Who might be available to the Canucks at the 26th pick in the NHL draft?
I admit it, I want the Canucks to draft Martin Frk solely because of his name. (Rick Stewart, Getty Images)

Crazy as it may seem, the 2012 NHL Draft is just one week away. On June 22nd in Pittsburgh, the league’s GMs will gather at the Consol Energy Center and attempt to shape the future of their franchises. For teams at the bottom of the standings,  the excitement level is high, as names like Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Ryan Murray have been on everyone’s lips for months now.

For a team like the Canucks, it’s a little bit harder to get excited, as they won’t be picking until 26th overall in the first round, where the names and faces are little less familiar to the average hockey fan. In order to combat that insouciance, I want to introduce you to a few of the prospects that are expected to be available for the 26th pick by looking at the various rankings and mock drafts that have been produced by those in the know.

We’ll start with International Scouting Services, who have American defenceman Brady Skjei listed 26th in their final rankings. Skjei is 6’2″ or 6’3″, depending on the source, so he already has size on his side. The general consensus is that Skjei is a great skater with solid puckhandling skills and passing ability, but lacks defensive awareness and a physical edge. He played for the US National Team Development Program, scoring 12 points in 24 games, and is committed to the University of Minnesota in the Fall.

TSN’s Craig Button also has Brady Skjei listed at 26th overall. His co-worker, Bob McKenzie, compiles his list from speaking to scouts around the league. While his final ranking won’t come out until Monday, his midseason list had Barrie Colts winger Tanner Pearson at 26th. Pearson is an unusual potential first-rounder because he’s 19 years old, but he went from 40 points in his rookie season in the OHL to 91 in his second season, finishing third in the league in points. That kind of production is hard to ignore, but it’s worth noting that McKenzie is the only one with Pearson that high in his rankings.

NHL.com had three “draft experts” run mock drafts in preparation for the real deal. Adam Kimelman has the Canucks picking Czech center Tomas Hertl, a two-way, playmaking forward who scored 25 points in 38 games in the Czech Republic’s top men’s league. He caught scouts attention with a solid performance at the World Junior tournament, but has questionable skating ability that might hold him back.

Steven Hoffner has the Canucks picking Peterborough Petes defenceman Slater Koekkok, who is coming off an injury-shortened season where he scored 18 points in 26 games. He’s generally considered to be a safe, physical defenceman with a good first pass and plenty of potential, who soaked up big minutes in all situations for the Petes.

Mike Morreale’s mock draft has the awesomely-named Martin Frk at 26th. The Czech winger plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL and scored 29 points in 34 games last season, missing the first half of the year with a head injury. Frk is an interesting prospect, as he has a lot of high-end skill as well as a lot of grit and sandpaper to his game, but apparently has questionable skating and fitness that might hold him back.

The Hockey News put together their own mock draft for their June issue, with the Canucks taking Swedish defenceman Ludvig Bystrom. Bystrom split time between MODO’s junior team and senior team, earning 20 games in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year-old. With the junior team, he put up 29 points in 34 games but scored just 1 in his time with the senior team. He is highly regarded for his solid all-around play, great hockey sense, and strong skating.

Ludvig Bystrom also ended up at 26th overall on Derek Zona’s Consensus Top 100, which compiles rankings from a number of sources and weights them according to their past accuracy. Last month, Martin Frk occupied the 26 spot on this list.

Future Considerations has Guelph Storm defenceman Matt Finn ranked 26th. Finn scored 47 points in 61 games for the Storm this season and is lauded for his two-way ability, physical game, and strong skating, as well as his hockey sense at both ends of the ice. While he may not be big enough to continue his gritty style at the NHL level, his versatility should ensure an eventual spot on a team’s top six.

Hockey Prospectus ranks Kamloops Blazers winger Tim Bozon at 26th, a French-American dual citizen who up until this season played his junior hockey in Switzerland, which isn’t over-complicated at all. Hockey Prospectus is the only source to have Bozon ranked this high, but Bozon scored at a point-per-game pace for the Blazers, putting up 36 goals and 35 assists in 71 games and has high-end offensive talent to go with strong skating ability.

The Scouting Report has US National Team Development Program forward Nicolas Kerdiles at 26th, a safe, hard-working two-way forward headed to the University of Wisconsin. His strongest asset is his work ethic, but combines that with good hockey sense, puck skills, and skating, as well as an effective use of his size.

Finally, there is the oddball Win Shares ranking, an attempt at an objective ranking based on statistics and how they normally translate from the different leagues to the NHL. The rankings are posted by a user named Mathletic on HFBoards.com, so take them with a slightly larger grain of salt than the one you take with all of the other rankings I have linked to.

At 26th, he has Portland Winterhawks defenceman Derrik Pouliot, who is lauded for his high-end offensive ability and decried for his decision making in his own zone. He’s potentially the best offensive defenceman in the draft, or at the very least, the best passing defenceman, with great vision in the offensive zone. He’s a great skater, a powerplay quarterback, and a creative puckhandler. He finished the year with 59 points in 72 games, fourth amongst WHL defenceman, and added another 17 points in 22 playoff games.

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  1. Kenji
    June 15, 2012

    Whenever I see a prospect who is skilled but slender, I think of Josh Holden. When I think of a prospect who has an amazing physique I think of Shawn Antoski. When I think of an skilled defenceman who is a little undersized I think of Kirill Koltsov. When I think of us getting a large centerman with great offensive promise I think of Libor Polasek. When I think of getting a safe, reliable, unflashy pick I think of Nathan Smith.

    Basically I just want the draft to be over, it makes me too anxious

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  2. bergberg
    June 15, 2012

    Crazy. So if the draft is only one week away, does that mean we are expecting to hear news about a certain goaltending controversy like….imminently?

    I need some warning to prepare myself emotionally.

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  3. akidd
    June 15, 2012

    nice summary. although my crystal ball says the canucks don’t pick 26th. it says the leafs pick 26th and the canucks pick 5th.

    or a million other possiblities but most of them say that 26th pick gets packaged with ‘you know who’ and others for something nice.

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    • Gadsby
      June 16, 2012

      Wait… Are you suggesting the Leafs will accept Andrew Alberts in return for a 5th round draft pick?

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  4. RG
    June 15, 2012

    As long as they don’t take a whiny center who puts up better numbers in the WJC than that year’s NHL draft 1st overall pick , I’m happy.

    (Sorry for the clunky sentence – it’s Friday)

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  5. sojucat
    June 15, 2012

    Rotoworld has the Canucks taking Henrik Samuelsson, son of Ulf, at 26th. Apparently a chip off the ‘ole block, but with greater offensive upside. Any thoughts on him?

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  6. Unknown Comic
    June 15, 2012

    Whatever they do, please lean towards a forward over a d-man. Generally speaking, forwards chosen in the first round have a greater chance of being NHLers vs d-men. Forwards genaerally reach their potential at about 22 while d-men take up to age 25. That leaves a 3 year difference before they can become UFAs.

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    • Nee
      June 16, 2012

      Our prospects at forward are pretty meagre at this point. So I hope we don’t draft a defenseman.

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  7. By-Tor
    June 16, 2012

    I predict that the Canucks will either pick a player, or trade their pick. If I’m right, do I win money?

    In all seriousness, Gillis probably already has a couple players that he wants, and will draft one of them regardless of who’s ranked where. It’s also important to look at Gillis’ drafting trends (which Canucks Army has kindly been tracking). That’s certainly a factor when trying to predict who they’ll pick.

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