Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the Vancouver Canucks Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking 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 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Vancouver Canucks Prospects
The Canucks 2018-19 season started with plenty of promise. Led by a dynamic rookie, and eventual Calder Trophy winner, Elias Pettersson the Canucks surged in the Pacific Division standings. However, the team just did not have enough talent to stay in the playoff race long-term. The Canucks faltered down the stretch and finished nine points out of the playoffs.
The off-season saw changes in Vancouver. Up front, the team added J.T. Miller in a draft-day trade and added Micheal Ferland in free agency. Additions were also made on the backend, with Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg signed in free agency. The Canucks hope that these players add to a maturing core of talented players and prospects to bring them back to the playoffs.
2019 NHL Draft Picks (Grade B+): Vasili Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander, Ethan Keppen, Carson Focht, Arturs Silovs, Karel Plasek, Jack Malone, Aidan Mcdonough, Arvid Costmar
2018-19 Graduations: Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette,
Top Prospect: Quinn Hughes
Defence — shoots Left
Born October 14th, 1999 — Orlando, Florida
Height 5’10” — Weight 174 lbs [178 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st Round, 7th overall in the 2018 Draft
Hughes had another strong season with the University of Michigan, putting up five goals and 28 assists for 33 points in 32 games. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, a First Team All-American (West), and on the Big-Ten First All-Star Team. Hughes also played for Team USA at the World Juniors, scoring two points in seven games and winning a silver medal. After his college season, Hughes signed with the Canucks and put up three points in five games. He also played for Team USA at the Men’s World Championships, scoring three points in eight games.
Hughes is an outstanding skater. He looks like he is floating above the ice. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. Hughes has a textbook stride and the ability to change directions on a dime. He uses the outstanding speed to join the rush or to pinch in at the line. Hughes is rarely caught deep as he can still get back into position defensively thanks to that speed. His agility and footwork allow him to beat defenders one-on-one as well as to walk the line and make quick moves to open up passing and shooting lanes. Hughes has a low centre of gravity which helps his balance and makes him strong on the puck.
Hughes has excellent vision and playmaking ability, as well as the hockey sense to almost always make the right play. He seems to think the game and anticipate plays better than others out there on the ice. With his skating and stickhandling ability, Hughes is not afraid to skate the puck out of his zone or lead the rush. He can also make a long pass to start the transition game and start an odd-man rush. He has the passing ability and the hockey IQ to quarterback the play from the point. Hughes has the poise to make plays under pressure.
Hughes has a good arsenal of shots. His wrist shot is strong and accurate. It also features a quick release. He uses it often when trailing the play on the rush, or when pressured by shot blockers. He also has a hard and accurate slap shot.
Hughes defensive game is based on his anticipation and ability to quickly transition the puck out of his own zone. The size is a liability as Hughes can be outmuscled in his own end. He needs to be quick on the puck on dump-ins, as well as using a good stick check to steal pucks from attackers. Hughes will continue to need work in his own end, perfecting his positioning, and reading the play in order to maximize his potential. He could also add some muscle to his frame.
For the third straight year, the Canucks should have one of the top rookies in the entire league. Quinn Hughes should spend the season up in Vancouver and make an instant impact by moving the puck and putting up points on the power play. Hughes is one of the top prospects in all of hockey.
#2 Prospect: Vasili Podkolzin
The Canucks drafted Podkolzin with the 10th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Podkolzin. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Thatcher Demko
Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born December 8th, 1995 — San Diego, California
Height 6’4″ — Weight 195 lbs [193 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #36 overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Demko battled injuries last season. A concussion cost him time early in the year and a knee sprain cost him time in February. Despite that, he played well enough to take over as the Canucks back-up goalie, prompting the team to trade Anders Nilsson to Ottawa. In 16 AHL games, Demko had a 2.58 goals-against-average and .911 save percentage. In nine NHL games, Demko put up a 2.81 goals-against-average and .913 save percentage. Demko also played two games for Team USA at the World Championships with a 2.00 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage.
