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Future Watch – Vancouver Canucks: Ready and Able

Canucks’ impressive batch of youngsters is on the horizon and has all the attributes desirable in today’s game.

A- / 3rd overall

Three of The Canucks’ top five prospects – Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko and Mike DiPietro – will have played at least one 2018-19 game, while Olli Juolevi would have logged second-half games if not for a season-ending knee injury. And with goaltending the backbone of any franchise, along with a commitment to speed and skill, the rebuilding Canucks believe they have a leg up on the competition. “You can never have enough quality goaltending, and a perfect example is Thatcher – it got to the point where we just couldn’t hold him back – and he was ready for the next challenge,” said Ryan Johnson, the Canucks’ director of player development.

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1.Quinn Hughes (2nd overall)
D, 19, 5-10, 175 – Michigan (Big Ten)
30–5–28–33–16
2018 draft, 7th overall
The fleet-footed, quick-thinking Hughes will surely sign after his college season and make an impact on a transitioning back end. “His hockey sense is elite,” Johnson said. “He sees things not many do, and when he makes that (NHL) jump and is surrounded by players who are thinking what he’s thinking, it’s going to be scary.” The only downside is that the creative Hughes may not get away with a Globetrotter-like game in the NHL, but the Canucks won’t put reins on him.
FW18| n/a - NHL | 2019-20

2. Thatcher Demko (35th overall)
G, 23, 6-4, 192 – Utica (AHL)
8–5–0, 2.58, .911
2014 draft, 36th overall
A Sept. 23 concussion sidelined Demko, a cerebral stopper who studies psychology and human development, until Nov. 21, but he returned to form and got the full-time back-up call when Anders Nilsson was traded Jan. 2. The challenges at the NHL level will be sealing up the short side and better rebound control. “He’s not content with anything,” Johnson said. “He had already reached a ceiling at the (AHL) level, and I could tell he was ready to go (to the NHL).”
FW18| No. 3 - NHL | 2019-20

3. Olli Juolevi (66th overall)
D, 20, 6-3, 198 – Utica (AHL)
18–1–12–13–2
2016 draft, 5th overall
The hard-luck Finn lasted 18 games before season-ending knee surgery. He also had back surgery in the summer, but he has moved the development meter. “He wasn’t just getting rid of pucks and firing them up the wall,” Johnson said. “He showed aggressiveness in the D-zone getting his stick on pucks. He was running the first power play and making smart plays, putting people in good positions and getting pucks through.” Juolevi will have to do all that at a faster pace in the NHL.
FW18| No. 2 - NHL | 2019-20

4. Tyler Madden (70th overall)
C, 19, 5-11, 150 – Northeastern (HE)
30–10–15–25–6
2018 draft, 68th overall
The son of former NHLer John Madden is a diminutive magician and a poster boy for where the game is transitioning. He scored the semifinal overtime winner in the Beanpot tournament as the Huskies won for a second straight year. Size will be a question mark until he proves it not an issue in the NHL, but the Canucks aren’t concerned. “I love his skill set, and his skating will get better,” Johnson said. “He has a fire and shows it and will get in anybody’s face. He’s not a fun guy to play against.”
FW18| n/a - NHL | 2021-22

5. Michael DiPietro
G, 19, 6-0, 205 – Ottawa (OHL)
22–11–1, 2.46, .906
2017 draft, 64th overall
A 2017 Memorial Cup and stellar performance in the 2019 WJC have DiPietro on the fast track to turn pro next fall despite a rough start to his NHL career. Recalled on an emergency basis, he allowed seven goals on 24 shots in his NHL debut Feb. 11, but that didn’t shake his outlook. “A lot of guys may have folded,” Johnson said. “He has an incredible makeup, and it only heightened the hunger to be better.” But his game is far from NHL ready, and it’ll need to be considering he can’t rely on a big frame.
FW18| No. 8 - NHL | 2022-23

6. Jett Woo
D, 18, 6-0, 203 – Moose Jaw (WHL)
56–12–44–56–63
2018 draft, 37th overall
A finisher and punisher playing at point-a-game clip. Total game is on the upswing.

7. Zack MacEwen
RW, 22, 6-4, 212 – Utica (AHL)
52–19–27–46–51
Free agent, March 3, 2017
Undrafted winger most-improved player in system. Projects as power forward.

8. Kole Lind
RW, 20, 6-1, 186 – Utica (AHL)
40–2–9–11–12
2017 draft, 33rd overall
Tough adjustment from junior. Improved with more minutes after Christmas.

9. Jonah Gadjovich
LW, 20, 6-2, 209 – Utica (AHL)
33–2–5–7–18
2017 draft, 55th overall
Budding power forward with skating issues has to figure out identity as a pro.

10. Toni Utunen
D, 18, 5-11, 176 – Tappara (Fin.)
39–1–2–3–6
2018 draft, 130th overall
Good skater. Competing in WJC with top players elevated his game. A work in progress.

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