The Canucks will look to add another key piece to their core in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Vancouver will be drafting ninth overall for the fourth time in franchise history. The two-day draft event takes place remotely July 23-24 at the NHL Network studios in New Jersey.
The Canucks have struck gold in the first round of the NHL Draft recently. Vancouver drafted Vasili Podkolzin 10th overall in 2019, Quinn Hughes seventh overall in 2018 and Elias Pettersson fifth overall in 2017. The last time Vancouver picked ninth overall was in 2013 when they drafted current captain Bo Horvat.
There is no shortage of enticing options for Vancouver at ninth overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Here's a look at six players who could be available when the Canucks are on the clock:
Kent Johnson, C, Michigan Wolverines - Johnson is a dynamic and creative playmaker with elite hands. The North Vancouver product is a wizard with the puck and can make highlight-reel plays look routine. His confidence and unique skill-set enables him to pull off between-the-legs passes and one-handed dekes with ease. He possesses a strong wrist shot and uses a quick release to beat goalies with pinpoint accuracy. Johnson sees the ice very well and racked up 18 assists (27 points) in 26 games for Michigan this past season. The 18-year-old began his career with the Trail Smoke Eaters in the BCHL where he terrorized opponents with his playmaking and goalscoring. Johnson's breakout year came in 2019-20 when he exploded for 41 goals and 101 points in 52 games. Johnson is a phenomenal offensive player, but his defense is also an asset. Johnson has developed a reputation for his two-way game and does a great job getting his stick in passing lanes to create turnovers. He's played both the center and winger position and projects as a top-line forward at the NHL level.
Kent Johnson Highlights
Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes - One of the best scorers in 2021 NHL Draft, McTavish has the physical components to compliment his offensive ability. Listed at 6'1 and 207 pounds, McTavish is a threat from virtually anywhere in the offensive zone. The Ontario native is very strong on his skates and does a great job protecting the puck to create offense. McTavish uses his skill and speed to drive to the net and generate high-quality chances. His large frame and terrific hockey instincts make him particularly dangerous down low. The Peterborough star is great at pouncing on loose pucks in the slot and capitalizing on rebounds. If he isn't driving to the net to create chances, McTavish is using his booming shot to beat goaltenders. McTavish scored 29 goals in 57 games as a rookie in the OHL before netting nine goals in 13 contests on loan with EHC Olten in Switzerland. The center also starred for Team Canada at the U18 World Championships, netting five goals in seven games. McTavish's skating could use improvement, but he has the acceleration and stickhandling to create separation from defenders. McTavish projects as a top-six forward at the NHL level.
William Eklund, LW - Djurgårdens IF - Eklund is one of the most complete forwards available in the 2021 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old was named rookie of the year in the SHL after scoring 23 points (11 goals) in 40 games. Eklund overcame great adversity this past year, including an emergency appendectomy and a positive COVID-19 test that kept him out of the World Juniors. He's a dynamic playmaker with excellent speed, puck skills and vision. The Swede really stands out with his intelligent hockey IQ and ability to make difficult plays at high speeds. Eklund excels at creating chances around the net and relies on his relentless work ethic to win battles in all zones. The left winger is very deceptive and can get around defenders with his elusiveness and creativity. Eklund's puck distribution skills are his biggest asset, but his versatility can't be ignored. Eklund blocks shots and can be used on both the power play and penalty kill. He averaged 15:29 of ice time per game as an SHL rookie, skating on a line with New Jersey Devils prospect Alexander Holtz. Eklund is a smaller forward at 5'10 and 175 pounds, but he plays bigger than his frame and uses his hockey sense to outsmart defenders. Eklund projects as a top-line NHL winger.
