Skip to main content

Prospect Pool Overview: Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have built a promising prospect crop aimed at giving the team help at every position. Tony Ferrari takes a look at the team's future.
Jack Rathborne

The Vancouver Canucks entered a new era last year, with Jim Rutherford taking over as team president and Patrik Allvin stepping in as new general manager. They have begun to build the team up, adding pieces to the NHL roster and beginning to rebuild a prospect pool that was in need of an infusion of talent.

The old regime didn’t leave the cupboards completely bare but considering that the Canucks have had one playoff berth - in the somewhat odd ‘Bubble Playoffs’ - since 2015, they should have a fuller prospect pipeline. They have some young pieces on the roster that are excellent building blocks such as Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Vasili Podkolzin, but the team is in a mushy middle of whether they are rebuilding or going for it. The feeling around the new regime is that they are going to look towards building for the future, a welcome sign for many Canucks fans.

Jack Rathbone is one of the best prospects from the old regime. A puck-moving defender who seems to be ready to graduate from the AHL. Rathbone is excellent in transition, using both his skating ability and passing prowess to move the puck up ice. The former Harvard defender excels when he is in an up-tempo system where he can challenge the opposing team with his offensive intuition.

Joni Jurmo is a big, smooth skating blueliner out of Finland. The 6-foot-4 defender does a good job of carrying the puck up ice in transition but lacks some of the finer puck skills to be truly dynamic in that regard. Jurmo excels at exiting the zone with his speed and then hitting a teammate in stride to attack offensively. He has room to grow defensively, slowly improving his tactical play and ability to read the opposition’s routes. 

Jonathan Myrenberg is very much in the same mold. A physically mature defender who excels in transition and has to work on refining his defensive game at the pro level, but in Sweden. Myrenberg may have a bit more offensive upside thanks to a bit more dynamism built into his game thanks to higher-end puck skills.

Will Lockwood is a forward who found his way into the Canucks lineup at the end of last season. He plays with speed and intensity, leaning on his physicality to play a two-way game. He wasn’t able to find his way onto the scoresheet in his NHL stint but he was able to showcase his instincts in a bit bigger role at the AHL level. Aidan McDonough is another physical presence that is coming through the NCAA ranks. He has a big shot and loves to use it. He will be returning for another year at Northeastern but could be a very intriguing add at the end of the year.

Michael DiPietro has been bubbling under the surface for a couple of years now but the Canucks have had a bit of a disastrous development process with him. Once highly touted, DiPietro was given the starting role in the AHL after sitting in the stands for a year because of the Canucks roster management woes under the previous regime during the COVID season. He’s 23 years old so he has time to get his career back on track, which should be a top priority for the club.

Danila Klimovich plays a bit of a chaotic game, wanting to gash the defense with and without the puck in the offensive zone to attempt to get into space but at times is overly eager with his movement, winding up behind defenders and taking himself out of passing lanes. He has a great shot and gets to those high-danger areas with the puck on his stick. There is a rawness to his game that he will need to reign in and refine but he looks to be a very energetic depth scorer at the NHL level in a couple of years.

Lucas Forsell has had some flashes of offensive pop in Sweden and will look to play at the SHL level all season and find his offensive touch against men. Carson Focht hasn’t found his offensive touch at the AHL level but will be looking to do the same. The Canucks have drafted a lot of players that may very well wind up in the bottom six but lack the upside to be difference makers.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (15 Overall) - Jonathan Lekkerimäki, RW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
Round 3 (80 Overall) - Elias Pettersson, D, Orebro HK Jr. (J20 Nationall)
Round 4 (112 Overall) - Daimon Gardner, C, Warroad (USHS - Minn)
Round 5 (144 Overall) - Ty Young, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Round 6 (176 Overall) - Jackson Dorrington, D, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
Round 7 (208 Overall) - Kirill Kudryavtsev, D, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)

Kicking their draft off by getting their guy in Jonathan Lekkerimäki was a huge win for Patrik Allvin and the new management team. The Swedish winger becomes the team’s top prospect with ease. Lekkerimäki is a sniper who can change a game in an instant with his shot. He has deft hands with the ability to walk defenders in the offensive zone. He wades through traffic fairly well with and without the puck but is at his best when he has a true setup man to play with. Lekkerimäki is a fairly good skater and has the tools to be better in transition but he needs to refine his game in that regard a bit. He is a July birthday so there is a bit more runway for his development as well.

