Thanks to a late-season run and a lack of luck in the draft lottery, the Vancouver Canucks are slated to pick 11th overall in the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s an interesting spot to be — just outside of the top ten, where there’s typically at least some consensus, so it requires a bit more care and scouting talent to find the best available player.
Who might some of those available players be?
Thanks to the internet and the readily available video of prospects from around the world, there are a plethora of public draft rankings out there from pundits of varying expertise. By taking a wide survey of these rankings and seeing who they rank 11th overall, we can get a better idea about the pool of prospects the Canucks will likely be picking from come June 28.
Here are 11 players the Canucks might select.
Colby Barlow - Left Wing
6’1” - 187 lbs - Feb 14, 2005 (18)
Orillia, ON, Canada
Owen Sound Attack, OHL (46-3-19-22)
We’ll start with the player ranked 11th overall by TSN's Bob McKenzie: Colby Barlow.
Barlow had an outstanding season as captain of the Owen Sound Attack, leading the team in scoring with 46 goals and 79 points in just 59 games. He also led all first-time draft-eligible players in the OHL in goals and points, though Quentin Musty bested him in points per game.
Barlow also had a strong performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, helping Canada win gold with five points in five games.
Draft rankings are all over the place on Barlow, demonstrating some of the uncertainty at this point in the draft. Barlow is ranked as seventh overall by TSN’s Craig Button and as low as 32nd overall by Smaht Scouting.
Those high on Barlow love the strength and power in his game, as well as the wicked release on his shot. He has NHL technique on a variety of shots, whether it’s quickly changing the angle with subtle drag moves, a blistering one-timer, or getting impressive velocity and accuracy out of minimal movement to catch goaltenders off-guard. He’s also not afraid to crash the crease to hunt down rebounds and score dirty goals.
Those lower on Barlow question whether his game will translate to a true top-line player in the NHL and point out the limitations of his vision and playmaking. His straightforward north-south approach has its advantages but the lack of an additional creative element to his game could limit his ceiling.
Barlow is also ranked 11th overall by Recruit Scouting.
Gabriel Perreault - Right Wing
5’11” - 165 lbs - May 7, 2005 (18)
Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
What did Perreault do in his draft year? Oh, no big deal, he just broke Auston Matthews’ record for the most points for the US National Team Development Program. Perreault put up 53 goals and 132 points in 63 games for the USNTDP’s Under-18 team to lead the program in scoring.
Perreault is a play-driving winger with incredible hockey sense. He has exceptional vision and can find his teammates with the puck through layers of defence with deceptive ease. He also possesses superb hands and can score highlight reel goals himself.
So, why is Perreault not considered a lock to be a top-ten pick? In fact, why is he in the bottom half of the first round for most public draft rankings?
There are a few reasons. One is that he played on a line with Will Smith, who is a lock to be a top-ten pick, and Ryan Leonard, who just might go in the top ten too. There are many who see Perreault as a complementary player on that line, even though he finished the season with the most points.
There are also concerns with his size and his footspeed, which isn’t a good combination. Small players in the NHL typically need elite skating to help them create time and space against larger players and Perreault doesn’t have that mobility to make up for his slight frame.
“His hockey sense is so elite though that I think he can overcome those issues and become a very good top-six winger,” says Pronman. It’s a good bet that Pronman’s right but it might be a tough bet to make for an NHL team.
Ryan Leonard - Right Wing
5’11” - 181 lbs - Jan 21, 2005 (18)
Amherst, MA, USA
Leonard may have been third in scoring on his own line with the US National Team Development Program, but he provided the defensive conscience for that line. It’s not like he didn’t score either: he had 51 goals and 94 points in 57 games.
It’s the combination of attributes that makes Leonard such a highly-considered prospect. He has separating speed with his skating, with explosive strides. He combines his skating with superb hands to slalom through defenders and a quick release on his shot. He’s physical on the boards and in front of the net, able to win puck battles and bang in rebounds.
On top of all of that, he’s a diligent defender, with a good stick and an ability to separate his man from the puck and turn possession the other way for his team. Coaches will absolutely love him.
The question is whether Leonard can be a first-line forward or if he’ll be the type of complementary winger that lands in a team’s middle-six.
Nate Danielson - Centre
6’1” - 185 lbs - Sep 27, 2004 (18)
Red Deer, AB, Canada
Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (68-33-45-78)
Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino has Nate Danielson ranked 11th overall.
Danielson is another prospect whose rankings vary wildly. He’s ranked as high as sixth overall by The Athletic’s Corey Pronman and as low as 26th overall by Elite Prospects.
One of the reasons for the discrepancy is that Danielson is among the older players in this draft class, as he turned 18 just a couple of weeks too late to qualify for last year’s draft. That has to be kept in mind when viewing his performance in the WHL this past season, where he had 78 points in 68 games.
