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Canucks pick Hunter Brzustewicz 75th overall at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft

"The transition part of the game, he’s got it."
The Vancouver Canucks picked defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz of the Kitchener Rangers in the third round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

With no second-round pick, the Vancouver Canucks had a bit of a break on Thursday morning in Nashville at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. While the Canucks had talked about potentially trading up into the second round, they evidently were unwilling or unable to do so.

Things kicked into gear soon after, however, as the Canucks had stockpiled five picks in the third and fourth rounds, starting with the 75th overall pick. 

That’s where the Canucks picked Hunter Brzustewicz, their second right defenceman of the draft, joining Tom Willander, who they picked 11th overall on day one.

It’s an indication that the Canucks’ front office agrees with the public perception that they desperately need more depth on the right side in their prospect pool. Beyond the need, however, Brzustewicz is a quality prospect who was projected to go in the second round. Getting him 75th overall in the third round represents good value for the Canucks.

Elite Prospects, who ranked Brzustewicz 52nd overall, praised his puck-moving game in their scouting report.

“Brzustewicz can really evade opponents with incredibly tight turns and spins and lateral steps,” said Elite Prospects’ David St-Louis. “He tries to deceive on every pass. And he’s always activating. The transition part of the game, he’s got it. He just needs to perfect his reads under pressure.”

There’s some offensive upside for Brzustewicz beyond his puck-moving game. He had 57 points in 68 games for Kitchener Rangers in the OHL, using his hockey sense and vision to quarterback the power play and recognize opportunities to activate from the point at 5-on-5.

The question mark for Brzustewicz is his skating, which needs to develop more for him to play the same game in the NHL that he does in the OHL.

“While it’s clearly above-average at the junior level, an asset, it may not stay that way in the pros,” says Elite Prospects in their scouting report. “Brzustewicz completes most of his breakout escapes by using his inside edges or by pivoting in place. He doesn’t have the same cutback explosiveness as high-end NHL puck-movers who separate from opponents with just a couple of strides.”

There’s potential for Brzustewicz to develop into a second-pairing defenceman in the future but there’s work to do for him to get there. Still, that potential is what makes him a quality bet for the Canucks to take in the third round. 

Brzustewicz also made PITB's list of the top 20 names of the draft. If all goes well, Brzustewicz will be a nightmare for Canucks writers to spell for years to come.