For the first time in two years, the Vancouver Canucks will have a first-round pick and for the sixth time in eight years, they will have a top-ten pick. From those first rounds, they have come away with Bo Horvat (2013), Jake Virtanen (2014), Olli Juolevi (2016), Elias Pettersson (2017), Quinn Hughes (2018), and Vasily Podkolzin (2019). All but one have them have played an NHL game and three of them are leading the charge into the next generation. I would say that’s pretty good drafting over the last few years.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
As for the later rounds, the Canucks have gotten lucky there too with names like Nils Hoglander (2019), Jack Rathbone (2017), Michael DiPietro (2017), Kole Lind (2017), Jonah Gadjovich (2017), and Thatcher Demko (2014) all either making the NHL or showing NHL potential. Again, a pretty good track record over the last few drafts.
Now as we enter the 2021 version of the festivities, the Canucks are ready to add to that impressive group with seven more names. That is if they don’t end up trading some of them in the next day or so.
Canucks 2021 Draft Picks
Here are the draft picks the Canucks have in their arsenal as of this writing:
- First round – 9th overall
- Second round – 41st overall
- Fifth round – 137th overall
- Fifth round – 140th overall
- Sixth round – 169th overall
- Sixth round – 178th overall
- Seventh round – 201st overall
After the first two rounds, general manager Jim Benning and company will have to wait until the fifth round to select again as they traded their third and fourth-round picks to the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks respectively. Their third-rounder got them future third-line center Jason Dickinson so that basically makes it a win already. As for the other picks, we will just have to wait a few seasons to see if the second draft without uber-scout Judd Brackett bears the same fruit as 2020 when they selected promising prospects Jacob Truscott, Dmitry Zlodeyev, and Viktor Persson.
What the Canucks Need
Holding the 9th and 41st overall picks this year, Benning will add two players who should make an impact on the Canucks one day. The first two rounds are full of prospects with intriguing potential. From forwards to goaltenders, he should have the pick of the litter when it comes time to make his picks. That being said, there are a couple of positions that should be at the top of his draft board.
Blue Chip Centerman
For the second draft in a row, the Canucks will be looking to strengthen its pipeline at center ice. They may have some potential NHLers in Carson Focht, Arvid Costmar, and Dmitri Zlodeyev, but all of them project to be third or fourth line pivots. What they need is a sure-fire NHL prospect that will make a difference in the top six. With Bo Horvat aging and Elias Pettersson quickly entering his prime, they will need that next wave very soon.
Defencemen with Top-Four Potential (Preferably Right Handed)
The Canucks really only have one bonified blue-chip defensive prospect, and his last name starts with an “R”. Once he plays a full season with them in 2021-22, the pool drops off significantly. After Jett Woo, there are a lot of unknowns in Truscott, Persson, Joni Jurmo, and Toni Utunen, but again there are no big names that stand out as sure things. So, in a draft touted as “the year of the defenceman”, Benning should take advantage and pull in at least one defenceman that can potentially step into the top four one day.
Potential Targets To Address the Canucks’ Needs
The Canucks are in the perfect position to fill at least one of their needs right off the hop at ninth overall. In fact, they could potentially check off both before the draft hits the 42nd pick. If they can do that, the rest of the proceedings will be just filling the pipeline with the best players available, regardless of position.
9th Overall: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
After a dominating performance at the 2021 U18 World Championship, Mason McTavish might not make it to 9th overall. Though if he somehow falls, the Canucks should grab him and laugh all the way to the bank. He’s everything they need in their pipeline right now, big, strong, fast, and has the potential to become a first-line center.
McTavish is not just big, he’s also supremely talented. For a big player, he can skate, making him all the more dangerous. Add that to his good passing, shooting, hands and intelligence and you have a player that is the complete package offensively.
Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers
As much as we all love Pettersson, he’s not the ideal prototypical first-line center. With his size and inability to win faceoffs, the Canucks would be far better off with a centerman like McTavish. The only thing he needs to develop is his defensive game, and that will come with time and coaching.
A lot of outlets are projecting the Canucks to select North Vancouver product Kent Johnson. While he would be an amazing pick, he doesn’t really fill their needs at center ice. He may be listed as a center on his hockey card, but he spent most of last season playing wing with the Michigan Wolverines. His overall game doesn’t really scream solid number one center. He most likely will play as a winger in the NHL, which doesn’t help the prospect pool right now.
Another name to keep an eye on is Cole Sillinger from the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. The Canucks have already interviewed him and appear to have a soft spot for the Columbus native already.
When we interviewed Cole he was a pretty impressive young man…Hanging around the rinks when his dad played, he knows what an NHL hockey life looks like. He’s got an NHL shot, is a relentless worker and a heck of a kid.
Canucks GM Jim Benning on Cole Sillinger (from ‘Canucks: Hot-shot Sillinger on NHL draft radar with skill, savvy, family lineage’, The Province, 7/21/21)
Deciding to play his 2020-21 season in the USHL after the WHL shut down for half the season, he excelled with the Stampede to the tune of 24 goals and 46 points in 31 games. Expected to be chosen in the top-15 by many experts, he could fill that center need as well. His primary strengths are his character, shot, and hockey IQ, but his skating is somewhat suspect. However, that was said of Horvat way back when as well, and look at what he is now.
41st Overall: Scott Morrow, RD, Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep (USHS-Prep)
Scott Morrow has risen up draft lists all season long from toiling in the second round to being a late first-round pick. He might not be there at 41st overall, but he’s an intriguing choice if he falls into the early second round. The smooth-skating defenseman is most likely a long-term project, but it will be well worth the wait when he finally makes it to the NHL. Blessed with tremendous mobility, vision, and smarts, he is the definition of a modern-day blueliner.
