Vancouver Draft Picks:
#5 – Elias Pettersson
#33 – Kole Lind
#55 – Jonah Gadjovich
#64 – Michael DiPietro
#95 – Jack Rathbone
#135 – Kristoffer Gunnarsson
#181 – Petrus Palmu
#188 – Matt Brassard
The Canucks threw Recrutes mock draft all out of whack just five selections into the NHL draft, choosing a player ranked 15th overall on Recrutes’ list instead of the WHL kid in Cody Glass that many thought they would target.
Elias Pettersson certainly brings Vancouver a skilled, two-way center prospect with strong skating and playmaking skills who will be given every opportunity to be Henrik Sedin’s Swedish succecessor, providing that he can add enough muscle to a frame that isn’t likely to add many more pounds.
One intriguing angle to the selection is that Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen had great chemistry playing on a line for Timra in the first half of last season before Pettersson started to slow down. The hope will be that they can rekindle that magic some day on a top-two line in Vancouver. Canucks fans should be patient with Pettersson though…it may take him 2-3 years to have the strength to compete at the NHL level in a top-line role given the preponderance of large, skilled centers in the western conference.
Kole Lind was another prospect who had a terrific first-half production-wise, but then slowed down at season’s end and in the playoffs. Like Pettersson, he will also have to get stronger…unlike the Swede he’ll also have to improve his skating to play a regular role in the NHL. Lind had above-average puck skills, sense and vision…and at the very least should contribute in a power-play role if not in Vancouver’s top six some day.
Jonah Gadjovich was a solid selection at 55th overall given his work ethic, smarts and goal-scoring ability, but his skating will be the make-or-break issue on whether he can ever find a significant role at the NHL level. Ask his coaches in Owen Sound and they will insist he’ll find a way, as no prospect works harder on his game off the ice and has already improved his skating mechanics and speed in the past year. His feet will have to continue to get better though.
Michael DiPietro was great value in the third round, and it was a head scratcher to see him selected after Luukkonen, who simply couldn’t stop the puck last season. DiPietro had no such issue…in fact…he was a major reason why Windsor pulled off the big upset in the Memorial Cup as the host team that had been eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
DiPietro is athletic, smart highly competitive and a good puckhandler – what he is not is 6-4…so because he’s only 6-0 he was passed over in the second round even though it could be argued that he should have been a top-40 pick. Much like Tyler Parsons in London…all he will do is help you win games. A good bet to be Thatcher Demko’s wholly capable backup in Vancouver in a few seasons.
Jack Rathbone was a bit of a draft wildcard seeing that he played low-level high school hockey, and when he was called up to the USHL, played very little as coaches were reluctant to put him on the ice due to concerns with his defence. A raw, undersized blueliner…what made him a top-100 picks was his excellent skating speed. He’s a project, but the skills are there if he can put all the pieces together at Harvard in this era of the moble puck-moving defenceman.
Kristoffer Gunnarsson is a thick strong blueliner passed over the previous two drafts that played for Sweden at the U-20’s in a defensive role. He has limited upside due to his weak puck skills.
Diminutive Finn Petrus Palmu was an intriguing selection late in the sixth round as he was also passed over in two drafts; predominantly because he’s just 5-6. The speedy winger exploded for 40 goals and 98 points for Owen Sound this season and then followed it up with 13 goals in the playoffs as Owen Sound nearly won the OHL’s western conference title. He’s a jitterbug with good speed, skill and work ethic who may just surprise and push for an NHL spot down the line.
Draft Grade – B : Vancouver did some good things at the draft, including the selection of DiPietro in the third round when others were passing on him because he’s not a giant. Lind was a solid pick in the second round, and Rathbone has enough upside to battle for a second-pairing defence spot in four or five years if he develops properly. The Canucks selected three players ranked in Recrutes’ top 50, and four players in the top 90, so there was some good value in their top picks.
Where there is a bit of contention is with the club taking Pettersson at fifth overall as it was by far the most important selection for the club, and a bit of a curious one considering that Cody Glass played in their backyard for Portland in the WHL. Recrutes projects Glass to have more long-term upside – he’s younger, bigger frame, on a decidedly sharper improvement curve and more consistent. Pettersson is the better skater, but Glass projects to be a decent one as well in time, and is every bit as smart and puck savvy as the Swede. Time will tell on whether they made the right choice, but given that Recrutes ranked Pettersson at 15 we can’t give Vancouver a higher mark than a B.