Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. The cut-off for prospects is typically 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Vancouver Canucks Prospects
The Canucks descent from President’s Trophy winners, and getting to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 to the second worst record in the NHL in 2016-17 has been slow, steady, and painful. Canucks fans now hope that the team has hit rock bottom, and is ready to start turning things in the other direction. That process started at the NHL trade deadline, when the Canucks moved out Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen for prospects.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, some bad luck in the NHL Draft Lottery saw them fall as far as possible in the first round draft order. They ended up with the fifth overall pick.
2017 NHL Draft Picks: Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Michael DiPietro, Jack Rathbone, Kristoffer Gunnarsson, Petrus Palmu, Matt Brassard
Graduates: Nikita Tryamkin, Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, Joseph Cramarossa, Michael Chaput
Top Prospect: Brock Boeser
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born February 25 1997 — Burnsville, Minnesota
Height 6’1″ — Weight 191 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, in the 1st Round, 23rd Overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Boeser, had another strong season at North Dakota, even with both of his 2015-16 linemates no longer on the team and playing in the NHL. He emerged as a team leader as a sophomore and had 16 goals and 34 points in 32 games. When the season was done he signed in Vancouver, and scored four goals and one assist in nine games.
Brock Boeser has very good top end speed. He has worked to improve his first few steps and acceleration recently. His start up is a little choppy and if he can make it a bit smoother he could really improve this area of his game. He has made strides in this area since joining North Dakota, but there are still a few more refinements to make. Its not a liability, but is an area that can still use some small improvements. Boeser has good agility, and the edge work to make quick cuts on defenders. His balance and power are very good at the college level and allow him to fight through checks; but again a little more lower body strength is needed before he goes pro.
Brock Boeser is a pure sniper who has a tremendous one-timer. He also has a hard wrist shot with a hair trigger release. He has the hockey sense and ability to find holes in the opposing defence and set himself up for a shot. A good skater and puck handler, Boeser also has the ability to create openings for himself or others. He can also be a play maker, with good vision and solid passing skill.
Over the last two years Boeser has added muscle on his frame. He can still get even stronger though. This would make him even more effective in the corners and in front of the net. He doesn’t show fear to go to dirty areas right now, but he could simply win more battles at the NHL leviel with more core strength. Boeser has a low centre of gravity and cycles the puck well now, but should be even better in time if he can add that muscle. He forechecks hard and can punish defencemen in the corners with hits if they don’t move the puck quickly. Boeser also has the soft hands necessary to finish plays in close to the net.
Brock Boeser’s defensive game is inconsistent. At times he looks very strong, with strong backchecking, good positioning and the active stick to break up plays and start the transition game. He gets involved in board battles and shows a willingness to put his body on the line to block shots. At other times, he gets caught puck watching and cheating for the long stretch pass through the neutral zone. The talent to play a two-way games is there. It is hoped that he will become more consistent with added maturity.
Expect to see Boeser make the Canucks out of camp. He could have a big season, and even be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy. Boeser is looking like a late first round steal.
#2 Prospect: Elias Pettersson
The Canucks drafted Pettersson with the 5th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Pettersson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Olli Juolevi
Defense — shoots Left
Born May 5th, 1998 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 180 lbs [188 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st round, #5 overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Juolevi matched his draft year stats with 10 goasl and 42 points in 58 games for the London Knights. He also put up three goals and eight points in 14 playoff games before the Knights lost to the eventual OHL Champion Erie Otters. Juolevi was also part of a disappointing Finland team at the World Juniors.
Juolevi’s strong two-way game is based on his strong skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions, and good acceleration. His pivots are crisp and his edge work is very solid. This allows him to quickly transition from offence-to-defence or vice-versa. This skating allows Juolevi to cover a ton of ice, and to be able to join the rush, or make pinches at the blueline and still get back defensively. Adding core strength would allow Juolevi to improve his balance and be stronger on the puck, as well as better at winning battles in the corners.
Olli Juolevi helps to quarterback the Knights powerplay with good skating ability, a powerful slap shot, strong wrist shot, and very good passing skills. He has excellent vision and the shows the smarts to make the smart play, whether its in running the point on that powerplay or in starting the rush out of the London end of the rink. Juolevi walks the line well and opens up passing and shooting lanes with his agility and poise with the puck on his stick. He understands how to keep the puck low and on net in order to maximize his teammates ability to get tip-ins, screens and rebounds. In addition to making good breakout passes, he has the skating and puck handling skills to avoid the forecheck and start the play that way as well.