Style and Potential
Demko is 6-foot-4 and he has the 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 is very good at staying square to the puck, even when does give up rebounds. This usually puts Demko in a good position to stop any 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 power play, 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 start the season as the backup to Jacob Markstrom. He has the talent to eventually challenge Markstrom for the top job, but that likely is at least another year away. He has the potential to be a high-end starter in the NHL.
#4 Prospect: Olli Juolevi
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 5th, 1998 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 182 lbs [188 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st round, #5 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Juolevi continues to struggle with injury issues. A knee injury in December put him out for the rest of the season. This came after his 2018 summer was interrupted by back surgery. However, when Juolevi played, he showed the promise that made him the fifth overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. Juolevi put up one goal and 13 points in 18 AHL games, helping to lead the Utica offence from the back end. He also looked good defensively.
Juolevi’s strong two-way game is based on his skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions and good acceleration. His pivots are crisp and his edgework 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 blue line 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 power play with good skating ability, a good 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 it is in running the point on that powerplay or in starting the rush out of his 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 the 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.
Juolevi has a well-developed defensive game, 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.
Juolevi should be 100% by the time training camp rolls around and ready to make a push to be part of the Canucks defence this year. However, given that he missed most of last season due to the injury, it could take some time to get the rust off and develop his game a little further. Expect him to start the season in the AHL. He should also see some NHL time if he is excelling and ready for full-time duty, or if the Canucks need someone to fill in, in case of injuries. In any event, the wait won’t be much longer for the 21-year-old defenceman.
#5 Prospect: Jett Woo
Defence — shoots Right
Born July 27th, 2000 — Winnipeg, Manitoba
Height 6’0″ — Weight 205 lbs [183 cm/93 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, #37 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
Woo had a breakout offensive season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He put up 12 goals and 66 points in 62 games. Things didn’t go quite as well in the WHL playoffs though, as Woo was held to just one assist as the Warriors lost in the first round, suffering a four-game sweep. He was named to the WHL (East) 2nd All-Star Team.
Woo’s mobility helps him to play an effective two-way game. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has strong edgework and agility, allowing him to quickly change directions. This helps him to maintain gap control and makes him very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. Woo has tight pivots, allowing him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He skates with a low, wide stride and generates a lot of power. This helps him to be strong on the puck and fight through checks. Woo’s balance helps him to win battles on the boards, and in front of the net.
Woo shows poise with the puck on his stick, keeping his head up and looking to make plays. He has a strong first pass out of the zone and has shown the ability to quarterback the power play. Woo increased his offence in each of the last two seasons by joining the rush more and pinching at the blue line. He is not reckless though and picks his spots well. Woo is rarely caught out of position. Woo is becoming more and confident in his game. This shows in that he is more creative with his passing, makes more plays and puts up more points each year. His ability to make quick moves with his stick and change angles has helped him to open up passing lanes.
Woo has good power on his slap shot and one-timer. He keeps his point shots low and on the net, encouraging teammates to get deflections and tips. He also has a good wrist shot, with a quick release. Woo sneaks down from the point and lets this wrist shot go at the top of the face-off circles. Woo is a smart player. He anticipates the play well and makes good decisions with the puck. He has become more poised with the puck, holding it longer and allowing plays to develop. This has helped him to create more offence.
The bread and butter of Woo’s game is his defensive game. He has been a key penalty killer all the way back to the second half of his 16-year-old rookie season. The Moose Jaw defence was strong, also featuring Josh Brook. They were comfortable playing either of the top two pairings against other team’s top line. He battles hard in the corners and wins physical battles in front of the net. He also maintains good gap control at the defensive end, funnelling attackers to the outside and keeping himself between the puck and the front of the net. Woo’s positioning and instincts are already high-end. Woo throws big hits from time-to-time, but this is another area where he really picks his spots. He does not get himself out of position looking for that hit.
