Report: Vancouver Canucks “very high” on Swedish defence prospect Tom Willander
Photo credit:Photo courtesy Rögle BK
By Mike Gould3 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks are “very high” on 2023 NHL Draft-eligible defenceman Tom Willander, Vancouver hockey insider Rick Dhaliwal reported Monday.
Willander, 18, collected 25 points in 39 games with Rögle BK in Sweden’s top U20 league during the 2022–23 season. The six-foot-one defender, who shoots right, added a goal and three assists in six playoff contests with the club and also collected eight points in seven games with Team Sweden at the U18 World Championship.
In contrast to most players of his age from Sweden, Willander is set to come over to North America immediately after his draft year to play for Boston University in the NCAA. With the Terriers, there’s a chance he could play on a pairing with high-flying (and small-statured) lefty Lane Hutson, who set Hockey East on fire as a freshman in 2022–23.
Daily Faceoff‘s Steven Ellis placed Willander in the No. 30 spot on his most recent rankings ahead of the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft. The Canucks currently possess the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft but aren’t slated to select again until No. 75, having traded their 2023 second-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings as part of the Filip Hronek deal.
Earlier this week, The Athletic‘s Harman Dayal reported that Willander was one of the draft-eligible prospects the Canucks took out to dinner during the recent NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo. Dayal also listed forwards Nate Danielson and Colby Barlow as first-round targets who dined with the team.
The Canucks haven’t selected a defenceman with a first-round pick since they took Quinn Hughes with the No. 7 pick in 2018. Before that, it was Olli Juolevi (No. 5 in 2016), Luc Bourdon (No. 10 in 2005), and Bryan Allen (No. 4 in 1998). On the whole, the Canucks have been far more inclined to take forwards in the first round.
It remains to be seen whether the Canucks will stay at No. 11 or attempt to recoup a second-round pick by trading down. Willander may end up being attainable closer to the middle of the first round, even if he’s one of the first two or three defencemen selected this year.
The first round of the 2023 NHL Draft is slated to take place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on June 28.
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