On the other hand, Danielson might have had a lot more points if he was playing on a stronger team, with many of his slick setups mishandled or sent wide by his teammates.
There’s a lot to like about Danielson, whose game looks eminently translatable to the NHL. He plays a strong two-way game and looks like the type of centre who could play in every situation in the NHL: power play, penalty kill, when you desperately need a goal, and when you desperately need to hang onto the lead.
Danielson is hard to knock off the puck and creates time and space to make plays with his puck protection, whether to set up teammates or to take the puck to the net himself. He has a great shot, noticeable speed, and has shown flashes of high-end skill with a Horvatian toe-drag that can leave defencemen scrambling in his wake.
Generally speaking, Danielson is seen as a safe pick — a player with a high floor who is likely to be, at the very least, a third-line centre in the NHL.
But there’s something about his ability to stickhandle in a phonebooth, find teammates through layers, and create off the rush that suggests there might be a top-six centre there that could be a great fit on the Canucks.
Dalibor Dvorský - Centre
6’1” - 201 lbs - Jun 15, 2005 (17)
AIK, HockeyAllsvenskan (38-6-8-14)
Dvorský impressed in international competition for Slovakia. His eight goals and 12 points in five games came just short of leading the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in scoring behind Matvei Michkov, leading Slovakia to the silver medal. He then had an outstanding World Under-18 Championship, getting named to the tournament All-Star Team after scoring eight goals and 13 points in seven games.
Dvorský spent the bulk of his season playing against men in the HockeyAllsvenskan, where he didn’t blow the roof off with his offence, producing 14 points in 38 games, but still showed a mature two-way game along with the size and strength needed to thrive in the NHL.
A strong two-way centre, Dvorský is excellent positionally in the defensive zone and supports his defencemen well on the breakout. In the offensive zone, Dvorský does well in the give-and-go game, an essential element to creating offence in the NHL. He has good vision and patience with the puck to create plays, but can also create space for his own chances with his stickhandling and puck protection.
There are some question marks regarding his skating and whether his production in the HockeyAllsvenskan is a concern. Then again, the few times he was sent down to the junior J20 Nationell league in Sweden, Dvorský utterly dominated with 10 goals and 21 points in 10 games. There’s clear upside here.
Quentin Musty - Left Wing
6’2” - 190 lbs - Jul 6, 2005 (17)
Hamburg, New York, USA
Sudbury Wolves, OHL (53-26-52-78)
Ranked 11th overall by Elite Prospects, Quentin Musty has a tempting combination of size and skill.
Musty has an exceptional shot, making it a little surprising that he only scored 26 goals in 53 games in the OHL this season. He can also distribute the puck well, with an array of passing options. He has top-six upside as a playmaking, goalscoring winger.
The addition of slick stickhandling to Musty’s size makes him a nightmare to defend in the OHL but there is some question of how much that will translate to the NHL, where defencemen have better, quicker sticks and the size to bury a player if they try to get too cute.
There’s a lot of potential to Musty’s game, particularly when you consider his late birthday that makes him one of the younger players in this draft class.
On the other hand, Musty can be inconsistent and needs refinement in his game away from the puck, particularly in the defensive zone. He has the creativity and skill in the offensive zone to be a top-six winger but he needs to work on his complete game.
David Reinbacher - Right Defence
6’2” - 187 lbs - Oct 25, 2004 (18)
EHC Klauten, NL (46-3-19-22)
Landing at 11th in the mock draft from Elite Prospects’ Cam Robinson, David Reinbacher is on the wish list for a lot of Canucks fans.
Unfortunately, for the Canucks 6’2” right-shot defencemen with top-pairing potential are on the wish list for a lot of NHL teams too, so it’s entirely possible that Reinbacher will get picked in the top ten and not be available when the Canucks pick.
Reinbacher has earned comparisons to Moritz Seider with his all-around game. He played significant minutes in Switzerland’s National League and showed a mature defensive game while playing against men, while also popping in 22 points in 46 games, the most ever by a first-time draft-eligible defenceman in the National League.
The question for Reinbacher is offensive upside. He has the defensive tools to be at least a top-four defenceman in the NHL, with great gap control and play-killing ability, but whether he can be a top-pairing or even a true number-one defenceman will likely be defined by his ability with the puck.
Reinbacher has a powerful shot from the point and has shown that he can jump up in the play at times. He’s better at skating the puck out on the breakout, though he can make a good first pass as well. At least in the National League, Reinbacher is adept at making forecheckers miss to create space to move the puck up ice.
Perhaps Reinbacher is the top-pairing partner for Quinn Hughes the Canucks have been looking for. The question is whether the teams picking ahead of the Canucks will let them have him.
Reinbacher is also ranked 11th by Yahoo Sports’ Ian Kennedy.
