Vancouver Canucks 2021 NHL Draft Recapby Christopher Gallagher September 4, 2021 0 comments
The Vancouver Canucks made six selections during the 2021 NHL Draft. The team agreed with the Arizona Coyotes on a trade, sending the ninth pick while acquiring right-winger Conor Garland and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Rounding out the transaction, Vancouver sent Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel, their second-round pick in 2022 and a seventh-round pick in 2023. General manager Jim Benning also made one more move before the roster freeze prior to the expansion draft: He acquired veteran forward Jason Dickinson, shipping pick 73 to the Dallas Stars as compensation.
Danila Klimovich, C, Minskie Zubry-Belarus Vysshaya (Round 2, Pick 41)
Aku Koskenvuo, G, HIFK U20-U20 SM-sarja (Round 5, Pick 137)
Jonathan Myrenberg, D, Linköping HC J20-J20 Nationell (Round 5, Pick 140)
Hugo Gabrielson, D, Västerviks IK-HockeyAllsvenskan (Round 6, Pick 169)
Connor Lockhart, C, Erie Otters-OHL (Round 6, Pick 178)
Lucas Forsell, LW, Färjestad BK J20-J20 Nationell (Round 7, Pick 201)
Vancouver selected Klimovich with their first selection at the top of the second round. The Belarus native has the size, speed, and skill to be a top-six player at the NHL level. Appearing in 37 games for Minskie Zubry this past season, he racked up 28 goals and 24 assists. Looking to upgrade in between the pipes, the Canucks have little in their talent pool behind Thatcher Demko.
Ultimately selecting Koskenvuo at 137th overall, the 18-year-old has the athleticism to start at the pro level with proper development. Rounding out their draft pool, Myrenberg has both the shot and mobility to contribute to any defensive core. Furthermore, Lockhart remains one of the smoothest skaters in the entire draft class, while Forsell has the playmaking abilities and shot to provide value as a seventh-round choice.
Best Pick: Danila Klimovich
Klimovich shot up draft boards after a strong 2020 campaign. Known for his speed and creativity with the puck, he averaged more than a point per game during the Belarus Vysshaya season. Along with this, he also caught the attention of scouts at the Under 18 World Championships. Pacing Belarus with six goals in five games, Klimovich helped the team advance to the knock-out stage. Possessing the ability to produce at a top-line level in the NHL, he can find open ice in the offensive zone to make himself available to teammates.
In addition, he benefits from a lightning-quick release on his shot that allows him to fool opposing netminders with ease. The 18-year-old has the competitive level and speed to outrace his opponents to loose pucks. With continued physical development, look for him to be one of the steals of the weekend at 41st overall.
Worst Pick: Hugo Gabrielson
A member of the J20 Nationell program in Sweeden, Gabrielson had his 2020 season cut short due to Covid-19. He was forced to finish out the year with Halmstad Hammers HC after being acquired on loan. The 6-foot-1 defenseman posted seven points in 24 games with the team. Known for his offensive game and transition ability, he can use his strong hockey IQ to make an effective first pass to help clear the defensive zone.
Also, the Frolunda alumn can also create on the blue line to help get pucks through opposing defenders. Needing to add weight to his frame to help improve his defensive game, Gabrielson also needs substantial stride work to help improve his mobility and speed at the pro level. Unlikely to ever play top-four minutes in the NHL, this pick represents a reach for the Canucks front office.
Sleeper Pick: Aku Koskenvuo
Vancouver is thin at the goaltender spot after losing former Vezina trophy netminder Jacob Markstrom to their rival Calgary Flames. With Jaroslav Halak set to back up Demko after landing with the team on a one-year deal, the longtime Boston Bruins member is set to turn 37 next season. Furthermore, after calling up top prospect Michael Dipietro in February of 2019, the 22-year-old was pulled after allowing seven goals on 24 shots.
Offering substantial size at 6-foot-4, Koskenvuo can track pucks across the crease with ease. Along with this, the Finland native is always out at the top of the blue paint to challenge opposing shooters. Needing to clean up his technique and positioning to play in the NHL, he offers the Canucks a boom or bust prospect in the seventh round, with a high ceiling and an ever lower floor if he does not pan out.
Underachieving mightily a year ago, Vancouver won just 23 games to finish at the bottom of the North Division. Hindered by a Covid-19 outbreak near the season’s conclusion, the team saw star forwards Elias Pettersson record career lows in points with just ten goals and 11 assists in 26 games. Furthermore, after inking former Vezina trophy-winning goaltender Braden Holtby to a two-year contract in free agency, the 31-year-old netminder posted just a 3.67 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage.
Looking to get back on track next season as they return to the Pacific Division, expect Ekman Larsson to provide the team with top-pairing minutes. A former 30-goal scorer, Garland, should also slide into the team’s top six and provide them with instant point production. They continue to build for the future with one of the youngest cores across the NHL. Klimovich has the offensive upside and creativity to be a 25-goal scorer at the next level. Myrenberg and Gabrielson project to be bottom pairing players with continued development.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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