In a typical year, there’s a certain amount of consensus heading into the NHL Entry Draft.
Even if everyone doesn’t necessarily agree about who should go first overall, experts usually agree on two players who are battling for the top spot. There’s also generally a pretty good idea of who the top five to ten prospects are, with a little bit of argument about who goes where and a few hot takes about underrated or overrated prospects.
This isn’t a typical year.
Not only is this a draft with no clear number one prospect, scouts also had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Entire leagues didn’t play, including the OHL and NCAA Ivy League. Other leagues played severely shortened schedules, with prospects playing a fraction of the games they would normally play in their draft year.
On top of that, travel restrictions meant getting to games in-person to scout was difficult to impossible, with many teams and scouting services relying more on video scouting than ever before.
The end result: wildly disparate draft rankings.
Most draft experts seem to think defenceman Owen Power will go first overall, but it’s far from unanimous. One ranking had Power nearly out of the top ten, while centre Matthew “Matty” Beniers was first on many boards. Even defenceman Luke Hughes, Quinn and Jack’s brother, finished first on one ranking, while on others he was as low as 11th.
Even if most have Powers going first, there’s no consensus on who should go second. Different rankings have Beniers, Hughes, or Power at second, but also names like Dylan Guenther, Simon Edvinsson, Brandt Clarke, Kent Johnson, and William Eklund.
Of course, the Vancouver Canucks aren’t picking first or second. They’re picking ninth.
The upshot of the lack of consensus is that good players could slip down to the Canucks at ninth, perhaps a player the Canucks are much higher on than other NHL teams. With such a hard-to-predict top-ten, the Canucks should end up with a very good prospect at ninth overall.
Let’s take a look at who the draft experts have ranked at ninth to get a picture of who might be available for the Canucks, with an eye towards a more thorough examination in the coming month. As is fitting for this unpredictable draft, there were 11 different players ranked ninth among the 17 draft rankings I looked at for this article.
1 | Jesper Wallstedt, G - Craig Button, TSN
Let’s start with a player the Canucks are extremely unlikely to pick, just to get it out of the way. With Thatcher Demko establishing himself as the team’s number one and Michael DiPietro on the way, the Canucks don’t need a top-tier goaltending prospect like Jesper Wallstedt.
That’s not to say they don’t need more goaltending prospects. They absolutely do, with only Arturs Silovs a legitimate prospect behind DiPietro. Goaltending Ian Clark has suggested that the Canucks should pick a goaltender in two out of every three drafts — they didn’t pick one last year, so they’re due to pick one this year.
They just don’t need Wallstedt, even if he projects to be a great goaltender, which he does. The Canucks just need to use the ninth-overall pick on a bigger area of need.
2 | Chaz Lucius, C - Bob McKenzie, TSN
The excellently-named Chaz Lucius comes in at ninth on Bob McKenzie’s ranking, which is compiled from talking to multiple scouts and sources. McKenzie’s ranking is often a closer reflection to how the draft actually plays out than other rankings.
Lucius has one of the best shots in the draft, but can also bang in rebounds and loose pucks around the net. He had 13 goals in just 12 games in the USHL.
On top of that, he’s also an excellent playmaker and puck handler. The question marks for him are his skating, lack of pace, and questionable defensive habits, and he’ll also likely be a winger and not a centre at the NHL level. Still, it’s hard to argue against someone who is so effective at putting the puck in the net.
Lucius is also ranked 9th overall by McKeen’s Hockey.
3 | Mason McTavish, C - Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News
If Lucius doesn’t have the best shot in the draft, Mason McTavish might. The two players couldn’t be any more different, however, as McTavish projects as a two-way centre, who plays with great pace despite flaws in his skating, and has a mature defensive game to go with his scoring instincts. Some have compared him to Bo Horvat or Ryan O’Reilly.
McTavish has already established that he can play against grown men, spending the 2020-21 season in Switzerland, where he had 9 goals and 11 points in 13 games. He also excelled against his peers, captaining Team Canada to gold at the World Under-18 Championship, putting up 11 points in 7 games.
4 | Matthew Beniers, C - International Scouting Services
That’s right, the player that several rankings have first overall, the well-respected International Scouting Services has at ninth.
Matthew “Matty” Beniers is unlikely to fall to the Canucks at ninth overall, but it would be cool if he did. He’s a great two-way centre with superb skating that makes him dangerous in transition. Combined with an elite defensive game, Beniers can create a stop at one end of the ice and turn it immediately into offence at the other end of the ice.
Beniers may not quite have the dynamic offence to be a first-line centre at the NHL level, but he could be a shutdown second-line centre whose combination of secondary scoring and defensive impact makes him equally valuable. The odds of him sliding to the Canucks at ninth are very slim.
