Vancouver Canucks select defenceman Tom Willander with 11th overall pick

Photo credit:Photo courtesy Rögle BK
David Quadrelli
9 months ago
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There were some shakeups in the first round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and the Canucks had their choice of a few great players at 11th overall.
With forwards Oliver Moore and Zach Benson still on the board, the Canucks elected to go with Swedish right shot defenceman Tom Willander. In 39 games J20 games in Sweden this season, Willander put up 25 points (4 G, 31 A) in 39 games. He is set to join Boston University next year.
Here’s what various scouts said about Willander’s game:
Craig Button, TSN: “Tom Willander equals robust. That’s the way he plays the game. He does that in every single area of the game: defensively around his net, and certainly offensively. When I watch Tom Willander play, I see kind of a combination of Charlie McAvoy, Rasmus Andersson. Maybe not high-end offensive ability, but the ability to contribute in an elite fashion in every single area of the game. Those types of players drive play on your backend.”
Harman Dayal, The Athletic: “You can understand why Willander’s two-way skill set as a right-shot defender could appeal to the Canucks. He doesn’t have the highest upside as he lacks dynamic skill, playmaking and creativity, but it’s difficult to find RD that can skate, defend hard and move pucks well while also boasting above-average size, which will make him a coveted player.”
Lassi Alanen, Elite Prospects: “Some missed passing plays, lacking accuracy under pressure, but the raw skating ability was enough for him to create off the rush against weaker competition. A couple of really impressive moments of edgework near the point, too. At the moment, he doesn’t quite have the sense or the instincts to take full advantage of the tools, but with the right development staff, it should be teachable to a level where he can play in the NHL. The defensive projection remains a top-4 worthy given the skating, the physicality and the motor.”
David St-Louis, Elite Prospects: “It’s Willander’s motor that is his greatest asset. He’s hyper-energetic, hyper-pacey. He breaks the opposition through his work rate and mobility — by moving his feet so quickly that they can’t keep up. It’s not a translatable recipe, however. Willander will need to develop better offensive instincts. He makes the right plays, but it’s just that the base of his offensive game is using his tools to create an advantage and then find a way to leverage.”
As you may have read over at our live blog — which is still being updated — David Reinbacher and Dmitri Simashev going fifth and sixth overall respectively shook things up big time. Zach Benson slid out of the top ten to the surprise of many, and it will be interesting to see who falls out of the first round altogether.


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