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Predicting the Vancouver Canucks’ 2023 first round pick from most to least likely

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Photo credit:Photo courtesy Rögle BK
Isabella Urbani
1 year ago
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Oh, baby. This is it. After a year of scouting reports, and a month of providing draft coverage here at CanucksArmy, the day has arrived. It’s the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. By the end of the day, the Canucks will have seven new players added to its prospect pool, although all eyes will be on the Canucks’ 11th pick in the first round of the draft. 
For a few weeks now, there’s been some speculation about who the Canucks will use their 11th pick on. Out of the speculation, spurred on by a series of dinners, five players emerged: some more realistic than others. On the more fantastical end was LW Zach Benson. Unlikely to drop to number 11, the dinner was most likely the Canucks’ attempt to familiarize and introduce themselves to the BC-born product. Another BC player the Canucks met with was UConn Husky, Matthew Wood. Projected to be taken 16th overall by Elite Prospects, this year’s youngest NCAA player is a more viable option than Benson for the Canucks, but just as likely to be taken early. The Canucks notably only took out one OHL player in LW Colby Barlow, who certainly is a tantalizing prospect with his unique combination of skill and strength. However, aside from the dinners, all three of these prospects haven’t garnered much attention. 
It’s WHL centre Nate Danielson and RD Tom Willander who has held most of the chatter. 
The Canucks’ appeal in Willander isn’t a surprise. He’s Swedish and a defenceman. Do I need to say anything more? Willander’s 23th overall projection doesn’t fully account for his second-half rise this season. Because Willander was a late riser and wasn’t supposed to be a highly sought-after draft pick at the start of the season, he didn’t end up as close to the top of the list as his national team partner, 15th overall projection Axel Sandin Pellikka, although the general consensus is that Willander will now be taken beforehand. 
Heading into this draft, defensemen were the number one priority for the Canucks. If not for the incredibly deep forward class this draft year, the Canucks would almost certainly be drafting a defenceman. That being said, Danielson, projected 26th overall, was more of a surprise among the prospects the Canucks took an interest in. The last time the Canucks used their first-round selection on a WHL player was in 2014 for Jake Virtanen. Since then, they’ve steered clear of the WHL and CHL in general, minus Olli Juolevi, who once again wasn’t a good selection for the team. 
It’s however no surprise the Canucks are looking for centres. Their last first-round drafted centre was Elias Pettersson in 2017. Before him was Bo Horvat in 2013. Danielson is much more like Horvat of the two. His defence is as potent as his offence, which is what a centre should be. But with how skilled the league has become, it’s a lot harder to differentiate between wingers and centres. They’re basically synonyms. One just happens to take faceoffs. Danielson is not going to be a top producer, but he’ll be in the middle of the pack. Danielson, much to his credit, has carved ice time for himself by becoming a useful addition on both the powerplay and penalty kill, which has been an increased trend in the NHL. 
Willander and Danielson may be two of the frontrunners for the Canucks’ 11th pick. But what about the others? What about the prospects we spent a month covering? 
It may not be Faber’s DAWG rating, but here’s a tier list of which players it will likely come down to later today. This list, of course, is dependent on who gets taken before the Canucks’ pick, and reflects both on the logistics of the selection and what the Canucks think of them. 
Most to least likely: 
Get your wallet ready (for a jersey): Nate Danielson, Tom Willander, Dmitri Simashev.
Backup reserve: David Reinbacher, Matthew Wood, Colby Barlow, Zach Benson (unlikely to be available).
Good, can’t complain: Axel Sandin Pellikka, Dalibor Dvorský.
Not a lot of thoughts: Matvei Michkov (unlikely to be available), Calum Ritchie, Oliver Moore (unlikely to be available), Quentin Musty, Samuel Honzek, Ryan Leonard (unlikely to be available), Gracyn Sawchyn, Brayden Yager.
Obviously, these aren’t set rankings. You could go ahead and move Reinbacher to the top group, and move Benson down, and it wouldn’t really make a whole lot of a difference. Based on this list, the Canucks look like they’ll draft a defenseman, but once again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take a forward. They really like Danielson. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they took Wood — that’s another name that keeps popping up. Because the Canucks aren’t near the top of the board, it’s hard to narrow down who specifically they’ll pick. We have an idea of who that may be, but we won’t really know, and neither will the Canucks, until this evening. Either way, this draft class is full of extremely talented players. One way or another, the Canucks will strengthen their team in some regard — whether that be on the front or back end.
Plus, this year’s draft is already old news. Let’s prematurely talk about next year’s draft class, shall we?

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