...your guess is as good as mine actually.
We won’t know who the Canucks draft with their first round selection (23rd overall) until Friday night. Until then, the best, brightest and only hockey writers whose contact information I have shared some insight into who Vancouver may target with their first pick.
Jon Abbott - Radio play-by-play, TSN 1040
The NHL Draft is a lot of hard work for scouts. There are many people that try to put on that hat during this week, but very few have logged the hours that come with wearing it for a living. With hundreds of games viewed each year, for anyone other than the GM's support staff to accurately gauge what player a team has targeted, would invite a tall task. So, let's have some fun with this!
How about a great story? Wouldn't it be just that if Jansen Harkins became the newest member of the Canucks organization with the 23rd pick, in the first round? The North Vancouver, BC native not only has the tie in of living in the Canucks backyard, but also plays for the Prince George Cougars. The same Cougars Dan Hamhuis co-owns and also has an MVP award in his namesake....which Harkins won this past WHL season. Harkins is a grad of the North Shore Winter Club and the North West Giants and has hockey bloodlines, to boot. His father, Todd, played for both Calgary and Hartford; while his uncle, Brett, laced them up for Boston, Florida and Columbus. Harkins set a single season Cougars franchise record with 59 assists in his 79 point season last year. The centreman is described to be a “character player” displaying “good work ethic” and many have taken note that he plays a strong two-way game and posses' good hockey sense. With Baertschi, Virtanen, Gaunce and Shinkaruk literally waiting in the wings, the spotlight could fall down the middle and and right onto a home grown talent.
Tyson Giuriato - Freelance writer
Who will still be on the board at 23 is a crapshoot. I think the Canucks would like to add a defenceman, something they haven’t done with a first round pick since 2005. Jeremy Roy would be an intriguing pick. A smart all-around defenceman that posted 43 points in 46 games with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL this past season, Roy has decent size at 6-foot and 188 pounds. He thinks the game at a high level, has great hands, and although isn’t a burner, he has a smooth skating stride and possesses the ability to slow the game down. A standout at the U18’s (named one of Top 3 players on Canada), Roy could develop into a reliable defenceman that can quarterback the power play for the Canucks for many years. But hey, he could also be off the board by the time the Canucks pick!
John Garrett - Colour commentary, Sportsnet Pacific
I am going with Brandon Carlo. He logged a ton of minutes at the world juniors and fit right in. You can't teach size and at 6'5 he is just what the Canucks need on the blue line.
Dave Tomlinson - Radio analyst, TSN 1040
With the NHL Entry Draft slated to take place in Florida June 26th and 27th, the question around the NHL of who will be taken after McDavid and Eichel will be finally answered. Around these parts, people are more interested in what the Canucks will do with their first round pick. The team surprised mostly everyone two years ago by trading up to get Bo Horvat with the 9th overall pick, and the move paid dividends this past hockey season. Drafting twenty-third this year, the Canucks will hold onto their pick instead of moving it for other things or players, and find a way as well to follow through with their goal of acquiring more picks after their first one is used.
The sentence everyone should get used to around this time of the year from every single General Manager in the league is “we will take the best player available” when asked what they have for a strategy to approach the Draft. In the case of the Vancouver Canucks, when looking at their drafting since 2005, it becomes apparent that they have not added many left wingers over the years. In the system they have Hunter Shinkaruk on the hotplate, and Sven Baertschi as the next up-and-comer, but after that there is a serious deficiency in size plus talent at that position for players aged twenty and under. That is why I think it’s best that the Canucks hone in on drafting for position with their first pick, left wing, during this particular draft, and look to add size, skill and finish with that pick.
They can do that by taking Paul Bittner. The November born Minnesotan, who has played the last three seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, stands 6’4”, weighs over 200 pounds with room to add to that, and patrolled the left side for the Winterhawks top line this past WHL season. He scored 34 goals and added 37 assists for 71points in 66 games during the regular season, and his production didn’t waver when regular linemates Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand joined their respective World Junior teams at Christmas time.
His offensive production increased each year he played in Portland, and his ability to keep up and create loose pucks for his line has most Western Conference teams interested as he plays a big man’s game and that type of size and strength is lacking within the Canucks prospect pool. The fact that he fits so well alongside skilled players is also a drawing card. There is also a sporting lineage as his older brothers play hockey and his Dad coached them all during their formative years in Minnesota, and he has a cousin that played NFL football. Quite the package that could have Canuck fans looking forward to his first NHL game if he is still available when Canucks management walk up to the podium to announce their choice.
Daniel Fung - Freelance writer
Canucks GM Jim Benning has gone on record stating the team's approach in the Draft will be to take the best available player but that doesn't mean he's not inclined to a certain type of player.
During his time in Boston, the Bruins were quite predisposed towards selecting North Americans - particular Canadians - in the first round. In his first Draft with the Canucks, he continued that trend with Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. It'd be a surprise to see the Canucks deviate from that approach.
Thanks to breakout campaigns from the likes of Cole Cassels, McCann and Virtanen, Vancouver's depth up front has suddenly become a source of strength and, despite losing out on the race for Boston University goalie Matt O'Connor to the Ottawa Senators, the Canucks are still dealing with an abundance in the crease especially with Thatcher Demko coming down the pike.
Ideally, all things considered equal, the Canucks would like to build up their back end and add someone who can develop into that big-minute player and perhaps with some offensive potential.
There are certainly a few noteworthy names that could fit what Vancouver is looking for and could be still available when they pick at the No. 23 spot including the 5'6" Brandon Carlo (Tri-City Americans), the offensively-gifted Thomas Chabot (Saint John Sea Dogs), and the smooth-skating Jérémy Roy (Sherbrooke Phoenix), the latter who has drawn comparisons to Chicago's Duncan Keith and has been lauded for his hockey smarts.
Another interesting name, although somewhat off the board, is Ryan Pilon (Brandon Wheat Kings). He enjoyed a tremendous season with the WHL's top regular season team and posted some gaudy offensive numbers despite playing the stay-at-home role alongside the flashier Ivan Provorov, another Draft eligible prospect who figures to be long gone by the time the Canucks pick at No. 23.