Eight players the Canucks might select at 6th overall

There’s been a lot of attention and criticism directed at the Canucks’ scouting and drafting in the Smylosphere over the last couple weeks. My favourite take came from Puck Watch, as it goes into detail regarding expected outcomes from each round of the draft and how the Canucks have compared. It’s a great read that gives some good context for the Canucks’ struggles at the draft.

It’s understandable that there would be this level of concern. After all, in this upcoming draft, the Canucks will have their highest first round pick since they selected the Sedins in 1999 and they just hired a new General Manager who has made his reputation on scouting and player evaluation.

A pick this high can make or break an organization: choose correctly and the Canucks could have a future first line forward or number one defenceman to help carry the team for years to come. Choose poorly and mediocrity will likely follow.

There’s only so much that Jim Benning can do in the month leading up to the draft, of course. Overhauling the scouting department won’t accomplish anything as the scouting is already done. At most, Benning can come in with some different criteria and move some names around on the Canucks’ draft board. Where this can make the most difference, however, is in the first round.

Consider 2008, when Mike Gillis vetoed the recommendation of Delorme and the scouting staff to draft Kyle Beach, selecting Cody Hodgson instead. Picks in later rounds are more dependent on scouts, but everyone has seen and studied the players who will get picked at the top of the draft and the General Manager has the final say.

Who will Benning choose with his first draft pick as a General Manager? As we’ve done before, here are the draft-eligible players ranked 6th overall by both the mainstream media and various prospect blogs.

These are just eight of the players the Canucks could select. Many other scenarios could play out, from Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, or Aaron Ekblad unexpectedly falling out of the top-five, to a trade up or down, to any number of other players being selected, like Nikolaj Ehlers, Haydn Fleury, or Jakub Vrana.

Jake Virtanen – Left Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Red Line Report

Virtanen is a pure goalscorer and possesses, by most accounts, the best shot in the draft, with a strong backhand to go with his lethal wristshot. He had 45 goals in 71 games for the Calgary Hitmen this season, good for 6th in the WHL and easily 1st among draft-eligible prospects. For Canucks fans eager to see a sniper, that’s all they need to hear, but Virtanen has other positive attributes. In particular, his skating is strong, with The Hockey News quoting a scout as saying, “He’d probably be a top-five skater on any team in the NHL right now.”

There are some concerns, however, over his hockey sense and ability to use his teammates, as he had just 26 assists this season. He’s also coming off a minor shoulder surgery that could, perhaps, make teams nervous to draft him. Red Line Report is also the only draft ranking that places Virtanen this high, with many ranking him in the 9-12 range and TSN’s Craig Button bumping him all the way out of the first round at a surprising 41st overall. That said, when Button put together a mock draft that took into account team needs, he had the Canucks selecting Virtanen with the 6th pick.

Leon Draisaitl – Centre
Ranked 6th overall by International Scouting Services and Future Considerations

Draisatl is a playmaking centre with decent size and good hands. He protects the puck well and has great vision, finishing the season with 67 assists in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders. He tied with Sam Reinhart for the most CHL points among draft-eligible prospects with 105, combining his playmaking with a quick and accurate shot. The Hockey News drops comparisons to Anze Kopitar and Joe Thornton on the young German and projects him as a first-line centre, while Corey Pronman praises his playmaking and adds that his “defence is solid” as well.

There’s not much to dislike about Draisatl, though some have noted that his skating needs improvement, particularly in his first few strides. The only reason that the Canucks wouldn’t pick Draisatl is if he’s already off the board. Most rankings have him higher than sixth, generally around the 3-5 range, with rumblings that the Edmonton Oilers, who select 3rd overall, are planning taking him.

William Nylander – Centre
Ranked 6th overall by The Hockey News

Nylander is an intriguing prospect, with many different sources suggesting that he has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft because of his high-end offensive skill. Pronman has him ranked 3rd overall and notes that some scouts have called him “an artist” with the puck. The son of Michael Nylander has been playing against men, shuttling between three different teams in Sweden this year. He clicked while playing for Södertälje in the Allsvenskan, scoring 11 goals and 19 points in 17 games, a record for an under-18 players. He also dominated the World U-18 Tournament for Sweden, with a whopping 16 points in 7 games to lead all scorers.

He can skate, shoot, pass, and deke at an elite level, but there are concerns about his all-around game as well as with his slower start to the season. Because of that inconsistency and defensive issues, he’s ranked all over the place, from top-5 to top-10 to mid-first round. He’s a higher-risk selection, but his pure offensive talent would make him an exciting choice (and my personal preference) for the Canucks.

