With his massive size and intriguing toolkit, Vilmer Alriksson is one of the Vancouver Canucks' most interesting picks from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Like most players taken after the first couple of rounds, however, Alriksson is also a project as much as he is a prospect. The 6'6" winger needs a lot of refinement to his game before he's ready to play in the NHL, which is one of the reasons why his size and skill didn't translate to a lot of points in Sweden's under-20 Nationell league last season.
That refinement is going to take place in Canada, as Alriksson will be playing in the OHL for the Guelph Storm.
That's a switch from what Alriksson said at the Canucks development camp.
"We'll see in the next couple of weeks what happens but I have offers in Sweden, so I'll probably stay in Sweden," said Alriksson. Evidently, the Canucks had other plans.
On July 5, just as the Canucks' prospect development camp came to a close, the Storm selected Alriksson with their first pick in the CHL Import Draft, 34th overall. Clearly, the Storm felt confident that their pick wouldn't be in vain.
"We addressed a need with our size, skill and speed with our forward group," said Storm general manager George Burnett, who also picked goaltender Damian Slavik. "We are working hard with both families and their representatives and hope to have both kids here for camp in the Fall."
On Monday morning, that hard work paid off, as both Alriksson and Slavik committed to the Storm.
The Canucks' current director of amateur scouting, Todd Harvey, was an assistant coach with the Storm for four seasons before he was hired by the Canucks as a scout. That's a pretty significant connection and might have played a role in Alriksson landing in Guelph. The Storm also sent two of their forwards to Canucks camp as invitees — Braeden Bowman and Max Namestnikov — and the captain of the Storm, Cooper Walker, just signed with the Abbotsford Canucks.
It's an interesting landing spot for Alriksson for his development. In Sweden, Alriksson would have likely bounced between the Nationell and either the HockeyAllsvenskan or the SHL, with ice time likely limited at the men's level. In the OHL, on the other hand, Alriksson could play a more consistent and significant role on the Storm.
It's an opportunity for Alriksson to apply some of the lessons he learned at camp about using his size and strength to his advantage, as he'll need to adapt to the smaller rink size in North America, which inevitably leads to less room on the ice and more physical contact. The Canucks will be hoping that his skillset will be a better fit for the smaller ice than the roomier rinks in Europe.