On top of that, Juolevi looked great defensively in the OHL with strong positioning and being tough to beat one-on-one. He is very strong at protecting the middle of the ice, using his good footwork to keep himself between attacking forwards and the net. He forces opponents to the outside against the rush, and keeps those cycling the puck to the boards. Juolevi has a quick stick, and uses it to poke the puck off of opponents sticks, and to cut down on passing lanes.
He isn’t one to throw big hits, but is willing to be as physical as necessary to defend against the cycle and to clear the front of the net. He could stand to bulk up a bit, which would help him to be stronger on the puck and better at board battles when he moves to the next level and faces bigger and stronger opponents than the teenagers he goes up against in junior hockey.
Juolevi will go to training camp looking to make the Canucks roster. With the signing of Michael Del Zotto, he will need a really strong camp to earn a top six role this season. The Canucks may be planning to take it slow and let him continue to development. Reports out of Vancouver this week suggest that Juolevi could spend a season in Europe instead of going back to the OHL next year.
#4 Prospect: Thatcher Demko
Goalie — shoots Left
Born Dec 8 1995 — San Diego, CA
Height 6’4 — Weight 195 lbs [193 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #36 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Demko signed with Vancouver last summer and had a solid, but not spectacular first pro season with Utica in the AHL. While a .907 save percentage does not look great, it is a solid number over a full season for a 21-year-old AHL rookie.
Style and Potential
Demko is already 6’4 and he has ideal size that NHL teams are looking for in goalie prospects. This size, combined with his ability to cut down angles gives shooters very little to look at. Demko skates well, meaning he recovers quickly and stays with shooters if they try to deke. He also has a strong push giving him very good lateral movement and his puck tracking ability is very solid. He understands where the play is going, anticipates well, and gets across the crease quickly for cross-ice passes and one-timers.
Demko plays a butterfly style and is extremely hard to beat down low due to his long and quick legs. He is so big that even when he does go down he can still take up a lot of the upper portion of the net. Demko has really improved his rebound control over his time with Boston College and Utica. He still has some more work to do though, as many young goalies do. He is very good at staying square to the puck, even when does given up rebounds. This usually puts Demko in good position to stop those second chance opportunities. He also has a quick glove hand.
Demko handles the puck well, another aspect that many teams like in a modern goaltender. He helps his defencemen by being able to retrieve dump-ins and make smart outlets. On the powerplay he can catch the other team on a line change with a long pass to a forward.
The Canucks goaltender of the future will likely play another season in the AHL with the Utica Comets. This is not a bad thing, as he needs playing time in order to continue to develop. Demko is a year or two away from making an NHL impact, but should be worth the wait.
#5 Prospect: Jonathan Dahlen
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born December 20th 1997 — Östersund, Sweden
Height 5’11” — Weight 176 lbs [180 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #42 overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Vancouver Canucks, February 2017
Dahlen was acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline, in a move that sent Burrows to the nations capital. He played with Elias Pettersson in the Allvenskan and had a remarkable seaosn with 25 goals and 44 points in 45 games. He also added six points in four playoff games. At the World Juniors he had five goals and six points in seven games.
Dahlen is not the fastest skater, but his speed isn’t bad either. It is currently slightly above average, and improved last season. He could be even better with a more fluid stride. Its a bit awkward and choppy. Dahlen could stand to work with a good skating coach and improve his technique to get faster. He does have some outstanding agility and edge work though. Even without the speed, Dahlen is able to beat defenders one-on-one with his good stickhandling skills, and his ability to quickly change directions, or change speeds. He could stand to work on his balance and not be pushed around as much in battles along the boards. This may come just from increased muscle mass though.
Dahlen is an impressive offensive talent. He may be a bit undersized, but he has all the skills scouts look for when it comes to an offensive forward. He has an excellent array of shots, including a good wrist shot with a quick release; a hard slapshot; and a quality backhand. He has the soft hands to make moves on defenders and get himself the open space to get a shot off, as well as the hockey sense and the elusiveness to find open spots in the defence where a teammate can hit him with a pass.
Dahlen can also play the role of play maker, with excellent vision and hockey sense, and the talent to slide the puck through small openings, or flip a saucer pass to a teammate. He can stand to be more physical, and play a bit less of a perimeter game going forward though and get to the more dirty areas of the ice.
Jonathan Dahlen’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He has a tendency to fly the zone early as he looks to drive offence through the transition game. He also can get caught out of position when he starts to puck watch and stops moving his feet. A good coach will need to work with Dahlen before he is ready to get to the NHL level.