Michael Dal Colle – Left Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Hockey Prospect and McKeen’s Hockey

Dal Colle has a well-rounded offensive game, using his patience and vision to make plays and his great shot to score goals. He led the Oshawa Generals in scoring and was first in the OHL among draft-eligible prospects with 95 points in 67 games. He added 20 points in 12 playoff games Adding to his high-end skill is his size: at 6’2″ and with room to grow into his frame, he should be able to protect the puck well against bigger players in the NHL.

The one knock on Dal Colle is that he doesn’t really use his size to his advantage all the time, rarely initiating contact. Pronman, in reference to his play in the corners, uses the word “bashful” and The Hockey News quotes a scout as saying that physical play just isn’t “in his nature.” Given his offensive talent, that may not be an issue, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Kevin Fiala – Left Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Corey Pronman

Fiala led Switzerland in scoring at both the World Junior Championships and the World U-18 Championship, scoring 9 points in 5 games in the latter tournament. He’s a quick skater, who controls the puck extremely well and can both deke out defenders and dish the puck to teammates. His skill and creativity served him well in the SHL this season, as he played against men for HV71, scoring 11 points in 17 games. Pronman notes that Fiala’s points-per-game in the SHL at 17 is surpassed only by Peter Forsberg in the modern era.

With that type of high-end skill and potential to be a game-breaking first line forward, it might be surprising that Fiala is generally ranked much lower than 6th overall by most experts, generally from mid-first round to mid-second round. It’s less surprising when you notice that he’s 5’10″. Rankings that place a premium on size shuttle him further down the list and it’s true that his size makes him a higher risk than some of the other forwards expected to go at the top of the draft.

Nick Ritchie – Left Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Bob McKenzie and The Scouting Report

Ritchie has both size and skill, projecting as a power forward. He led the Peterborough Petes in scoring with 74 points in 61 games, with some scouts saying he can simply impose his will on a game at times. He can skate well, has a strong shot, and can drive the net with authority. He’s also a tough customer, hitting hard and not backing down when challenged

The big question mark for Ritchie is his consistency, with The Hockey News suggesting that he could be a Jamie Benn-type if he reaches his potential, but could fall well short if his effort doesn’t catch up to his ability. That inconsistency prevented him from racking up more points this season and dropped him down some rankings, though most still have him in the top-10, with Pronman placing him the lowest at 18th overall.

Kasperi Kapanen – Right Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Ryan Kennedy

Kapanen is the top-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, ahead of the more heralded Nylander. The son of Sami Kapanen played against men in the top Finnish league, scoring 14 points in 47 games. The Hockey News projects him as a two-way forward, but he has the vision, hockey IQ, and passing ability to be a very good playmaker. His main attribute, however, is his skating, as he has the top-end acceleration, speed, and shiftiness to give defenders nightmares, and he can handle the puck well at speed.

Pronman ranks him 8th overall and projects him as a potential first-line forward, but he may fall further down the draft due to an injury that kept him out of the World Juniors and his lower point totals on what was a very poor KalPa team in Finland. As a result, most rankings project him to go in the middle of the first round

Brendan Perlini – Left Wing
Ranked 6th overall by Craig Button

Like Ritchie, Perlini combines size and skill, but also has the same question marks about his consistency and effort. Perlini had 71 points in 58 games for the Niagara IceDogs and can both score and use his teammates. His strength is in puck possession, using both his 6’2″, 205 lb frame to protect the puck and his hockey sense to get to the high-percentage areas on the ice. He’s also a great skater, with good top-end speed and can finish plays with his strong shot.

It’s the consistency of effort that worries some scouts, as his play tailed off towards the end of the OHL season. Still, that combination of size, skill, and speed is incredibly enticing, particularly if you think the consistency will come with maturity.

28 comments

  1. Niels
    May 30, 2014

    We need a killer right wing power forward/sniper to play with the twins who are master play makers. We have lots of decent play makers we need scoring machines to the right wing on the top 2 lines. Matthias centering Kassian and Higgins is a great line 3 and Santorelli centering Hansen Richardson a decent line 4

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    • Mitch
      May 30, 2014

      I’m thinking this is a post-Sedin draft. The players they get, by the time they’re NHL ready, will most likely be playing with some past-their-prime Sedins.

      Since we likely won’t get a pick this high again for a while (hopefully), they have to get the most skilled player available and hope he’s a franchise player for the future, instead of picking someone who fits a particular role. So if any of the top 5 guys drops for some reason (Ekblad, Bennet, Reinhart, Draisatl or Dal Colle) you gotta take em.

      If not, I hope they go for Nylander. First line playmaking centres are always a top priority.

