The Canucks have had some ups and downs over the past few decades. They had some very good teams built around the Naslund-Bertuzzi and Daniel and Henrik Sedin eras.
But it is time to look to the future and the new building blocks are already in place with Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes. The Canucks have done some great work on draft days, and with some support, via free agency, they have a flush prospects system.
1. Vasili Podkolzin, RW – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 10th overall in the first round of the 2019 draft by Vancouver
Some Canucks fans may have been disappointed on draft day when the Canucks selected Podkolzin, knowing he had a two-year contract to play in the KHL. However, it would likely be at least two years before Podkolzin would be ready for the NHL, so it matters very little from a fan’s perspective where he spends those two seasons. As an 18-year-old playing in the KHL, Podkolzin did see some very limited minutes and that may also be a bone of contention for Canucks fans and management. However, the big Russian had a strong showing at the World Junior helping lead Russia to a Silver Medal while posting five points in seven games. Once he does arrive in the NHL, Canucks fans are going to love the blend of skill, grit, and compete he brings to the table. It’s the rest of the leagues’ fan base that is going to hate him!
2. Nils Hoglander, LW – Rogle (SHL)
Drafted: 40th overall in the second round of the 2019 draft by Vancouver
The first two picks in the 2019 draft for Vancouver are looking pretty promising already. Hoglander has started to put together quite an impressive highlight reel with some flash moves and goals. Hoglander has skill in spades, as well as speed that makes him a very flashy player. He brings grit and compete to his game as well. He needs a little more time to shore up his consistency and put it all together, but he is certainly trending towards another core piece for the Canucks in the near future.
3. Brogan Rafferty, D – Utica Comets (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent 2019
After a promising NCAA career, the undrafted defenseman made a major splash in his rookie season as a pro in the AHL. The smooth-skating, puck-moving defender was the Comets top defenseman right out of the gate and was the league-leading scorer among defenders, or right at the top all season long. Rafferty is already 24-years-old so his development curve has likely leveled out. He has little to learn or gain by another season in the AHL so look for the Canucks to give him an opportunity to play in the NHL as a bottom-six with some extra shifts on the PP next season.
4. Olli Juolevi, D – Utica Comets (AHL)
Drafted: 5th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Vancouver.
It’s a tough pill for Canucks fans to swallow having the Canucks select Juolevi ahead of other players such as Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Mikhail Sergachev and Jacob Chychrun. While there were many who even at the time questioned this selection since the pick injuries have slowed Juolevis development. Keep in mind he is still only 21-years-old and some defensemen take a little longer to develop. Juolevi had a solid season of development in the AHL, playing in 45 games. While he has yet to play his first career NHL game, that is still a promising outlook. While he may never be a prolific offensive defenseman like Quinn Hughes, Juolevi projects to have a sound NHL career as a big minute playing two-way defenseman.
5. Kole Lind, RW – Utica Comets (AHL)
Drafted: 33rd overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Vancouver
His rookie season of 17 points was underwhelming. His rookie year was a season of adjustment and Lind did not waste it. His off-season dedication paid off in his sophomore season where his point totals jumped to 44 and he became an impact player, not a passenger on a deep Utica team. Lind will look to further his development in his third season and should start to see some time in the NHL before he pushes to make the jump full time.
6. Jett Woo, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Drafted: 37th overall in the second round of the 2018 draft by Vancouver
Woo was disappointed to not make the cut for the Canadian World Junior roster. His point totals dropped by 20 points from the past season after moving from the Moose Jaw Warriors to the Calgary Hitmen. The change of scenery hurt his offensive numbers, but he wore a letter for the Hitmen and played a key role on the team. Woo is more of a physical and hard hitting player than he is a flashy player. His game does project to the NHL nicely as the Canucks can look to Hughes, Rafferty and Juolevi for offense and transition. Woo can do some of that but brings the heat when it comes to physicality.
7. Michael DiPietro, G – Utica Moments (AHL)
Drafted: 64th overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by Vancouver
The former OHL star goalie had a good rookie season as a pro. Often goalies are forced to spend a season or two in the ECHL, but DiPietro managed to start 36 games in the AHL. He does have two career NHL games played already and has allowed seven goals in each of those games, but as a 20-year-old he has tremendous upside. DiPietro will need a few more years developing and building confidence in the AHL before he is ready to challenge for an NHL starting job, but he does have NHL starting goalie upside in his game.
8. Jack Rathbone, D – Harvard (NCAA)
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by Vancouver
Rathbone is quickly playing his way up the Canucks depth chart and making their scouting staff look brilliant. His freshman season was impressive coming from high school in the USHS to produce 22 points in 33 games for an Ivy League school. What’s more impressive is his sophomore season of 31 points in 28 games. Producing over a point per game offense as a defenseman will certainly move you up in many prospect rankings. Look for Rathbone to return to Harvard for his junior year and possibly a senior before making the jump to the AHL. He still has a ways to go, but the fourth-round pick is trending up hard.
9. Marc Michaelis, LW/C – Minnesota State University (NCAA)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent 2020
The Canucks went fishing in the NCAA free agent pool and caught one of the biggest fish in German senior Marc Michaelis. The Mankato graduate had four consistently productive seasons in the NCAA and has represented his native Germany internationally recently in two World Championships and the World Juniors. Look for the 24-year-old to transition to the pro game in the AHL and hope to duplicate the success Rafferty enjoyed.
10. Zack MacEwan, RW – Utica Comets (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent 2017
The big winger was a free agent signing back in 2017, and after two solid seasons of development in the AHL, is on the brink of becoming an NHL player. He split time this season between the AHL and NHL, and while in the NHL he was a healthy scratch on a regular basis. But he brings a blend of size, skill and versatility that most teams covet for their bottom-six forwards. The time for big MacEwan to secure am NHL job with the Canucks is now, as there is plenty of competition coming down the prospect pipeline.