Dahlen has signed his entry-level contract and will head to Canucks camp looking for a job. That seems unlikely, though. Dahlen is likely to need another season of development. Whether that happens in the AHL, or back in Sweden though remains to be seen.
#6 Prospect: Nikolay Goldobin
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born October 7, 1995 — Moscow, Russia
Height 5’11” — Weight 180 lbs [180 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 1st round, #27 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Traded to the Vancouver Canucks, February 2017.
Goldobin was aquired from the Canucks at the NHL Trade Deadline. He put up 19 goals and 45 points in the AHL last year, and 3 goals in 14 games in the NHL last season.
Goldobin is a very good skater. His top end speed and his acceleration are both well above average. He also has outstanding agility and edge work which makes him extremely elusive both off the rush and in the cycle game. His balance could be improved, as he will need to add strength. He can sometimes be knocked off the puck by bigger and stronger defenders, and this also hurts him in his ability to win board battles.
Goldobin has outstanding offensive skill; there is no doubt about that. He knows how to put up points, and has all the tools to do so. He can stick handle in a phone booth. His wide array of moves can leave defenders spinning. He also has a killer wrist shot, and an outstanding release. Goldobin also has a very effective one-timer. Add to all of this great hockey sense and the ability to find holes in the defense. Top it all of with some incredible vision and passing skils, and there is no doubt about Goldobin’s abilities in the offensive end of the ice.
When he is on his game, he is quite simply a dynamic offensive catalyst. Goldobin can play a high speed game off the rush, or he can show poise with the puck and be patient and wait for an opening in the offensive zone. He does not get flustered often with the puck on his stick, and if he has the time and space out there, chances are that he will take advantage of it.
Goldobin needs to add strength. He can be knocked off the puck by bigger and stronger players. This also hurts him in his ability to win board battles and protect against the cycle. He also needs to be more consistent in his effort levels in his own end. There are times he works really hard, and there are others when he cheats, looking to create offense. That won’t work at the NHL level.
Goldobin has the offensive skills to crack the Canucks lineup, but needs to continue working on his all around game and his consistency. He could start the year in the AHL and find himself being a mid-season call-up due to injuries. He should be a full-time NHLer very soon.
Sleeper Prospect: Adam Gaudette
Center — shoots Right
Born October 3rd, 1996 — Braintree, Massachusetts
Height 6’1″ — Weight 184 lbs [185 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round, #149 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Gaudette had a monster sophomore season at Northeastern. He scored 26 goals and 52 points in 37 games last season. It was a real break out season for the team’s second line centre, who set a school record for power play goals in a seaosn.
Gaudette has good speed and acceleration. He can go wide on a defender, and change speeds. If he gets a step on a defender he can accelerate to the front of the net and has the powerful stride to fight through checks at the NCAA level. He will need to keep improving before being ready for the NHL, but is well on his way. With the weekend nature of the college schedule, he will also get plenty of time to add muscle in the weight room.
Gaudette plays a gritty games. He gets to the front of the net, establishing position and creating havoc. He also loves to drive the puck with the puck on his stick. Gaudette is not afraid to fight for position, or battle for the puck in the corners. Strong on the puck, he protects well down low and can play the cycle. He also has a heavy wrist shot and good release. Gaudette can also be a play maker, with good vision and decision making skills.
Gaudette has shown a solid two-way game. He has good positioning, cutting down passing lanes, and is willing to block shots. He is also not afraid to support the defence down low and defend against the cycle game. Gaudette’s gritty game and willingness to compete is a real asset in his own end of the rink.
Gaudette will be heading back to Northeastern in the fall. If he has another big season, the Canucks will look to sign him in the Spring, moving him up to the AHL. If Vancouver is out of the race in the Western Conference, they may even give him a short tryout in the NHL.
The Canucks have done a really good job of rebuilding their system in recent years. By drafting Michael DiPietro this year, they have added another top notch goalie to the system. The forward group has some depth now. The trade deadline and draft may have been Jim Benning‘s best work since taking the reins in Vancouver. Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich were solid picks up front, while Petrus Palmu was a good late round gamble. Will Lockwood had a solid freshman campaign at Michigan.
On defence, Jordan Subban keeps scoring at the AHL level. When will the Canucks give him a shot in the NHL? Guillaume Brisebois also provides defensive depth. Overall though, the Canucks could use another top prospect to join Juolevi on the blueline.
Note that Jake Virtanen is no longer a prospect under our games played provisions. He does not appear in our lists. He will also not factor into our organizational rankings.