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    • TD
      May 30, 2014

      ?? santorelli all the way down on the 4th?!

      you realise anyone we pick is not magically going to appear in the team next year right? burrows, higgins, santorelli will all be on the top 2 lines unless serious moves are made, jensen should come in on the third line and bounce a bit probably but him, kas and matthias could be a decent 3rd and richardson, hansen, a.n.other for the 4th decent. maybe, if everyone has a bounce back year

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  2. Chunky's Choice
    May 30, 2014

    All forwards!? After drafting forwards in the first round for the last few years, I think it’s time to snag a blue-chip defence prospect. They won’t get Ekblad at #6, but how about Haydn Fleury?

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    • Canucksfan3322
      May 30, 2014

      Our d-core doesn’t really need help right now and Haydn Fleury isn’t good enough to go at 6th overall.

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      • TKO
        May 31, 2014

        Fleury did NOT stand out at the U18s.

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    • chrìs
      May 30, 2014

      This a forward heavy draft with only 3 or 4 defensemen projected in the first round and only two ranked in the top 20. If the kesler trade goes down before the draft we can pick up hayden with the 10th over all selection

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      • Mitch
        May 30, 2014

        He’d be worth the pick, but Kesler wants to go to a cup contender. That means 20-30 pick, and a good prospect. Maybe a roster player too. With that they might be able to get Roland McKeown, he could turn out to be something.

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        • Chris
          May 31, 2014

          Anaheim has the 10th and the 24th overall picks in this years draft. I was insenuating where I think Kessler will end up. If he is traded.

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        • DCan
          May 31, 2014

          I believe he is speaking of Anaheim who hold the 10th pick.

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  3. bcsleman
    May 30, 2014

    As noted, Draisaitl is unlikely to be there at #6. Same may be said of Dal colle. He is usually slotted at #5 and trains w/ JT. He’d be an ideal linemate for him and Kyle. If Isles hold their pick, he’ll be gone at #5.

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  4. ikillchicken
    May 30, 2014

    Without pointing to a specific player, here’s what I’d like to see:

    #1) Take a center. Centers drive play. Centers win games. Teams like Washington, Toronto and Buffalo are built around highly skilled wingers. Teams like Chicago, Boston and LA are built around centers. I’m not saying winders don’t matter but with a pick this high I think it would probably be a mistake to not use it on a center. Better to pick up winders in the second round. Plus, we already have a few options at wing. Kassian took a big step last year and will hopefully continue to progress. Jensen showed flashes. And Shinkaruk projects as a potential elite winger (if also still a huge gamble). Of course, at center we do have Horvat and Gaunce. But that brings me to my next point…

    #2) Take a high end scoring player. Again, if you’re looking for holes in our prospect pool, future #1 center is at the top of the list. Horvat projects as a great two way center but less so as a top line goal scorer. Hopefully he turns out to be a Kesler/Bergeron level guy (or even just a competent 2C if we’re being pessimistic). But I don’t really think there is much chance of him turning into a top line goal scorer. He just doesn’t have that level of pure offensive skill. All that times 10 for Gaunce. Thus, unless Schroeder radically alters his career trajectory there is nobody currently in our system who will be an elite #1 scoring center. And we need to rectify that. So forget defensive ability, size, intangibles and all that stuff. Just get a dude who can score.

    #3) Plan for the distant future. There’s something to be said for taking guys with a lower ceiling but a higher probability of success or more NHL readiness when you’ve got a solid core and/or are drafting later. But we’re at a point where we really need to add new core pieces. Even if you don’t trade the core guys we have now that’s still true. And this could be a golden opportunity to do just that. I’m still somewhat optimistic that this team can contend. Not next year but within a couple years, while the Sedins are still viable IF Horvat and Kassian live up to potential and if we get a good return on Kesler. But it is insane to not also look to the post-Sedin future. Plus, even if you draft somebody more NHL ready, they may well not actually make the team for years. Hopefully we’ll see a quick turnaround. But don’t let that influence who you pick. Get a guy with an eye toward replacing Henrik in two to four years. If he does more before that, great.

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    • Brian
      May 31, 2014

      I don’t disagree with your point that Centers drive play, but you are mistaken to think that Chi, Bos and La are built around Centers. Chicago has Toews as an excellent elite Center but after that Handzus, and Shaw (not yet at least) cannot be considered building blocks. Chi does have IMO two of the top 5 wingers in the game (Kane and Hossa) as well as excellent depth throughout the lineup.

      La has an elite Center in Kopitar but Carter is more of a winger, Stoll is great at his role and Richards while effective has taken a lesser role with that team. La again has incredible depth, an amazing defense, and elite goal-tending. They also play a style that can choke out opponents.

      Boston has two great centers in Krejci and Bergeron, but also has incredible wingers in Iginla, Eriksson, Marchand, Lucic, Smith. Another dominating defense and elite goal-tending.

