After trading away their first-round pick for the second consecutive season, the Vancouver Canucks have a prospect pipeline that is looking very barren. Many of their most exciting young players have already graduated to playing professional hockey and the lack of standout prospects is worrying for a team that has yet to prove themselves as contenders.
To make up for their lack of draft capital, the Canucks took a more aggressive approach in the recent NHL draft. Drafting Danila Klimovich with the 41st pick is a slight reach if you go by many public rankings, however, he’s the type of prospect that could put all his tools together and turn into a star, or never find his way and fizzle out of the league. While that is technically true of any hockey prospect, Klimovich is an example of the Canucks picking prospects that are generally considered to have lower floors and higher ceilings than many others available at their selection.
To supplement their middling prospect group, the Canucks should be aggressive in adding undrafted free agents. This year was a weird one with scouts being forced to evaluate prospects in different ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it makes sense that many good prospects may have slipped through the cracks. Even in normal years, there are always a few diamonds in the rough to be found. Troy Stecher, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Bozak, and Mark Giordano are just a few of the many different undrafted players that are making an impact in the NHL today.
Here are a few players that didn’t hear their names called at the 2021 NHL draft but who could still make an impact for the Canucks down the road.
Trevor Wong, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
2021 Stats: 16 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 16 PTS
Trevor Wong is listed at just 5’8″ and 154 pounds so you can understand why NHL teams might be hesitant about drafting him. However, Wong doesn’t let his size stop him from putting up points and being effective on the ice. He scored at a point-per-game clip during this past WHL season (which was truncated due to COVID-19), a rate that was good enough to lead the Kelowna Rockets in scoring.
Wong was even someone that our own Chris Faber outlined as a potential option for the Canucks with their second-round pick, the one that they ended up using on Klimovich. Many were surprised that no team was willing to take a flyer on the undersized forward but expect Wong to be a sought-after player for development camps. CHL-affiliated players are allowed to sign NHL entry-level contracts as free agents as 18 and 19 year-olds.
He is from the Vancouver area so the Canucks might have an advantage in attracting Wong. It would be well worth getting him involved in the organization as he is one of the better bets of the undrafted players to turn into an NHLer.
Dimitri Katelevsky, F, Bars Kazan (VHL)
2021 Stats: 43 GP, 7 G, 9 A, 16 PTS
While the Canucks did a good job of targeting players with big upsides, the risk that they took is that none of those players turn out and the Canucks could be left with nothing to show from this draft. That’s why adding a player that has shown more translatable skills is a smart idea.
When scouts describe Dimitri Katelevsky’s game, one word that is often used is “mature”. He’s responsible defensively and uses his motor to disrupt the plans of his opposition. FCHockey ranked him as their number 59 player available in the draft and while that was slightly higher than most, others such as EliteProspects and DobberProspects had him inside their top 90.
Adding Katelevsky to their prospect pool would give the Canucks a player that seems likely to be able to play some of those physical minutes in the future. At the least, he would be a welcome addition to an Abbotsford team that would surely appreciate his two-way game.
Sebastian Jasecko, D, HC Slovan Usti nad Labem (Czech2)
2020-21 Stats: 9 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS
One of the more intriguing potential invites to a development camp would be defenceman Sebastian Jasecko. He’s tall (6’4) and put up very strong offensive numbers while playing against men this past season. While the small sample size must be addressed as a huge caveat to the hype, there is no harm in inviting a player like this to a camp and seeing what they are made of.
There isn’t an abundance of teenagers that can hold their own in any men’s league and even fewer that can manage to put up this level of scoring as a defenceman. Maybe it is simply a case of a small sample size but evaluating prospects is always going to be placing bets and Jasecko is as good a bet as any.
Jacob Guévin, D, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
2020-21 Stats: 53 GP, 7 G, 38 A, 45 PTS
Guévin is another defenceman that put up strong point totals this season. His ability to create offensive chances in transition as well as in the offensive zone should have NHL teams interested. Guévin also found success on the powerplay where he was able to showcase his passing skills as well as his strong Hockey IQ.
While he may be smaller — he’s currently listed at 5’11” and 181 lbs — and not possess the physicality that NHL teams want to see from their defencemen, the league continues to trend towards more skilled players. This means that in the future we could see more of a role for a guy like Guévin whose strengths are what the modern game appreciates.
An invite to camp would allow the Canucks to take a better look at Guévin and see if his weaknesses could be mitigated.
Which prospect would you like to see the Canucks invite to their development camp this offseason?