Riley Heidt - Centre
5’11” - 179 lbs - Mar 25, 2005 (18)
Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Prince George Cougars, WHL (68-25-72-97)
One of several first-time draft-eligible forwards in the top ten of scoring in the WHL, Riley Heidt is ranked 11th overall by Tony Ferrari at The Hockey News.
Heidt racked up 97 points in 68 games to finish fifth in the WHL in scoring and third behind Connor Bedard and Zach Benson among first-time draft-eligible prospects. His monster season was fueled by his playmaking, as he was a creative problem solver in the offensive zone, figuring out unique ways to get the puck to his teammates.
Heidt complements his playmaking with his goalscoring, finishing off plays around the net and slapping one-timers on the power play. He is often at his most dangerous in transition, where he builds up speed and then incorporates impressive east-west mobility at top speed to break past defenders.
Many scouts aren’t as high on Heidt’s two-way game, however, as he has to improve his defensive game to be a centre at the NHL level. Combine that with his smaller size and it starts to become clear why most draft rankings see him as a late first-round pick rather than someone likely to go in the top half of the draft.
Axel Sandin Pellikka - Right Defence
5’11” - 181 lbs - Mar 11, 2005 (18)
Skellefteå AIK, SHL (22-2-3-5)
Sandin Pellikka spent a large chunk of the season as a 17 year old in the SHL playing against men, which is typically a good sign for an NHL future. They couldn’t keep him in the J20 Nationell, as he racked up 36 points in 31 games and proved he needed to be at the next level.
Even with so much time spent in the SHL, Sandin Pellikka was still named the Nationell’s best defenceman. He was also named the best defenceman at the World Under-18 Championship, where he had 11 points in 7 games.
Sandin Pellikka’s mobility is excellent, allowing him to escape forecheckers with practiced ease and to walk the blue line in the offensive zone. He has top-notch hockey sense and can recognize the right moments to jump up in the play to add another layer to his team’s offence and to exploit gaps in coverage.
Defensively, he has the competitive nature and strength to make up for his smaller stature and uses his skating to keep tight gaps and limit options for his opponents. Still, it’s not a strength of his game and will need to be worked on before he gets to the NHL.
For the Canucks, there’s also the question of fit. Sandin Pellikka isn’t going to supplant Quinn Hughes on the power play and isn’t really the right type of defenceman to complement him on the top pairing. Teams shouldn’t draft for need ahead of the best player available, but at this point in the draft, need might play a role when two players are otherwise equivalent.
Jayden Perron - Right Wing
5’8” - 157 lbs - Jan 11, 2005 (18)
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Chicago Steel, USHL (61-24-48-72)
Dobber Prospects has Jayden Perron ranked 11th overall, which is much higher than most.
Let’s get this out of the way early: Perron is very small at 5’8”. Even Dobber Prospects admits that Perron isn’t likely to be drafted this high and TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Craig Button both have him as a second-round pick. Still, you have to respect the conviction in ranking him this high anyway because of how strongly they believe in his upside.
That’s because Perron has elite skill with the puck. He has a good shot, with the puck exploding off his stick when he gets a bit of time. He has outstanding vision, as he can find teammates through multiple layers of coverage and place the puck directly on their tape. His hockey sense is elite, as he’s adept at finding space away from the puck to get open for his teammates.
“He is one of the most efficient and skilled high-low passers in the offensive zone in all junior hockey, passing through layers of defenders with ease,” says Tony Ferrari, who ranks him 12th overall.
It’s just awfully hard to look past the fact that Perron is 5’8”. It’s also worth noting that he played with the projected first-overall pick for 2024, Macklin Celebrini, which may have helped juice his numbers a little. I just don’t see the Canucks taking a chance on Perron at 11th overall.
Eduard Šalé - Right Wing
6’1” - 168 lbs - Mar 10, 2005 (18)
HC Kometa Brno U20, Czechia U20 (39-42-47-89)
Projected to be a top-ten pick, Eduard Šalé might slip to the Canucks at 11th overall, where he’s ranked by Tankathon.
Šalé has elite hands and smooth skating, which combined to help him dominate the Czechia junior league, with 42 goals and 89 points in 39 games. He also spent some time in the men’s league, where he was less successful, with 3 points in 10 games.
With his satchel of offensive tools, Šalé frequently makes difficult plays look easy, beating defencemen and goaltenders one-on-one. He can find teammates with seeing-eye passes or snipe the top corner if defencemen give him too much space. There’s just so much to like about what he can do offensively.
The big question mark for Šalé — and the reason he might slide in the draft — is his compete level. He can make things look easy on the ice but sometimes it really does seem like he’s taking it easy instead of imposing himself on the game. He can be a perimeter player in the offensive zone and gets caught puck-watching in the defensive zone.
If he does slide, will the Canucks pick him up? He has the high-end skill to be a top-six, playmaking winger, with TSN’s Craig Button ranking him fifth overall and comparing him to David Pastrnak. But can he maximize his potential?