Woo is likely to head back to the WHL. He has been traded from Moose Jaw to Calgary as the Warriors are rebuilding and the Hitmen are willing to take a run at the WHL title. Also expect him to get a look for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
#6 Prospect: Nils Hoglander
The Canucks drafted Hoglander with the 40th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Hoglander. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#7 Prospect: Michael DiPietro
Goaltender — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born June 9th, 1999 — Amherstburg, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 201 lbs [183 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round, #64 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
DiPietro was traded from Windsor to Ottawa at last year’s OHL trade deadline. In 38 regular-season games, he put up a 2.40 goals-against-average and .911 save percentage. In 14 playoff games, DiPietro put up a 2.35 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage. The 67s had 13 straight playoff wins when DiPietro was injured early in Game 2 of the OHL final. His loss was big for the team, as despite winning the game and taking a 2-0 series lead, they would lose the final to Guelph. DiPietro also played four games for Team Canada at the World Juniors, with a 1.23 goals-against-average and .952 save percentage. He played one NHL game, coming up for the Canucks under emergency conditions. Things didn’t go well that night.
Skating and Talent Analysis
DiPietro is slightly undersized compared to most of the goalies who have been drafted in recent years. He makes himself look bigger by coming out of the crease far and cutting down angles. Excellent skating ability allows DiPietro to play out of his net while getting back quickly on dekes, as well as moving across the crease laterally. Playing an aggressive hybrid style, DiPietro is very athletic. He uses his quick legs to take away the bottom of the net, as well as a good blocker and glove upstairs. His rebound control is also very good for a 19-year-old, as he swallows up pucks or deflects them into the corners.
DiPietro has excellent puck tracking ability, as well as excellent lateral movement. He can track cross-ice passes and seems to be in position before the puck arrives. He does a very good job of keeping his shoulders square to the shooter. DiPietro also gets himself back in position quickly, coming up square to shooters, and making himself big for rebound attempts. His legs are strong, giving him a good push on moving side to side.
DiPietro is calm and composed in the net. During the Spitfires championship season, there were times when Windsor has dominated the play, and he did not see many shots. Despite that, he maintained good focus and was ready for the next shot. There have also been times when Windsor had a mish-mash lineup due to injuries that year, or last season when the lineup was depleted by graduations and trades and he faced a lot of shots and odd-man rushes against. He did not get flustered and maintained his poise in the net. Dipietro often came up with big saves, keeping Windsor competitive. In Ottawa, he again played behind a strong defence and didn’t see as many shots and scoring chances. Dipietro again adjusted to the reduced workload. In general, he recovers quickly after giving up a goal. He composes himself quickly and is ready to face the next shooter.
DiPietro is several years away from being NHL ready. He is scheduled to head to Utica this season, where he will take over the role that Demko has held down for several years. If he continues his development, he could be up at the NHL level in three years or so.
#8 Prospect: Tyler Madden
Centre — shoots Right
Born November 9th, 1999 — Deerfield Beach, Florida
Height 5’11” — Weight 150 lbs [180 cm/68 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round, #68 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Playing his first season at Northeastern University, Madden scored 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in 36 games. He helped Northeastern to the Hockey East Championship, being named to the conference All-Rookie Team and was an honourable mention for the conference All-Star Team. Madden also put up three goals and four points in seven tournament games at the World Juniors, helping Team USA to the silver medal.
Madden is a very good skater. He has a good first step and excellent acceleration. His top-end speed is also very good and makes him dangerous off the rush and effective on the forecheck. This strong speed is also enhanced by the fact that Madden never stops moving his feet. He also has very good agility and edgework, allowing him to manoeuver around defenders both with and without the puck. Madden could work on his core strength though. Increased muscle will also help him be stronger on the puck and to win more of his battles along the boards and in front of the net. He is good at these things in junior and college, but there is some question about how he will transition to the pro game given his slight frame.
Madden plays the game a lot like his father, John Madden. He uses his skating to get involved on the forecheck and on the backcheck. He plays a straightforward, north-south style of game. Madden is gritty and always around the puck. He gets under opponent’s skin with his tenacious play. Madden is willing to battle in the corners and in front of the net despite his lack of size. As he adds muscle to his frame he will be even better at this. He is a pest, who finds himself in the middle of every scrum.
