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Potential picks

Canucks pick top five, here's a look at who's available.

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Canucks freelance writer

With the NHL Draft lottery this weekend, Canucks management will find out where they select in the first round.

After finishing 29th overall this past season, the organization enters the lottery with the second best odds to win the first lottery. Those percentages with the second and third lotteries to determine the 2nd and 3rd overall picks based on who wins the first one.

If the Canucks are unlucky and fail to win any of the three lotteries and depending who won the lotteries, they could end up with the 5th overall pick. Ideally the Canucks will win one of the lotteries, and control their destiny when it comes to who they select. But looking at this draft class, there will be good talent available anywhere within the top 5 selections.

Here are some of the players that have spent the most time within the top 5 rankings for the upcoming draft this year. There is no way to predict how the dominoes will fall on draft day. Things will change, with that and in no particular order, here are some of the players that could hear their names called by Canucks management early in the first round:

Nolan Patrick

Nolan Patrick has been the consensus first overall pick for the last 18 months, but was limited to 33 games this year due to injury. Despite those injuries, he still put up 20 goals and 26 assists, which is 100-point pace over a full WHL season.

Patrick isn't a flashy player but does all the little things right. He just makes things happen without the sizzle. He has a great wrist shot that has excellent placement, while being able to move the puck around and make his teammates better.

The lack of excitement to his game shouldn't detract from what he does on the ice. He does all the little things everywhere on the ice to help his team win. There is little doubt that Patrick has the skill-set to be an effective top 6 centre for a long time in the NHL.

Timothy Liljegren

Liljegren was a lock for a top-three selection entering this year, but unfortunately started the season with mononucleosis. This resulted in him missing nearly two months of action and forcing him to always be in catch up mode this season. However, there is no denying the Swedish defenceman's talents. He is an extremely adept skater who protects the puck very well.

Liljegren also has a great shot and puck-moving abilities that allow him to run a powerplay and create offence.

Expectations were extremely high for Liljegren to start the season, which created a false ceiling that he wasn't able to reach due to mono. If a team is a looking for a powerplay quarterback that is no slouch in his own zone, then look no further than this young Swede.

Nico Hischier

A fast and dynamic player, Hischier plays the game with pace. He burst onto the scene this year after being ranked in middle parts of the first round to start the season, and he was dominant for Switzerland at the World Juniors this past January, making other countries take notice of the Swiss.

In his first season in the QMJHL, Hischier posted 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games for the Halifax Mooseheads. Those 38 goals were first among the QMJHL first time draft eligible. The next closest was Antoine Morand with 28.

There is a reason why Hischier has quickly risen to the consensus 2nd overall player because he plays the way the NHL is played and does it extremely well.

Casey Mittelstadt

Another centre that has been firmly in the top 5 recently is Minnesota native Casey Mittelstadt. He started the season in the USHL before heading back to high school hockey. There was some concern that move was going to hurt his draft stock, but the reasoning behind going back should be seen as a positive.

His high school team was unable to win the title last year, and thus Mittelstadt felt there was unfinished business. He went back for this year and unfortunately was unable to capture the title, but was an electrifying player putting up 64 points (21-43-60) in 25 USHS games. Mittelstadt returned to the USHL and continued his torrid pace, ending the year with 13 goals and 17 assists in 24 games for the Green Bay Gamblers.

Mittelstadt fits the mould of a playmaking centre who can skate exceptionally well. He competes hard on every shift and attacks in a variety of ways that keeps opposition guessing.

Mittelstadt is committed to the University of Minnesota in the NCAA for next year.

Gabe Vilardi

Another player who could hear his name called in the top 5 is Windsor Spitfire forward Gabe Vilardi. Listed as a centre, Vilardi has been playing the majority of 5-on-5 play on the wing this year, but regularly playing centre on the powerplay. He brings a versatility to the table that would be attractive for any team.

Vilardi's strengths are his vision and hockey sense. He isn't afraid to go to the front of the net create goals, but has a great shot that allows him to score from distance.

Windsor is hosting the Memorial Cup this year, despite being knocked out the OHL playoffs by London earlier this month. That means that unlike the other names listed above, you can see Vilardi play a couple more games ahead of the draft.


It's clear that all of these players are in the top 5 for a reason. They all bring different skill-sets that are exciting. No matter who the Canucks end up with, there is little doubt that whoever they select will be one of the top prospects in the organization. Joining Olli Juolevi, Brock Boeser, Adam Gaudette and Thatcher Demko as recent top draft picks who will be looking to make a name for themselves soon.

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