William Eklund Highlights
Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå HF - Lysell is a dynamic playmaker with tremendous skating ability. He's one of the most talented players available in the 2021 NHL Draft and does everything at top speed. Lysell consistency beats defenders with his puckhandling and edgework, making him very hard to defend against. He isn't the biggest guy at 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds, but he uses his skill and speed to drive pucks to the net. Lysell doesn't only use his speed for offense, however, as he's frequently backchecking and will jump into lanes to intercept passes. Lysell needs to improve on his scoring consistency, as he only managed three points in 26 SHL games with Luleå HF. The skill is clearly there, however, as Lysell blows past players in the neutral zone and has slick hands to finish off plays. The 18-year-old winger played a starring role for Team Sweden at the U18 Worlds, recording three goals and nine points in seven contests. He scored one end-to-end goal against Belarus that showed just how effective he can be carrying the puck into the offensive zone and driving to the net. Lysell projects as a second-line winger at the NHL level.
Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts - One of the best defensemen available in the 2021 NHL Draft, Clarke is a mobile, puck-moving blueliner with a fantastic two-way game. The Ottawa product racked up 15 points (five goals) and was plus-6 in 26 games with HC Nove Zamky in the Slovak Extraliga. Clarke's ability to stand out in Slovakia's top professional league speaks volumes to his physical maturity and NHL readiness. Clarke sees the ice very well and makes crisp and accurate passes on the breakout. He's very good at reading the play and chooses the right times to jump into the rush and create offense. Clarke can walk the line with ease and dazzles with his puckhandling skills. He also very patient with the puck and allows plays to develop before making any decisions. On the defensive side, Clarke excels at disrupting plays with his stick and making plays in transition. The one knock on Clarke is his skating ability, but the way he thinks the game should help him overcome any potential issues. Clarke projects as a second or third-pairing NHL defenseman who can quarterback a power-play unit.
Brandt Clarke Highlights
Simon Edvinsson, D, Frölunda - Edvinsson has some of the highest upside of all the prospects available in the 2021 NHL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds, Edvinsson is a physical, left-shot defenseman with a wide variety of skills. The 18-year-old is very mobile and excels at moving the puck up the ice. Edvinsson is also elusive and has the ability to get around defenders with his excellent stickhandling and skating ability. He's very comfortable handling the puck under pressure and has the confidence to try things many d-men wouldn't think to attempt. On the defensive side, Edvinsson does a fantastic job at closing off gaps and using his size to keep attackers to the outside. He also utilizes his long reach, knocking pucks off opponents sticks with ease. There are areas for the Swede to improve in, such as his shot and decision making, but if he puts it all together, he could become the next great defenseman out of Sweden. The youngster recorded six points in 13 games with Frölunda's junior team in 2020-21 before making the jump to the big club. Edvinsson projects as a first or second-pairing defenseman and power-play quarterback at the NHL level.
Now that we have an idea of what the Canucks could be getting in this year's draft class, let's take a brief look at the history of the ninth overall pick.
The Canucks have drafted ninth overall three times in franchise history. In 2013, Vancouver traded goalie Cory Schneider to New Jersey to acquire the ninth overall pick and draft Horvat. It's safe to say things worked out, as Horvat has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last four full NHL seasons and was named team captain in October of 2019.
Prior to drafting Horvat, Vancouver drafted Cam Neely ninth overall in 1983 and defenseman Bob Dailey with the ninth selection in 1973. Neely only spent three years with the Canucks, but went on to produce 395 goals and 694 points in 726 career NHL games. Dailey, meanwhile, split his NHL career between Vancouver and Philadelphia where he recorded 94 goals and 325 points in 561 games.
The ninth overall draft pick has produced a plethora of quality NHL players, including superstars such as Rod Brind'Amour and Brian Leetch. It's also produced some very promising talent of late. Trevor Zegras, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mikhail Sergachev, and Jacob Trouba have all gone ninth overall in the past 10 years. San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture is the most productive goal scorer drafted ninth overall in the last 20 years.
No matter which direction Vancouver decides to go with their first-round selection in 2021, the Canucks are set up nicely to add another exciting piece to an already talented young core.