5 | Fabian Lysell, RW - Elite Prospects
Fabian Lysell’s combination of speed and skill make him a dynamic scoring threat off the rush, with the ability to undress defenders 1-on-1. He can both score goals and set them up, with superb vision and shifty deceptiveness to create passing and shooting lanes.
He’s a lot of fun to watch and is even responsible enough defensively to stick in the SHL for 26 games this season.
Is he the right fit for the Canucks? While drafting for need is often a fool’s errand, right wing isn’t the biggest weak spot in the Canucks’ prospect pool. There’s also a question of whether Lysell’s grab bag of offensive moves will still be effective against NHL defencemen.
Still, Lysell’s offensive upside is hard to ignore.
6 | Brandt Clarke, D - Cam Robinson, Elite Prospects
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a draft ranking, but a mock draft by Robinson. It’s perhaps a little optimistic to hope that Brandt Clarke, a right-shot defenceman with good size and serious offensive upside. It’s tempting to picture Clarke on the right side of Quinn Hughes on the Canucks’ top pairing for years to come.
There are a couple issues. His defensive game is a work in progress, even if it’s not necessarily bad, and his skating is mechanically suspect. To a certain extent, that’s exciting, because if he cleans up his mechanics, he could be even more dynamic on the ice.
The biggest issue, of course, is that Clarke is likely to be gone before the Canucks pick at ninth.
7 | Cole Sillinger, C/LW - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Wheeler acknowledges that he’s higher on Cole Sillinger than others, with no other rankings placing him in the top ten. It’s understandable why Wheeler likes him, however — he scores goals.
Sillinger can put the puck in the net in every possible way, with every type of shot, racking up 24 goals in just 31 games in the USHL on one of the worst teams in the league. He keeps control of the puck to get into goal scoring areas with both his stick and his body, winning battles along the boards and getting his body in between defenders and the puck to keep possession.
The question marks for Sillinger are in the defensive zone. If he applied the same physical edge that he displays in the offensive zone, he’d be a lot more effective defensively and likely much higher on everyone’s draft rankings.
8 | Dylan Guenther, RW - Ryan Pike, SB Nation
Like Sillinger, Dylan Guenther is fantastic at putting the puck in the net. He racked up 12 goals and 24 points in just 12 games in the WHL, which is just silly. Would he have still scored a goal per game and two points per game over a longer season? Probably not, but he did it over 12 games.
What Guenther has over Sillinger is a more well-rounded game, with playmaking to go with the goalscoring, though goalscoring is his main calling card thanks to an elite wrist shot. He competes harder than Sillinger in the defensive zone as well.
While Guenther primarily plays right wing, he’s versatile enough to play left wing as well and has even spent time at centre.
Guenther could be gone in the top five, but if he’s still available at ninth, he could make sense for the Canucks.
9 | Kent Johnson, C - Future Considerations
Local boy Kent Johnson has spoken glowingly about Alex Burrows slaying the dragon and names Elias Pettersson as a role model. That’s one reason why bringing him home to the Canucks would be compelling, but thankfully he’s also a fantastic prospect.
Johnson is exceptionally creative offensively and had 27 points in 26 games as a freshman for the University of Michigan in the NCAA. He’s an unreal puckhandler, a deceptive playmaker, and an adept goal-scorer. There’s so much to like about his game.
The question is whether Johnson has a strong enough two-way game to play centre at the NHL level or if he will end up as a complementary left winger instead. The Canucks could use either.
Johnson is also ranked ninth by Matthew Zator with The Hockey Writers.
10 | Fyodor Svechkov, C/LW - Smaht Scouting
Fyodor Svechkov’s limited offensive upside has kept him out of the top-ten on most draft rankings, but his elite defensive game makes him a lock for an NHL future. He might be the best defensive forward in the draft — heck, he’s better defensively than a lot of the defencemen in the first round.
It’s possible that once he’s in a league where he doesn’t have to constantly cover for his defensively-suspect teammates — an issue in both the VHL and MHL where Svechkov played — that his offence will take a step forward as well. He had no issue producing alongside his peers at the World Under-18 Championship, where he had 10 points in 7 games.
If the Canucks want to commit to Russians after drafting Vasili Podkolzin, the way the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning have, drafting Svechkov ninth overall would be a good place to start.
11 | Owen Power, D - Dobber Prospects
It just goes to show how volatile this draft really is that there’s a compelling argument to be made that a player likely to go first overall could be the ninth best player in the draft.
Is Owen Power going to be available at ninth overall? Barring a miracle, no. But it’s entirely possible that he is actually the ninth best player available in the draft.
Dobber Prospects points to defensive deficiencies in his game and a lack of willingness to use his impressive size to win puck battles. Meanwhile, other rankings suggest he’s more likely to be a second-pairing defenceman than the top-pairing defenceman you might hope for in a first-overall pick.
Still, Power’s 6’6” wingspan and smooth skating to go with it will surely see him go at the top of the draft. Sadly, he won’t be an option for the Canucks.