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The Canucks draft Jackson Kunz in the fourth round out of Minnesota high school hockey

"I'm not really a sniper but I can put the puck in the net."
The board at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. photo: NHL Network

Without a first or second-round pick, the Canucks had to take some chances in the draft to find an impact player. Sometimes that means taking a smaller player that slides down the draft due to his size, but there are other ways to find value in the draft. One is to look to a league that doesn't produce as many NHL players in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.

In the fourth round, the Canucks dug into high school hockey for Jackson Kunz, a 6'3" winger. The last player the Canucks picked out of high school hockey was Jack Rathbone, who went on to prove himself in the NCAA and become one of the Canucks' top prospects, signing his entry-level contract earlier this year.

Kunz was dominant in high school hockey for Shattuck-St Mary's, finishing with 40 goals in 45 games. With his size, he was a nightmare for opponents below the dots, winning battles along the boards and battling for pucks in front of the net.

Despite his impressive goal totals, Kunz isn't a shooter, by his own admission.

"Most of my goals came from around the net," said Kunz. "Rebounds and just quick plays down low, so I'm not really a sniper but I can put the puck in the net."

That jibes with his scouting reports, which praise his abilities as a net-front presence.

"Jackson has good hands and hand-eye coordination in front of the net, can deflect and get his stick-on pucks consistently," says his scouting report from Hockey Prospect. "Jackson works well off the cycle game, outworks his opponents in the corners consistently and can come off the wall and find lanes east-west in the offensive zone."

Daniel Gee, a video scout for Elite Prospects, points to his ability to find open space on the ice, which would make him a nice fit for a playmaking centre.

Kunz sees himself as a power forward, modelling his game after Jamie Benn with his combination of size and skill. He also played football in the past and brings some of that mentality to the rink, likening himself to a big running back that can drive up the middle and put up points.

While Kunz is a beast around the net, there are questions in other areas of the rink. Also, the question with a bigger player at a lower level is whether they'll be able to maintain their game when they're up against players as big and strong as they are. According to scouting reports, Kunz needs work on his skating and isn't particularly dynamic in terms of his skillset.

Kunz himself admits that his skating needs work, but says he's made strides recently: "It's getting better every year."

Kunz will play in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers next season, then will head to the University of North Dakota. He's from Grand Forks originally, so it will be a homecoming for the big winger. In fact, Kunz became a Canucks fan because of the North Dakota connection.

"Ever since Boeser went there and Stecher from North Dakota, which is where I'm from, I've been following the team, so it's pretty cool," said Kunz.

While there are areas of his game that need work, Kunz has upside to his game as a complementary winger. Now it's a matter of development to round out his weaknesses.