Madden also has offensive skill. His wrist shot is powerful and accurate. It also features a very good release. He can also play the role of playmaker. He is able to carry the puck while moving at top speed and make plays through the neutral zone. Madden generates effective offensive zone entries. He has the vision and passing skill to put the puck through tight areas. He also can control the puck on the cycle game, using strong stickhandling ability to protect the puck. As he gets stronger this area can also improve.
Madden is a willing backchecker. He supports the defence down low against the cycle game and brings his gritty and physical style in all three zones. Madden is strong positionally, cutting down passing lanes and blocking shots. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win games, including putting his body on the line. A quick stick helps him to poke-check opponents. When he creates a turnover, he is able to quickly transition to offence.
Madden heads back to Northeastern for his sophomore season. He will be given an even bigger role and more ice-time this year. He could certainly use another year or two in the NCAA with its less intense schedule and the opportunity to bulk up in the weight room. If Madden can continue his development he could get a pro contract offer at the end of the NCAA campaign, and might even make his pro debut. He will need a year or two in the AHL before he’s fully ready but can be an effective two-way player if he can reach his potential.
#9 Prospect: Guillaume Brisebois
Defence — shoots Left
Born July 21st, 1997 — St. Hilaire, Quebec
Height 6’2″ — Weight 175 lbs [188 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round, 66th Overall in the 2015 NHL Draft
In his second pro season, Brisebois showed some big improvements at the defensive end of the ice. Offensively he scored three goals and 11 points in 49 AHL games. He also got a chance to play in Vancouver appearing in eight games. However, he is still looking for his first NHL point.
Brisebois is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. Add to his speed, a quick first step, excellent edgework, and quick pivots, and he can change directions very quickly and is very difficult to beat off the rush. Brisebois is able to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He has improved his lower body strength and balance in recent years, helping him to battle in the corners and in front of the net. He can continue to work on this and get even better though.
Brisebois is decent with the puck. He makes smart passes on the breakout and can make the odd play at the blue line too. Brisebois has a good slap shot. He needs to use his mobility and agility to slide sideways more and open up passing and shooting lanes. He understands the importance of keeping his shot low and on the net for screens, tips and rebounds. Brisebois needs to use his shot more often though, as he can seem to look to pass in situations when he should rip a slap shot on net. He also possesses an accurate wrist shot with a decent release.
Brisebois has the poise to control the puck at the back end and wait for his opportunities. He has the good stickhandling to lead the rush but is often more content to head-man the puck and join as a trailer or stay back defensively. He picks his spots much better than he did in junior and is not near as risky in pushing the play now that he is in the AHL.
Brisebois mains good gap control in the defensive zone and forces forwards to the outside. He has a solid poke-check which separates opponents from the puck. His good footwork and solid skating make Brisebois difficult to beat in one-on-one situations, be they off the rush, or in keeping his man to the outside in the cycle game. He uses that quick stick to cut down on passing lanes and opportunities. He also shows good positioning in his own end. While Brisebois shows a willingness to battle in the corners and in front of the net, he isn’t a big hitter. He will also continue to need to get physically stronger in order to clear the front of the net and win battles in the corners at the next level. He’s made strides in that area but there is still room to go.
Brisebois will likely start the season back in Utica. He doesn’t have huge upside but can still develop into a solid third-pair defender capable of helping at both ends of the ice. If the Canucks face injuries he could get a call-up again this year. He should really push for a spot in 2020.
#10 Prospect: Will Lockwood
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born June 20th, 1998 — Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Height 5’11” — Weight 172 lbs [180 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round, #64 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Lockwood had a breakout season for the Michigan Wolverines. In 36 games he put up 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points. Lockwood was named an honourable mention for the Big-Ten All-Star Team.
Lockwood is a very good skater. He has a great first step and very good acceleration. He also has very good top-end speed. This allows Lockwood to get in quickly on the forecheck. He also has good agility and edgework, making tight cuts and turns. Lockwood is strong on his skates. He has a powerful stride and can fight through checks and get to the net. He also wins battles along the boards and in front of the net.
