The Vancouver Canucks need to trade into the second round

Photo credit:@Canucks on Twitter
Michael Liu
9 months ago
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The dust is only just settling around the first round, but our eyes are already on day two of the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville. With a quiet day on the trade front, the attention was focused on the draft board with a couple of surprising slides down the order and some interesting reaches for boom-or-bust potential.
With that comes a boon of talented youngsters in the second round. From this point forward, they are anything but guarantees to be full-time NHLers. In fact, only 34% of second-round picks go on to play over 100 NHL games. That percentage only grows smaller with each progressing round.
But the 2023 draft class is an intriguing one, heralded with a depth of talent not unlike the fabled 2003 class. And, with some of the prospects that have slipped into the second round range, there should be plenty of reasons for the Vancouver Canucks to look into trading for a 2nd round pick.
One of the biggest names still available is Kelowna Rocket and St. George’s School product Andrew Cristall. At one point, the winger was ranked in the top 15 and looked to be a lock as a first round pick. Obviously, that hasn’t happened, as the Vancouver native is still waiting for his name to come off the board. Cristall boasts first-round offensive upside, with an array of dynamism and creativity to get past defenders not only to score, but to perfectly set up his teammates for goals. There’s a heavy wrist shot to come along, as expected for someone with 39 goals, 56 assists and 95 points in the WHL.
There’s clearly talent there, but the reason why Cristall has slipped into the second round range is likely due to concerns around his size and skating. He’s listed as 5’10 and for his size, his edgework is great but the speed isn’t quite there, with shorter strides having been a hallmark of his junior career. Cristall’s top 6 potential is something that should absolutely be worth a flyer on though, even with a glut of wingers within the Canucks’ system. You can’t have enough lottery tickets.
Sticking with local products, Lukas Dragicevic is a RHD from Richmond, BC that’s projected to go in the top half of the second round. He’s a flashy, highly-skilled defenceman more in the mold of a Quinn Hughes, racking up 75 points in 68 games with the Tri-City Americans. The thing is, the defending part is very much a work in progress. Dragicevic spent a large chunk of his career as a forward and has only made the switch to defence in the last couple of years. It shows, as his defensive awareness and transition defence is very much a work in progress. However, the fact that Dragicevic is playing defence in the WHL shows that he’s capable of keeping up at a high level while adjusting to playing in a new position.
If he makes the NHL will depend on how much his defensive game improves. Dragicevic already has a well-polished offensive toolbox that basically makes him the fourth forward on the ice. A team needs to be confident that he will be able to improve in his own end, and there are some positive signs that Dragicevic can do it. If he puts it together, this is a top 4 defenceman based on his offensive production alone.
Ethan Gauthier is another projected first rounder that slipped out of the first day of the draft. The QMJHL doesn’t boast the best when it comes to top-end ability in the 2023 class, but make no mistake: the right-winger plays a heavy style that makes him a near perfect fit in any team’s middle-six. Gauthier boasts a high motor that’s complimented with his exceptional skating, allowing him to get to high-danger areas without much resistance. He’s able to glide around defenders and produce simple, effective offence.
Off the puck, Gauthier shows plenty of awareness of where to be and when. The intelligence to be in the right spot at the right times to capitalize make him a threat on offence without high-end finesse or skill. At the same time, Gauthier has shown himself to be a relentless forechecker, using his feet to hound the opposition into making a mistake and taking away space in the netural zone. Even if that offence doesn’t translate, Gauthier has more than enough tools to be a very solid checking line option.
A center that could help with organizational depth and have the potential to be a solid second line option is Riley Heidt, who was generally expected to go around the top 20 mark. The Prince George Cougar finished 5th in WHL scoring with 97 points in 68 games, while tying Connor Bedard in assists with 72. Heidt plays a shifty, smart game, constantly moving to get into open ice. His skating ability allows him to open up defenders with ease, using the space with excellent playmaking vision around him to set up his teammates. And, if Heidt can’t find a teammate, he’s more than capable of applying the finish himself with a nasty wrist shot.
A major concern for Heidt, and probably the reason why he slipped out of the first round, is due to his temperament. In the past two WHL postseasons, he’s received one-game suspensions, with this past one being a very illegal check to the head. Heidt has also disappeared at times when his team needed him most, not a good sign when he is often the team’s leading offensive producer. But, if Heidt can put it together between the ears, this is a very good second line option waiting to be uncovered.
What these players all have in common are some developable faults. What they also have in common is some clear NHL tools and potential, with the possibility of becoming top 6/top 4 options on good teams. These aren’t players that will be available when the Canucks pick next at 75th overall. These are also players that Vancouver could definitely take a flyer out on with a second round pick. The risk/reward of the players available to them is a chance more than worth taking.
This is just a couple of players that they could pick in the second round. Oscar Fisker Mølgaard, Gavin Brindley, Kasper Halltunen and Gracyn Sawchyn are all up there as well, with first round upside held back by some real concerns to their games. But, if you’re the Vancouver Canucks, these are players you want to be collecting and seeing if any of them make that step to the NHL. The value they could provide is tremendous as homegrown developed prospects.
But, it isn’t possible if they don’t acquire a second round pick. There may not be a better chances at finding a good NHL contributor in the second round than in this 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


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