Playing for the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep, a school that boasts alumni like Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, and Jonathan Toews, Morrow excelled to the tune of eight goals and 48 points in 30 games. His offensive game is something to behold as he knows how to use his skating and smarts to generate chances from the back end. However, his defensive game has some significant holes in it as he turns the puck over at inopportune times and sometimes gets caught up ice on a pinch. Although, if that’s cleaned up, he could become as dynamic as top-five potential Luke Hughes.
Morrow doesn’t really fit the definition of a two-way defenceman but given his offensive potential and exceptional hockey IQ, the right coach might be able to fix that issue pretty quickly. If that happens, the Canucks could have another blue-chip prospect on their hands.
If Morrow is gone by the time the Canucks select at 41, there are other right-handed defencemen they could look at. The first being Brent Johnson from the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, ironically a teammate of Sillinger’s. He’s not the biggest at 5-foot-11, but he’s arguably one of the calmest, most stable blueliners available in the second round.
What impresses me the most about Johnson is how composed he is when he is on the ice. He has good gap control and keeps his opponents to the outside of the defensive zone, limiting most chances they have of getting a good scoring chance on net.
Mathieu Sheridan, The Hockey Writers
Johnson isn’t only good in his own zone, he’s a very polished puck mover as well. He’s always ready to jump into the play and he’s good at recovering when the play moves in the other direction. His game in the offensive zone is also impressive as he is able to either get the puck to the net with a quick shot or find his teammates with a great pass.
If the Canucks don’t focus solely on their handedness, they could also look at defencemen like Jack Peart, Olen Zellweger, and Evan Nause, who would all adequately fill the two-way needs they have right now.
5 Potential Gems in the Later Rounds
Once the Canucks venture out of the first two rounds and into the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, the waters get a little murky. Here are five names they should be taking a closer look at, sometimes regardless of organizational need.
1. Manix Landry, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Always one of the hardest workers on the ice, Manix Landry could be one of those prospects that fly under the radar as a late-round pick, then bursts onto the NHL scene as a top-six forward. Lauded for his speed, tenacity, soft hands, and overall never-say-die attitude, he has all the attributes of a player everyone loves playing with, but never against. His motor probably runs the hottest of any in this draft class as he never backs down on the forecheck, backcheck, or any foray into the offensive zone.
When you look at the players the Canucks draft, they always look at work ethic and character above all else. Landry has both in spades, so I would not be surprised to see them use one of their fifth-round picks on him. That is if he falls that far.
2. Jeremy Wilmer, C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Jeremy Wilmer may be small, but he definitely doesn’t play to his size. The Canucks might be hesitant to draft him after their experience with another small player in Petrus Palmu, but in the end, he might be worth the risk. Lauded for his speed, creativity, and intense work ethic, he has the potential to surprise everyone like Tyler Johnson did when he was passed over altogether. Slated by some to be in that same position, Wilmer could be worth a flyer in the sixth or seventh round.
3. Sasha Teleguine, C, Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
Playing in the Canucks’ backyard in Chilliwack, Sasha Teleguine could turn out to be one of the biggest gems in this year’s draft. Filled with tantalizing speed, hands, and offensive potential, the North Attleborough, Massachusetts native was one of the most exciting players for the Chilliwack Chiefs in the shortened 2020-21 season. Trained by his father Victor Teleguine, who is a highly-regarded Russian skills coach, he grew into a skilled offensive dynamo that could get a fan out of their seat in a moment’s flat.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him…My dad has been the backbone for me my whole life. The amount of times he purchased ice for skill sessions, just me and him 1-on-1 and growing up working on skating, edges and simple puckhandling…Even nowadays, before I got out here I’d spend four or five hours a week with him working on small skills that could translate in games. He’s been a fundamental piece of the player I am today.
Sasha Teleguine on his father’s influence in his development
Ranked by FCHockey and McKeen’s Hockey to go somewhere in the fourth round, Teleguine could potentially drop into the hands of the Canucks in the fifth, as he’s not ranked by anyone else. With skill and speed like his, I would take a chance on him if I was Benning.
4. Kyle Kukkonen, C, Maple Grove Crimson (USHS-MN)
If the Canucks are looking for value in the sixth or seventh round, center Kyle Kukkonen might be the perfect guy to go after. A scoring machine with his high school team, the Crimson, he racked up 31 goals and 74 points in 23 games and walked away with his second Youth Hockey Hub (YHH) Player of the Year Award. Known for his leadership, work ethic, and polished two-way game, he could become a solid third-line center in the vein of new Canucks’ forward Josh Dickinson. Except with stronger numbers in the faceoff circle, as he’s already known to be effective there.
Committed to Michigan Tech next season, Kukkonen will have a chance to build on his skills and continue to prove to everyone that he’s worth a pick in the 2021 Draft.
5. Aku Koskenvuo, G, HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Finally, we get to a goaltender that could be molded into a superstar if put into the Ian Clark school of goaltending. Blessed with superb athleticism and a massive 6-foot-4 frame, Finnish netminder Aku Koskenvuo has the raw toolkit of an NHL starter. In the right coaching environment, which he will get in Vancouver, he should develop into a very solid NHL goaltender. With Demko manning the crease for the foreseeable future and DiPietro potentially his successor, he will have plenty of time to grow into the player he has the potential of becoming.
Canucks Should Walk Away Happy After 2021 Draft
Regardless of who the Canucks ultimately choose, they should walk away with some quality prospects when all is said and done. Whether they fill their position needs remains to be seen, but if they can add at least some elite depth to the center ice position and more potential top-four defencemen to the pipeline, I think this draft should be considered a massive success.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.