Lockwood’s game is built on tenacity and hard work. As mentioned, he gets in quickly on the forecheck. He loves to punish defenders and will drive them hard into the boards when they retrieve dump-ins. Lockwood creates havoc in the offensive zone, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers. When he gets the puck, he controls it well below the hash-marks, maintaining puck possession and looking for an opportunity to take it to the front of the net. When he does not have the puck, Lockwood is not afraid to battle for position in front of the net.
Lockwood has the soft hands to finish in tight to the net. He also has a hard wrist shot and good release. He can even score on the backhand. More of a goal scorer than a playmaker though, Lockwood’s assists come off of pure hard work. He could work on being a better passer, getting the puck to teammates by using passing lanes. Right now, too many of his passes are off target.
Lockwood brings his tenacity and physical game in the defensive end. He is willing to support the defence down low, defending against the cycle and keeping pucks to the outside. He creates turnovers which Lockwood is able to transition into offensive chances. Lockwood is good positionally and can help kill penalties.
Lockwood returns to Michigan for his senior season. He will be a key player as the team looks to win the Big-Ten title and compete for a national championship. If Lockwood takes another step forward he could sign with the Canucks after the season and finish up the year in Utica. A big issue during his time in Michigan has been recurring shoulder injuries. He needs to show that he can stay healthy this year. He probably needs at least a full year in the AHL to adjust to the pro game.
Sleeper Prospect: Zack MacEwen
Right Wing/Centre — shoots Right
Born July 8th, 1996 — Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Height 6’3″ — Weight 205 lbs [191 cm / 93 kg]
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in March 2017
In his second professional season, MacEwen took a big step forward offensively. He put up 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points in 69 games for Utica. He also played four games in Vancouver, picking up his first NHL point, an assist.
MacEwen has decent speed and acceleration but there are some areas of his skating that can be improved. His footwork and crossovers can improve as he loses some of his speed in turns and his cuts could be sharper. One area where MacEwen excels is in his balance. He is very strong on the puck and this helps him to win board battles and establish his position in front of the net.
MacEwen has a very good shot and a quick release. He is willing to drive hard to the net and has the soft hands to finish in close. He also has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections and bang in rebounds. MacEwen is willing to battle on the boards and retrieve loose pucks. He can control the puck in the cycle game, using his body and stickhandling to keep the puck away from defenders.
MacEwen doesn’t always make the smartest plays with the puck. When he passes it, he often tries to pass through areas that he shouldn’t, instead of taking the simple pass to maintain possession. This is the biggest area that is holding him back from taking his game to the next level.
MacEwen brings good backpressure and supports the defence down low. He is not a big hitter but at the same time is not afraid to battle for loose pucks in the corners or in front of the net. He is very good at winning those battles. MacEwen is also strong in creating turnovers. He uses his stick to cut down passing lanes and is willing to block shots.
MacEwen will likely have to start the season with Utica. He could receive another call-up if injuries hit in Vancouver. MacEwen needs to be ready to take the opportunity as things will not get any easier in future years and with the competition with other prospects, the chances to secure a fulltime NHL role in Vancouver won’t come more often in future years.
The Canucks have graduated a number of quality players in recent years. Despite this, they still have a relatively deep prospect group. Forward prospects to watch include Linus Karlsson, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Ethan Keppen, Petrus Palmu, Carson Focht, Lukas Jasek, Jack Malone, Artyom Manukyan, Francis Perron, and Karel Plasek. The defence also includes Jack Rathbone, Jalen Chatfield, Brogan Rafferty, Mitch Eliot, and Josh Teves. In goal, the Canucks have Arturs Silovs and Jake Kielly in the system.
Vancouver Canucks Prospects Main Photo:
VANCOUVER, BC – MARCH 30: Vancouver Canucks Defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) skates up ice during their NHL game against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena on March 30, 2019, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Canucks won 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)