      My point being that depth at all positions is the reasons that these teams as well as NYR (this year), Det (every year), SJ, Anh etc are successful. The Canucks have a very good/elite Center in Henrik and another great center in Kesler (at this point) as well as a blue chip Center prospects in Horvat. Replacing Henrik is going to hard if not impossible in the next few years but I really doubt the Canucks will find the next franchise center at # 6 this year, I would have doubts at #1 as well.

      High end talent I agree should be the Canucks main focus and not get lulled into the size fantasy. I really hope we end up with Nylander/Ehlers at 6 if one of the top 5 do not fall.

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  5. BBoone
    May 31, 2014

    I agree with the center to replace henrick down the road
    And am happy to trust GM and Pres
    However I am strongly in favour of trading older assets for good value in picks prospects and young nhl players . ( if the rumours re the Edler trade with the Wings was true , rejecting that was as bad as the Balfour trades) In other words a rebuild led by a good coach for younger players . As a fan I would enjoy following a competently managed rebuild
    Does anyone else share this view ?

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  6. Frank
    May 31, 2014

    I also like the idea of taking the top center in the draft with the idea of grooming someone to be our #1 center down the road. And since guys like Kesler and Santa (hope that we resign him) can also slide over to the wing and still be effective, a top prospect can slide in to a #2 or #3 role and begin to develop their game. When you look at the Kings roster, they are 4 lines deep and they are particularly strong at center with an elite #1 in Kopitar.

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  7. dunegig
    May 31, 2014

    I’m not an expert, but I think the Canucks’ future could really use a purely offensive threat (or two) to put them over the top in terms of promise. This #6 pick will be their best chance to acquire one through the draft. I don’t think we’ll become bottom-feeders, just meandering in the middle for the next couple of years. So a pick as high as this won’t be available. Plenty of good two-way players and d-men can be found and developed from later draft picks. I think the Canucks will need reliable firepower, something the current prospect pool is sorely missing.

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  8. KAC
    June 1, 2014

    Why do people want to trade Keslers for draft picks??? I am tired of trading proven NHLers for prospects.

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    • Chris
      June 2, 2014

      I know right! It’s like all the Canucks do is trade for prospects. it’s why our team is full of fresh face youngster brimming with the promise of tomorrow. Outside of the hodgson for kassian trade the Canucks haven’t traded for a prospect in forever.

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      • bcisleman
        June 2, 2014

        Hodgson/Kassian was really prospect for prospect. I think he means the Luongo trade and that is really the only one in recent memory.

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    • Erik Lonnrot
      June 2, 2014

      Because we need young talent and Kesler isn’t getting any more valuable with age. Better to get promising young players, quality prospects, or high daft picks for him now than to try and milk the few good years he has left and be left with nothing after that. There is always the risk that whoever we get back won’t work out, but it is pretty much guaranteed that we won’t get anything better for him in a few years time.

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  9. BossHog
    June 2, 2014

    I hope that either Vertanen or Dal Colle is available when the Canucks select 6th overall. I’ve heard rumours that Burke is real hot on Vertanen and a post above mentioned NYI being a likely destination for Dal Colle given his rank and his ties to JT, meaning that a guy like Bennett might be available at #6.

    Top Ten Draft Results if order remains unchanged
    FLA – Ekblad
    BUF – Reinhart
    EDM – Draisaitl
    CGY – Vertanen
    NYI – Del Colle
    VAN – Bennett
    CAR – Nylander
    TOR – Richie
    WPG – Perlini
    ANA – Ehlers

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 2, 2014

      I would be shocked if Bennett fell all the way to 6th. I would also be thrilled, because he’s arguably the best forward available in the entire draft.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        June 2, 2014

        But he can’t do a pull-up!!!!

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        • BossHog
          June 2, 2014

          But he CAN skate, pass and score.

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      • BossHog
        June 2, 2014

        I agree it would be somewhat surprising but as long as Vertanen, Dal Colle or Bennett is available at #6 I will be pleased.

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        • iain
          June 2, 2014

          Virtanen just had shoulder surgery, out 4-6 months. CoHo, here we go again?

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      • Chrìs
        June 2, 2014

        Whoever they draft at 6 I hope gets sent back to junior. After watching the highlight videos, I would love to see vertanen in a Canucks jersey. Though I have nightmares that he’ll turn into a brûlé based on the way he plays. We have no need to rush any of our prospects into the nhl. They need time to beef up and mature physically. Besides we need to suck real bad in order to draft mcdavid.

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        • Colin
          June 9, 2014

          I agree 100% with a full rebuild and I would bet most canuck fans feel the same way as we’re all tired of failing in the playoffs. GM and Pres are way off if they think fans want a reset. WE WANT A FULL REBUILD!!!

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