Continuing with my series on Canadian NHL team prospects, today I take a look at some of the developing players in the Vancouver Canucks‘ system as well as how their draft board shapes up over the next three seasons.
The Canucks have seven selections in the 2023 draft. Their first-round pick is destined to be a lottery pick and Vancouver should get a future impact player with it.
The two third round picks give them flexibility. They can sit tight with both or, if they like a player on their list, make a call to a team on the draft floor and offer the picks to move up and get the prospect they covet most in the second round.
Having three picks in the fourth round is a bonus.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, FWD
The Canucks’ first round pick from last summer (15th overall) suffered a foot injury at the beginning of February. He’s listed as out for the season.
Before that, Lekkerimaki’s season was underwhelming overall. Having said that, his last 10-game segment before sustaining his injury (in practice) was his most productive. He had scored three goals and five assists over those 10 games. His ice time also spiked to a season-high 17:02 in his last game before injury. All of his time on ice comes at even strength and the power play.
When Lekkerimaki is playing to his identity he contributes on the power play and can be a threat to score from distance. He has an excellent release and the ability to one-time pucks from the weak side flank. He’s the kind of player who finds another gear off the rush when he sniffs an opportunity to get pucks to the net.
What I’m most concerned about is his lack of willingness to get involved in the middle of the ice in the offensive zone, or initiate battle (primary or secondary) along the boards. He’s an average defender, at best, so he needs to push his limits offensively every time he hits the ice. He was starting to show more engagement, but the first several months of his year concerned me a great deal. To say he was playing shy is an understatement. Hopefully his last segment of games is a positive starting point for him to reflect upon at the start of next season.
Projection: Second Line/Leaning Third Line/First PP NHL Forward – Trending Flat
Elias Pettersson, D
The Canucks’ third round pick (80th overall) last summer is having a steady season playing for Orebro in Sweden’s SHL. In a recent 10-game segment he produced five assists. He’s a big body defender (6-foot-3, 187 pounds) who gets in the lane and uses his long reach to keep opponents to the perimeter. Pettersson is a very good skater. He has a deep knee bend that results in a powerful stride out of the gate and his edges are very sound. There is no question he can skate at NHL pace.
Pettersson was being used on the penalty kill earlier in the season, but over the same 10-game segment mentioned above, he was not used in that role. He doesn’t see any time on the power play.
He’s capable with the puck. He plays within himself. His low-risk approach results in “safe” outlets. He leans distributor more than shooter in the offensive zone.
I’m impressed with the uptick in Pettersson’s overall game. He is best described as a two-way defenceman who will, occasionally, provide some secondary offence. I especially appreciate how he is managing his game at this stage of the season. He’s reliable.
Projection: No. 5/ Potentially No. 4 / Two-Way NHL Defenceman – Trending Up
Here’s a look at some other Canucks prospects and their projection:
Projection on Jurmo: A No. 6 or possibly No. 5 NHL defenceman
Projection on Truscott: Recall NHL Defenceman
Projection on McDonough: Recall NHL Forward
Projection on Bloom: 13th NHL Forward
With the exception of Lekkerimaki, this group of Canucks prospects has improved and appears to be tracking in a positive direction. They don’t, however, appear to be players who will move the needle much at the top of the Canucks lineup. The team will need to hit on their first round pick in the upcoming draft, and hopefully (at least) one of their thirds.
The issue with Vancouver is that they don’t yet have a ton of prospect depth. They are relying on these players to develop and have an impact in the next few years. At the AHL level they are going to need players like Nils Hoglander to find his way back to the NHL team, as well as Danila Klimovich to take a step forward this off-season. Goaltender Arturs Silovs looks like he has a chance to be an NHL goalie, but requires more volume at the minor league level.
One note: Aidan Mcdonough is a graduating senior at Northeastern. He has the choice to sign with the Canucks at the conclusion of his season, or wait until the summer (August 15 specifically) to become a free agent and sign with another NHL team.