then a big collection of pieces without much of a long-term NHL future. Their top prospects on the back-end are Akito Hirose and Filip Johansson, two free agent signings, and the perpetually-on-the-cusp Jack Rathbone.
It’s a much smaller, and much less impressive collection of players.
We’ll touch on goaltending here, but only briefly. Drafting a goalie as high as 11th overall is generally considered to be a questionable use of assets, as great goaltenders seem to be able to come from every round of the draft, and beyond. For the Canucks, who have Thatcher Demko locked into place and Arturs Silovs progressing well, it would be even less of a wise decision. And with no exceptionally high-ranked goalies in the 2023 Draft Class, it’s a moot point anyway.
So, the choice comes down to a winger, a centre, or a defender.
If Vancouver picks a winger at 11th overall, that player almost immediately has their pathway onto the roster blocked, or at least jammed up significantly. They add to a position of strength, sure, but there’s also the possibility of having too much of a good thing. At the end of the day, there’s only ever room for four wingers in the top-six and four in the bottom-six on an NHL roster. Yes, it’s always possible for the Canucks to sell off excess assets at a future time, but then wingers are typically considered to be the least-valuable position in the NHL, trade-wise.
Compare that with a drafted centre, who basically just needs to beat out Räty and Åman to have an immediate future with the Canucks and who could easily be considered the heir-apparent to an aging Miller.
And especially compare that with a drafted defender, who at 11th overall would instantly become the Canucks’ best blueline prospect by a big country mile, and who would probably start being touted as a franchise saviour the second their name was announced.
So, it’s BCDA for the Canucks in 2023, right?
Well, hold those horses for just another second.
Any player drafted outside of the top-three in any given draft can probably be expected to be at least a couple seasons away from making an NHL impact. Are the Canucks dead-certain they won’t be in need of wingers by that point?
Boeser, Garland, and/or Beauvillier could be out the door as early as this offseason. Kuzmenko’s extension only lasts two years. Kravtsov might be back in Russia by then. Lekkerimaki had a wildly up-and-down Draft+1 season, and every prospect behind him in the rankings is an even longer shot.
There is a possibility that the Canucks don’t look nearly as strong on the wings by 2025 as they do right now, which means there is a possibility that they do need the kind of winger they could select at 11th overall in this particular draft.
But that’s only a possible future need. Centres and defenders are a definite future need, as well as a present need. And if the Canucks really find themselves in need of more wingers in the years to come, then, like we said, they always seem to be cheaper to acquire than players at any other position.
So, yes, barring anything absolutely unexpected like Michkov slipping all the way down to 11th, the Canucks should be drafting the Best Centre or Defence Available in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Hopefully, said player winds up being the BPA anyway.
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