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The Canucks made the right kind of gamble picking Arvid Costmar in the 7th round

The vast majority of 7th-round picks never play in the NHL. At the draft, they’re the longest of long shots. The Canucks, however, have had a couple success stories out of the seventh round: Dixon Ward and Doug Lidster.
Arvid Costmar of Sweden moves to check Justin Barron of Team Canada.
Arvid Costmar of Sweden moves to check Justin Barron of Team Canada.

The vast majority of 7th-round picks never play in the NHL. At the draft, they’re the longest of long shots.

The Canucks, however, have had a couple success stories out of the seventh round: Dixon Ward and Doug Lidster.

Ward famously had an incredible rookie season, scoring 22 goals and 52 points in 70 games. He still holds the franchise record for best plus/minus from a rookie. Unfortunately, he never reached those heights again and only lasted another half season with the Canucks before getting traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Still, he played 537 games in the NHL with 224 points. That’s pretty good for a seventh-round pick.

The Canucks’ other big seventh-round success story lasted a lot longer in Vancouver. Lidster played a devilish 666 regular season games with the Canucks and was a mainstay of their blue line for nine seasons. He even wore the “C” for a season when he was co-captain with Dan Quinn and Trevor Linden in 1990-91.

Lidster was traded just before the 1993-94 season, but it worked out pretty well for him: he won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers. In all, Lidster played 897 games in the NHL, far beyond what you would expect from a seventh-round pick.

The Canucks can only hope for similar success of out their seventh-round picks this year. Aidan McDonough has upside with his big frame and quick shot. Then there’s Arvid Costmar, the third-last pick of the draft at 215th overall, who has significant potential, even if scouts are divided on his upside.

Costmar is one of the younger players in the draft with his July birthday, which gives him a little more development time and puts his season into perspective: he’s still just 17 years old, whereas some of his peers in this draft turned 18 at the start of their seasons. At this age, those extra months of development can make a big difference.

In Sweden’s under-20 SuperElit league this past season, Costmar was solid but not spectacular. He finished the season with 38 points in 44 games, earning a brief four-game callup to the SHL, where he averaged 12:52 per game but was unable to hit the scoresheet.

Even playing games in the SHL as a 17 year old is a good sign. Playing a regular shift in those four games is an even better one, as it shows the coaching staff felt they could trust the young centre to hold his own.

That fits Costmar’s scouting reports, which praise his play away from the puck, both offensively and defensively. Hockey Prospect notes his ability to cut off passing lanes with his smart defensive play, which also makes him an effective penalty killer, while every scouting report makes mention of his ability on the forecheck. Offensively, he plays smart away from the puck, finding gaps in defensive coverage to get open for scoring chances, which he finishes with aplomb.

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In international play, Costmar has been hit or miss. He excelled at the 2018 U-18 Five Nations Tournament, leading Sweden in scoring with 4 goals and 8 points in 4 games. A scouting report on the tournament from Draft Prospects Hockey was effusive about Costmar’s performance.

“He was the driving force behind Sweden’s offense all tournament,” reads the report. “He played the game at a solid pace and has a knack for getting himself open is prime scoring spots. When he gets passes in a scoring position he wastes no time. When he shoots he gets really low and hammers a low one-time snap shot.”

His performance at other tournaments, however, has underwhelmed. He was the captain of Sweden at the 2018 U-17 Five Nations Tournament, but managed just one point, a goal, in five games. He had just one assist in five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. At the 2018 World Under-18 Championship, a much larger tournament, Costmar had just one assist in three games before an injury cut his tournament short.

Judd Brackett made mention of his performance at the U-18 Five Nations Tournament, which took place in November, when he talked about why Costmar fell so far down the draft to where the Canucks could take him with the third-last pick.

“Arvid Costmar is someone who certainly numbers don't lie on and had some injuries towards the end of the year, so the viewings maybe were down,” said Brackett. “But he’s someone that plays in all situations, that sort of had the highs and lows in his year this year, but we felt that if he can get to the back to where he was maybe in November and earlier in the year, he has a really good chance to continue on an upward trend.”

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Public draft rankings are divided on Costmar. J.D. Burke of Elite Prospects Rinkside stated outright that Costmar was on his “do not draft” list, so I reached out to find out why.

“My big concerns with Costmar this year centred around competitiveness,” said Burke. “He's not the fastest skater and Costmar makes life even harder for himself with his propensity to wander in and out of play without the puck on his stick. I'm not a fan of his puck skills, and his offensive instincts never really jumped out at me as being even above average.”

“His defensive instincts are decent enough,” added Burke. “He can anticipate plays and disrupt the opposition with sound positioning and stickwork.”

Burke did suggest that Costmar was “a fine player where the Canucks got him,” and seventh-round picks are where you can take a chance on a player with significant flaws. Others are higher on Costmar and his upside, such as Ryan Biech of NextGen Hockey.

“Costmar feels a bit raw around the edges, but showed at the SuperElit level that he can produce,” said Biech. “He is a speedy player that relies on constantly keeping his feet moving. He has a bit of a physical edge to his game and isn't afraid to get hits in despite being smaller in size.”

“His standout tools are his work ethic, physical play, and to some degree his passing,” he added.

It’s fascinating to see the dichotomy of takes regarding Costmar, sometimes in the same publication.

Hockey Prospect’s prospect profile on Costmar raises questions about his skating, saying, “His first few strides need to get a lot quicker and his top speed is not very good.” And yet, in each of the game-by-game scouting reports in their Black Book, Costmar’s speed is consistently praised as a plus, even if the reports all seem to agree that he needs more explosiveness in his acceleration.

Future Considerations praises his quickness and “high-energy game,” even while saying he needs to “improve...his top speed,” then says “With his quickness, he is a good forechecker.”

Their scouting report adds that Costmar “really shines on the power play, especially when he gets a bit more space to handle the puck and set up plays.” Future Considerations scout Christoffer Hedlund certainly sees some upside in Costmar’s game:

Future Considerations ranked Costmar 155th overall, while McKeen’s ranked him 180th. Central Scouting had Costmar 85th among European skaters. Cam Robinson of Dobber Hockey had him 137th on his board.

Hockey Prospect suggests that Costmar’s one-timer is his most effective offensive weapon, describing it as “clinical.”

The diverse opinions on Costmar make him particularly intriguing to watch in the coming year. He’s likely to once again split time between the under-20 SuperElit league and the SHL, with hopefully more time and opportunity in the SHL.

The common theme among the scouting reports is that Costmar is a smart player, who reads the game well defensively and challenges his opponents with aggressive play on the forecheck. While reports are divided on his skating, there’s a general consensus that he needs a little more explosiveness in his first two steps and a higher top speed.

With his defensive play, Costmar could have a future as a bottom-six forward in the NHL with proper development, but the intriguing aspect is his offensive game. While some question his offensive instincts and playmaking, he put up points in the SuperElit league and has had flashes of brilliance in international play. With his knack for finding open space and “clinical” finishing ability, perhaps there’s something more to his game.

That’s the kind of gamble I like to see out of a seventh-round pick: a player with flaws, but with intriguing upside if he corrects those flaws. Costmar is a long-term project, but the Canucks will be able to give him time in Sweden to develop before deciding to bring him across the ocean to North America.