The Canucks went full meme with their second selection, taking defenseman Elias Pettersson in the third round. Just because he shares the namesake of the Canucks franchise cornerstone, it doesn’t mean that he shares the same kind of upside. The Swedish defender is a solid all-around defender. He is fluid and mobile in both zones but doesn’t really attempt to jump into the offensive game. His strength is that he has some puck skill but doesn’t feel the need to use it, playing a safe and projectable game.

Daimon Gardner is a big forward who can get inside but doesn’t push play. His skill level isn’t quite as high as you’d like to see from a player who primarily played in high school but he can bring some physical elements to the bottom of the lineup. A fourth-round pick isn’t a bad spot to take a gamble on a player with size and a projectable cycle game. Gardner has a penchant for cutting the middle and using his frame and that seems to be the one trick he goes to as much as possible. If he can do that at the BCHL level next year and then college the year after, maybe there’s something here.

Ty Young was pelted with pucks all year long. Whether at the AJHL or WHL level, Young was on a bad team and asked to do a lot. He has good size, decent mobility, and recovers quickly to his feet. A sneaky pick that could work out well at the end of the day because he has the skills and technique even if his numbers look iffy. He was just five days away from being eligible for the 2023 draft as well which means the development path is a bit longer for Young as well.

Strengths

The left side of the Canucks defense pipeline isn’t anything to ride home about but it is their strongest area. They have a number of players from Rathbone to Jurmo who are talented players that have top-four upside. The newly drafted Pettersson is a good all-around defender who could fill a role in a solid team’s top-six defensemen. Jacob Truscott understands his role and doesn’t try to play outside of his skillset, which is a great trait to have for a young defender. He isn’t going to try and be Quinn Hughes because his job is to support those players, not be one. It’s not the strongest pool and there is no stud in the position group but they have some projectable players on left defense.

Weaknesses

The Canucks lack high-end talent at a lot of positions across their prospect pool but the center position is very thin. They have a few players who could very well get to the NHL in bottom-six roles or depth players on the wing, but the talent is lacking in general. The Canucks will need to figure out how to infuse some youth down the middle. Elias Petterson and Bo Horvat are both in their mid-20s at this point, JT Miller is approaching 30 and the three of them split the top two center positions. Finding a young full-time center with dynamism in their game would help give them a better standing moving forward.

Next Man Up: LD Jack Rathbone

The fact of the matter is that Rathbone is more talented than at least a couple of the expected opening night roster defensemen. Rathbone has his flaws, particularly on the defensive end of the ice where he has made strides but still has work to do as an undersized defenseman, but he is also an excellent transition defender who can play the modern game in the offensive end. The Canucks have Hughes and the skeleton of Oliver Ekman-Larsson as their power-play point men, but Rathbone deserves the opportunity to try and earn a role by playing on the third pairing at 5-on-5. He should compete for a roster spot in training camp. With a new regime, he may very well get the shot he’s probably deserved for a year now.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Lucas Forsell, Arshdeep Bains, Aidan McDonough
C: Connor Lockhart, Jackson Kunz, Carson Focht, Nils Åman
RW: Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Danila Klimovich, Will Lockwood
LD: Jack Rathbone, Joni Jurmo, Elias Petterson, Jacob Truscott
RD: Jonathan Myrenberg, Viktor Persson, Filip Johansson, Jett Woo
G: Michael DiPietro, Arturs Silovs, Aku Koskenvuo, Ty Young

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

TOP HEADLINES

Mathew Barzal
Play

Screen Shots: Mathew Barzal, Jason Robertson and the NHL in Newfoundland

Adam Proteau digs into Mat Barzal's extension with the Islanders, the Jason Robertson contract stalemate in Dallas and Thursday's NHL pre-season game in Newfoundland.

NHL 23 Cover
Play

Marie-Philip Poulin and Amanda Kessel Reflect on Women's Hockey in NHL 23

NHL 23 will let users create mixed-gender teams in Hockey Ultimate Team for the first time. Hockey stars Marie-Philip Poulin and Amanda Kessel say the representation is significant.

Pavol Regenda
Play

Clarke, Vilardi, Regenda Get Noticed in the Kings-Ducks Pre-Season Mini-Series

Prospects, new acquisitions and familiar faces are making the most of the three-game series between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.