A right-handed defenceman the Canucks could pick in every round of the 2023 NHL Draft

Photo credit:@david.reinbacher on IG
Noah Strang
10 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks enter this offseason with a few huge holes across their organizational depth chart. Most glaring is the right side of the defence group, an area where the Canucks have lacked stability in recent years. Not only has the team been unable to find a consistent partner for Quinn Hughes, but depth has been lacking as well.
This need was partially addressed with the midseason acquisition of Filip Hronek. While he only got to play in four games for Vancouver this season due to injury issues, Hronek is the most established right-handed defenceman the Canucks have had since Chris Tanev and will be relied upon heavily in all situations.
While the Hronek trade brought a legitimate top-four option to the west coast, it also showed how expensive it is to acquire NHL-caliber RHD. These players carry a lot of value and are one of the toughest assets to pry away from other teams. That’s why rebuilding the positon group needs to start in the draft where the Canucks can identify and develop talent without paying a premium.
With six picks in the first four rounds of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks have the draft capital to significantly bolster their prospect pool. Adding at least one, if not two right-handed defencemen with these picks would be ideal. While the top of the draft board is dominated by forwards, there are a lot of intriguing defence prospects available later.
Here is a right-handed defenceman that the Canucks could target in each round of the draft.

Round 1 – David Reinbacher, NL (Switzerland)

18 years old, 6’2″, 187 pounds
Reinbacher is the consensus top defenceman in the draft and will make whichever team drafts him very happy. The 6’2″ Austrian-born defenceman has 22 points in 46 games across the Swiss National League this year.  He’s very well rounded and while he doesn’t wow with offensive skills like Quinn Hughes or beat opponents up with brute strength, there aren’t a lot of obvious weaknesses to his game either.
With a long stick and solid skating ability, Reinbacher is great at disrupting oncoming rushes. His ability to play big minutes in a men’s league as a teenager also speaks to the maturity in his play.

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The lack of any glaring issues in his game means that it’s not too hard to see him making the jump to the NHL within a few years. He’s been climbing draft boards over the course of 2023 and is projected to go somewhere in the 7-12 range by many outlets at the moment. With the lack of a true franchise defenceman in this draft, a team hungry for blueline help might decide to jump on Reinbacher early.

Draft picks in this round: 1 – Canucks

Round 2 – Tom Willander, J20 Nationell

18 years old, 6’1″, 179 pounds
For all the teams that miss out on Reinbacher, there are quite a few solid alternative options that will go in the late first or second round. One of those is Tom Willander, a Swedish defenceman that played in the u20 league in that country this year. He managed to put up four goals and 21 assists at that level, and he also played two games in the SHL.
Willander is a strong skater and good in his own zone. He has the perfect combination of agility and size to matchup well against all types of forwards. When watching Willander play, his ability to transition laterally and shut down opponents stands out. He’s not laying a ton of devastating hits but he is effective at separating oncoming forwards from the puck with his stick and body position.
He’s committed to play at Boston University next season. Playing in the NCAA will let Willander transition to the smaller ice and learn to play a slightly different style of hockey.

Draft picks in this round: 0

Round 3 – Matthew Mania, OHL

18 years old, 6’0″, 187 pounds
Matthew Mania played for the Sudbury Wolves this season, scoring 38 points across 67 games. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, Mania impresses with his on-ice composure and ability to handle the puck, often responsible for many breakouts that lead to valuable offence, even if he isn’t directly credited in the box score.
Mania really improved as the season went on and showed scouts that he has the puck skills and passing ability to be a contributor from the backend. He should be a leader for the Wolves next season and one of the top producing defencemen across the OHL.
He also has one of the best names in the draft, making him an excellent addition to any team.

Draft picks in this round: 2 – Canucks and Maple Leafs

Round 4 – Matteo Mann, QMJHL

18 years old, 6’5″, 225 pounds
Matteo Mann is one of the most interesting defence prospects available this summer. He’s an absolute mountain of a person at 6’5″ and 225 pounds. Despite being just 18 years old, he would already be one of the largest players on the Canucks.
Mann brings a very specific skillset to the table. He had just five assists and no goals in the QMJHL this season. This is not a player that you’re drafting with the hope that he’s going to be on a powerplay unit one day. Instead, Mann is a very effective defender through the use of his physicality and long stick.
The question for a player of this size is always going to be skating. While Mann doesn’t have crazy high-end speed, he is mobile enough to picture a future as a third-pairing or depth defenceman in the mold of Luke Schenn. This would be an interesting pick as Mann has a very one-sided game at this point in his development, however, the Canucks could use a physical, shutdown option.

Draft picks in this round: 3 – Canucks, Red Wings, and Rangers

Round 5 – Chase Cheslock, HS and USHL

18 years old, 6’3″, 205 pounds
Chase Cheslock is an intruging prospect that the Canucks could turn to later in the draft. Central Scouting ranked him 99th among North American skaters in its year-end list. During the 2022-23 season, he played for a variety of teams at different levels, making him more difficult to evaluate as a prospect. However, the first thing that stands out with Cheslock is that he’s 6’3″ and over 200 pounds at 18 years old.
Cheslock played 28 games, the majority of his season, for Rogers High School in Minnesota this year. He won the Reed Larson Award as the state’s top defenceman and has now committed to play for the University of St Thomas next year in the NCAA. Cheslock also played 13 games for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL, recording five points.
While he has the big body, that’s a useless attribute if you don’t know how to use it. Chesley can effectively use his size to boxout opponents and does so to control the defensive zone. He’s also shown some offensive pop at lower levels, though it remains to be seen how that translates against tougher competition.

Draft picks in this round: 0

Round 6 – Nikita Ishimnikov, MHL

17 years old, 6’3″, 194 pounds
Nikita Ishimnikov has played 41 games in the MHL (the top junior hockey league in Russia) this season, scoring 11 goals and recording 7 assists for a total of 18 points. He’s still just 17 years old but will turn 18 in a few days on April 21st and made three appearances in the VHL, the second-division men’s league in Russia. Ishimnikov was ranked 43rd among international skaters by Central Scouting.
He’s shown off a strong shot that can beat goalies cleanly from all over the offensive zone. Just take a look at the example below where he steps up and wires one home under the crossbar.
In 7 playoff games, Ishimnikov took his production up another level as he scored two goals and had four assists, coming in just under a point per game. His team was eventually eliminated just before the quarter-finals. The bracket is now in the finals and he still ranks eighth among all MHL defencemen in playoff points.

Draft picks in this round: 1 – Canucks

Round 7 – Djibril Toure, QMJHL

19 years old, 6’7″, 203 pounds
If you’re looking for size on the blueline, Djibril Toure is your man. With Quinn Hughes penciled into the lineup for the foreseeable future and Jack Rathbone potentially grabbing a spot as well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Canucks to add another 6’7″ defenceman.
Toure packages together an intriguing combination of nasty and nice. His skating ability is very strong for a defenceman of his size in a similar way to current Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers. Unlike Myers, Toure also has a physical side that can strike fear in opponents, even if he does spend a decent amount of time in the penalty box as a result.
Toure has not followed the traditional route to becoming an NHL prospect. He played last season in the Central Canadian Hockey League and there are still major question marks surrounding his game. In addition, he was born in 2003, almost two full years before some of the other names on this list, but as a 7th-round flyer Toure does offer a lot of interesting characteristics.

Draft picks in this round: 0

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