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Canucks take defenceman Jacob Truscott in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

"He reads and processes the game faster than most and is very decisive when the situation calls for action."
Jacob Truscott wxyz-tv Detroit
Jacob Truscott was picked in the fifth round by the Vancouver Canucks at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. photo: WXYZ-TV Detroit/YouTube

In recent years, the Canucks have repeatedly dipped into the USHL in later rounds in search of hidden gems. In the fifth round, they went back to the USHL, nabbing a puck-moving defenceman from the US National Team Development Program.

Jacob Truscott was the second-highest scoring defenceman on the USNTDP U-18 team behind Jake Sanderson, who went 5th overall to the Ottawa Senators. With 21 points in 47 games, Truscott was just 8 points behind Sanderson, which opens up a tantalizing question: could he have done more if he wasn't stuck behind Sanderson? With more opportunities, would Truscott have put up more points and done more to catch the eyes of scouts?

Some scouts were certainly a lot higher on Truscott than others, such as TSN's Craig Button, who ranked him 59th overall on his list. Getting him with the 144th pick represents great value, as he has some serious potential to be a top-four defenceman at the NHL level.

The biggest strength of Truscott's game is his skating, which drives everything else.

"[Truscott] has impressive acceleration, very good edges and pivots and top speed," says Ryan Wagman in his scouting report for McKeen's Hockey. "He reads and processes the game faster than most and is very decisive when the situation calls for action."

One repeated note in Truscott's scouting reports is that nothing truly stands out about his game. "There really isn't a wow factor," says Wagman, while Elite Prospects notes how difficult it was to evaluate Truscott as there were some nights he "performed like a second-round prospect" and others where he looked like "an F-grade, do-not-draft prospect."

That seems to be why Truscott fell to the fifth round despite his solid production and projectable size and skating. It also makes him an intriguing gamble: if he can sort out the consistency issues and more regularly look like a second-round prospect, this pick will be a steal for the Canucks.

"I feel I'm a two-way defenceman that has a lot of offensive upside," said Truscott in a call with the media. "I like to jump in the rush to create offence. I feel I see the ice pretty well." 

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Truscott said that he's looked up to Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski his whole life and sees himself as that type of player: "a two-way defenceman who has more offensive swagger to his game, likes to join the rush and create plays, as well as defending first, offence second."

He also describes himself as a huge fan of Quinn Hughes, which makes sense: Truscott is from Michigan and has been a long-time fan of the University of Michigan, Hughes's alma mater. Truscott will be following in the footsteps of Hughes and playing for the University of Michigan next season. They should have a strong team and he'll have the opportunity to develop and potentially put up some big numbers.

"I look forward to developing my defensive game at the University of Michigan in the years to come and develop my strength and size," said Truscott. "I think that's really important to add to my game."

Truscott is looking into studying sports science at Michigan — "I like doing hands-on things, hands-on experiments...that's something that really interests me" — and described the Canucks as one of his favourite teams. 

"They have such a great history and I know a lot of players that have been there," he said. "Someone that lives right by me near Port Huron is Tyler Motte. My assistant coach at Michigan, Bill Muckalt, played there, and one of my favourite players, Quinn Hughes, obviously. It's such a great team and I'm honoured to be a part of that."

There are a lot of excellent tools in Truscott's game: his skating is a big plus, he can handle the puck well and make smart plays, and he has a knack for getting his shot through traffic, even if it's not a big bomb from the point. Elite Prospects calls him a "technically-skilled passer who can thread the needle in all three zones." Those are a lot of positives.

At the same time, Truscott is a bit of a project because he doesn't always put those tools together consistently. Perhaps the biggest positive is that he's taking the college route, so the Canucks will have plenty of time to let him develop.