It was a long time to wait between picks for the Vancouver Canucks on day two of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
The Canucks made their first pick of the draft early in the second round. They didn’t make their second pick until over four hours later as the second day of the draft was far slower than usual. That’s likely a result of the teams not being in the same room together in another city, with teams looking to move quickly through the draft so they can fly back home.
Two trades meant the Canucks didn’t have picks in the third and fourth rounds because of two trades — one for Jason Dickinson and one for Madison Bowey. When they finally stepped up in the fifth round, however, they made two picks in short succession.
With the 137th pick of the draft, the Canucks took Finnish goaltender Aku Koskenvuo. Three picks later, they selected Swedish defenceman Jonathan Myrenberg.
137th overall: Goaltender Aku Koskenvuo
Let’s start with Koskenvuo, who was ranked 4th among European goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. It was exceedingly likely that the Canucks would draft at least one goaltender this year.
“We didn't take a goaltender last year,” said Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark in June. “I'm always kind of an advocate that you would take a goaltender probably on average two out of three years. So, not taking a goaltender last year likely would mean that we would look to take one this year.”
Koskenvuo has one clear attribute that made him attractive to the Canucks: he has NHL-projectable size for a goaltender at 6’4”.
“If I was picking a goalie based on size, you probably want a goalie that’s 6’3”, somewhere in that range, maybe 6’4”,” said Canucks goaltending coach back in June. While the Canucks taking Koskenvuo was presumably based on more than size, he’s certainly the right size.
Beyond the size, Koskenvuo also has the athleticism needed for an NHL goaltender.
“For a player of his stature, he moved well both laterally and out beyond the top of his crease,” said Shaun Richardson in a scouting report from the World Under-18 Championship for FC Hockey.
“Koskenvuo challenged shooters as they drove to the net from various angles and his puck tracking looked very good as he was able to follow the play through crowds and below the goal line...Engaging in reactionary saves and taking advantage of his athletic abilities is when Koskenvuo is at his best. He was quick with his pads, able to get up and down well and had a decent blocker.”
Unflattering numbers but the right foundation
Koskenvuo got lit up at that U18 tournament, posting an unflattering .874 save percentage in six games, but scouts liked the potential he showed in those games. He illustrated the foundation and building blocks he has available.
“I saw enough to make me think that he could develop into an NHL goaltender,” said FC Hockey’s Derek Neumeier. “When it comes to elements that you want to see in a goalie prospect, he checks off a lot of boxes.”
Prior to the U18s, Koskenvuo spent the season in the Finnish U20 league, with an .893 save percentage in 13 games. That may not sound great, but it was above average among goaltenders who played at least 10 games last season.
When it comes to goaltenders, particularly ones being drafted in the fifth round, you’re not necessarily looking for incredible performances but for certain attributes: length, flexibility, and athleticism are all part of that, but also creative problem solving and competitiveness.
Ian Clark talked about the scouting process for the draft on the Sekeres and Price show last month, where he talked about drafting “green, raw goalies” when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets: Jonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.
“What we saw in those goalies was all of those incredible assets — maybe not the cohesive package yet — but had all these incredible assets that you need to have to be an elite goaltender,” said Clark.
Given Clark’s input on scouting goaltenders, it’s fair to assume that Koskenvuo has those same assets.
Koskenvuo is heading to Harvard University in the Fall, where he will look to build those assets into a cohesive package.
140th overall: defenceman Jonathan Myrenberg
With the 140th pick, the Canucks drafted Jonathan Myrenberg, a Swedish defenceman who split the season between Linköping in the under-20 Nationell league and Sollentuna in the third-tier HockeyEttan men’s league.
Myrenberg is 6’2”, right-handed, and had 8 points in 15 Nationell games and 6 points in 9 HockeyEttan games, all assists. He landed on a few draft rankings and was ranked as high as 131st overall by Smaht Scouting.
Scouting reports praise his strong skating, puck control, and his above-average shot. He can drill a one-timer and also has a hard and accurate wristshot that he can get through traffic.
His skating is a projectable skill, though it evidently still needs development.
“He’s able to accumulate a decent top speed for sure, but he is tall and lanky and he does lack explosiveness to his stride,” said Hockey Prospect in their draft guide. “On the other hand, he has good edgework and lower body mobility along with a good center of gravity. There's a really solid foundation here and given time to develop physically, good things will happen as he gets stronger.”
According to Hockey Prospect, there are also some decision-making question marks. When he controls the puck in his own end and makes a good first pass, he’s safe and reliable. When he tries to skate the puck out on his own, it can be a roller coaster.
“There are several examples of him making attempts of trying to transport the puck coast-to-coast, leaving the spectators gasping for air, making incredible long stick handles and flawless lateral moves, just to give the puck away in a stupid fashion, on the offensive blueline or by a bad pass,” said their draft guide.
Even with that in mind, there’s a lot to like about a player with the ability to make those kinds of rushes who just needs a little more refinement in when he chooses to do so.
Myrenberg is defensively responsible, with an active stick and a physical edge.
“Almost every time the opposing team is trying to enter the zone on his side, he is looking to hit the player on his defensive blueline,” said Hockey Prospect.
There’s a lot to like with this pick for the Canucks and he provides some much needed depth on the right side of defence in their prospect pool.