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Canucks pick 6’6” Vilmer Alriksson 107th overall at 2023 NHL Entry Draft

"Some really intriguing moments for a player his size."
The Vancouver Canucks took hulking winger Vilmer Alriksson from Djurgardens IF in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

While smaller players have shown they can thrive in the modern NHL, size still matters and teams are always looking for that unicorn: a giant who can actually play.

That’s what the Vancouver Canucks hope they found in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in Vilmer Alriksson.

Alriksson is a 6’6” left winger from Sweden who is a long-term project with some intriguing skills and traits to go with his enormous size. A lack of consistency in those skills is what makes him a gamble.

Scouting reports will praise Alriksson’s skating and mobility in one game, then question his coordination the next. The general consensus is that his skating is good for a player his size but needs refinement, which is also the case for many of his other skills.

One report will suggest Alriksson has a strong two-way game, but then another report will question his commitment away from the puck. 

“His impressive size and physical attributes give him an advantage in winning physical battles,” says FC Hockey’s Fredrik Haak in one scouting report. 

“Doesn’t have that noticeable defensive impact despite the huge frame,” says Elite Prospects’ Lassi Alanen in another report. “Actually, he often takes bad angles and doesn’t really use his body that well in battles.”

In other words, Alriksson is inconsistent from one game to the next.

Alriksson showed flashes of soft hands and deceptive stickhandling, but then scouting reports would note pucks clanking off his stick or trouble stickhandling in traffic. That’s not too surprising for an 18-year-old who is 6’6” and likely still adjusting to his size. 

“He does have some really intriguing moments for a player his size,” said Alanen in one scouting report. “He came down the wall off the rush, duped the defender with a body fake that he’d be cutting inside, but went outside instead, all in one surprisingly smooth motion, and completely beat the guy 1-on-1.”

One plus for his game is his shot, which has a lot of pro-level traits. He can get his shot off quickly and cleanly, with a knack for dragging the puck into his skates to change the angle before release. That means Alriksson can do more than just battle for rebounds in front of the net but can beat goaltenders from distance as well.

Alriksson’s skills and shot resulted in limited production for Djurgårdens in the J20 Nationell league in Sweden. He put up 12 goals and 21 points in 43 games, which ranks 85th in scoring among 18 year olds and 111th in points per game. 

With Alriksson, then, the Canucks are making a bet on his upside. They’re hoping that with more consistency and refinement, he could project like a player with a similar profile, Detroit Red Wings winger Elmer Söderblom.

The comparison is obvious. Both are big wingers who play more of a skill game than a power game, but have that size and strength in their back pocket. Söderblom is a bit taller at 6’8” but similarly had limited production in Swedish junior hockey in his draft year, with 17 points in 44 games for Frölunda. In his post-draft year, however, Söderblom broke out in a big way, racking up 29 goals and 55 points in 36 games and getting into games against men in the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan.

Now, Söderblom is in the NHL with Detroit at the age of 21 — a meteoric rise from being a sixth-round pick in 2019.

Banking on Alriksson to break out like Söderblom is definitely a gamble, as Söderblom is the exception rather than the rule for low-producing, late-round picks. 

If Alriksson can do it, however, the Canucks could add a hulking, 6’6” winger to their lineup in a few years’ time. In their minds, that was worth a gamble in the fourth round.