Each Vancouver Canucks defence prospect’s top development priority for the 2023-24 season

Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber
10 months ago
Time to take a step back and discuss the defence prospects of the Vancouver Canucks and what we would like to see each of them focus on developing for the 2023-24 season.
We talked about the forwards yesterday, you can read that article HERE.
Let’s dive right in.
Akito Hirose, 24, LD, Abbotsford/Vancouver Canucks (AHL/NHL)
Akiro Hiros may be at the later stages of development in his prospect lifespan but what we want to see next season is the continuation of his strong passing ability. He did a good job making outlet passes last season and did it all with a cigarette-in-the-mouth a la Chris Tanev type of chill.
We’re not sure about his NHL future but his base is already at the level of being a call-up option. If he can continue to develop his breakouts through passing or skating, that would be big. Some time in the AHL as the top minute-muncher will be good for the kid who just wrapped up his NCAA career in March.
Elias Pettersson, 19, LD, Örebro (SHL)
We’ve been damn impressed with the early stages of development in D-Petey’s game. He has already improved his physicality and is playing tough against men as a teenager in the SHL.
What we want to see be focused on for development this season is his ability to handle the puck in the defensive zone and grow his confidence in the ability to be a one-man breakout. Elias Pettersson has good puck skills, stop me if you’ve heard that before but he certainly can be more consistent in his own zone when it comes to moving the puck. He’s a better puck-handler in the offensive zone right now but he will need to improve his breakouts to have success in North America. The extra ice in the SHL gives him a great platform to work on his puck-moving ability from his own zone. The big ice is a huge reason why we like the SHL for defencemen to develop.
Jackson Dorrington, 19, LD, Northeastern (NCAA)
The Canucks are calling him the “human eraser,” and they aren’t too far off here.
Jackson Dorrington is a big and strong defenceman who skates at an above-average pace.
We’d like to see him continue to develop basically everything that a defenceman needs to do during a penalty kill. Dorrington was eating shorthanded minutes with Northeastern in his freshman year last season and we expect him to be doing the same but even more during the 2023-24 season. Being able to combine his physicality with good stick-checking will be huge. Next year, we will ask for puck-moving ability but let’s see him cook on his strengths this season.
Jacob Truscott, 21, LD, Michigan (NCAA)
Before an injury ended his 2022-23 season early, Jacob Truscott was starting to show some offence and that’s what we’d like to see this coming season.
Our expectation is that Truscott will sign with the Canucks at the conclusion of the 2023-24 NCAA season and he will jump right in with the Abbotsford Canucks. Truscott has worked hard at becoming a reliable penalty killer and even-strength defender over his past three seasons with Michigan. Now, he is the captain of the Wolverines and will be looked at to bring leadership on the team’s top pairing.
Michigan no longer has Owen Power or Luke Hughes on the backend to provide offence. Truscott will get some power play time but we want to see him develop some better skills at the blue line and potentially even improve his shot a bit so that he can fit in when he makes the jump to pro hockey.
Joni Jurmo, 21, LD, Ilves (Liiga)
A lot of the talk about Joni Jurmo is about his hockey sense. He has all the physical gifts to be an NHL defenceman one day but the ability to process the game has been a problem in his last few seasons in Liiga.
We want to see this kid develop some legitimate confidence with the puck on his stick. He’s got some flash and believes in himself a lot but you don’t see the confidence translate to how he plays with the puck on his stick. Jurmo needs to let it rip in Liiga this year and become a top-four defenceman. That won’t happen without true confidence in his own ability. We hope that his new coach will help with the development of true self-confidence.
Kirill Kudryavtsev, 19, LD, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Simply developing his defensive skills is what we want form Kirill Kudryavtsev. He’s aggressive but could use some more strength. It’s more about him developing his body more than anything right now. The hockey stuff seems to be in a good place for him. He should be a top-scoring defenceman in the OHL this season.
Sawyer Mynio, 18, LD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Added minutes are coming to Sawyer Mynio this season and we want to see him be better with the puck on his stick at even-strength. Mynio is a penalty kill specialist and we will see him play a lot of shorthanded minutes this season.
We want to see more confidence with his breakouts but also his ability to look more dangerous in the offensive zone this season. He’s climbing the ranks of Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman and will be asked to more offensively this season.
Hugo Gabrielson, 20, Västerviks (Allsvenskan)
Just get back to being a contributor. Last season was a tough one for Hugo Gabrielson as he was coming off of shoulder surgery in the summer.
He’s healthy now and is already off to a hot start in the Allsvenskan preseason. Developing an identity is what we want this season.
Aiden Celebrini, 18, RD, Boston University (NCAA)
Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say here. We liked Aiden Celebrini at Canucks development camp and want to see him fight for games at BU this season. We will circle back later in the year about him but just need to see him play in NCAA action before making a judgement because the AJHL is just so tough to read, especially when you’re on the Brooks Bandits.
Cole McWard, 22, RD, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
There were some flashes last season where Cole McWard drew our intrigue and there were also times where we thought that he could use a lot of developing on his defensive play.
That’s what we are looking for next season as he is likely to begin the year in the AHL. McWard will be tested against some strong AHLers and we want to see him be able to continue to play physically but do it under control and be able to utilize his stick better in board battles.
Hunter Brzustewicz, 18, RD, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
As much as he’s an offensive defenceman, the defensive side has impressed us in the games we’ve watched since he was selected by the Canucks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Hunter Brzustewicz kills penalties and plays power play quarterback as well. We want to see him continue to grow his confidence while basically just focusing on raising the floor on every part of his game. When a prospect is 18, just developing skills in general and picking up things from playing games is often the hope we have.
Tom Willander, 18, RD, Boston University (NCAA)
As the Canucks’ top prospect, Tom Willander will have a lot of eyes on him this season.
His skating is something that will continue to develop as he gets bigger and stronger but what we want to see develop is the ability to use his skating to force pressure in the offensive zone. This kid has the ability to circle the zone in the NCAA and tire out his opponents before making a pass to the high-danger areas or even taking the shot himself. Defensively, there will be improvement needed before he gets to the NHL but in his freshman season with BU, we want to see him find even more confidence in his skating ability and be able to flex it a bit.
We will also be keeping a close eye on how he is as a defender but for this season, let’s see him do what he does best and skate the living hell out of the puck.
Viktor Persson, 21, RD/LD, Pelicans (Liiga)
Viktor Persson just needs to play.
We want to see him develop a lot of things but it’s going to take ice time.
His skating is good, his defending and puck skills have taken a dip since he joined Liiga, he needs to work on developing everything aside from skating.
Jett Woo, 23, RD, Abbotsford/Vancouver Canucks (AHL/NHL)
Skating and puck-moving is what Jett Woo needs to continue developing this season.
He has done a good job developing his physicality over his time in the AHL and now just needs to be quicker with his feet in the neutral zone and more specifically, when he’s defending the rush. There were flashes of improvement last season throughout the season but it would be nice to see him be a trustworthy defender on a nightly basis. He’s close to that but if he can without a doubt be a defender you trust every night, he will get into NHL games next season.
Woo signed a one-year contract extension this summer, so there’s internal and external pressure for him to perform this season.
That’s it, folks! I’m not going to do the goalies. They just need to make more saves.

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