18-year-old forward Brock Boeser has a nose for the net, excellent hands, and the two-way game to contribute in all three zones.
With the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, Boeser scored 35 goals in his age-17 season and produced at well over a point per game rate. He’s committed to play for the University of North Dakota, one of the most competitive programs in the NCAA, next season.
Boeser is a superb athlete – he finished in the top-10 in the grueling VO2 Max test at the recent Draft Combine – and has modeled his game after fellow Minnesotan and USHL alumnus Kyle Okposo. Oddly enough Boeser’s production in his draft eligible campaign is a close historical comparable for what Okposo managed at the same age. Justin Abdelkader is another player who profiles similarly to Boeser based on his stature and USHL production as a 17-year-old.
As a Minnesotan, Boeser grew up a Wild fan and only followed the Canucks “when they were playing the Wild.” He’s also keenly aware of the disappointing history of past Minnesota-born Canucks draft picks, like Jordan Schroeder and Patrick White – the latter of whom Boeser remembers watching as a high school player.
“I know it's not an easy process, it's not an easy thing to do,” Boeser said of making the show and carving out an NHL career. “I have to put a lot of work in and earn my spot.”
The first of three defenseman drafted by the Canucks on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, Guillame Brisebois won’t turn 18 until late-July, making him one of the younger players in this draft class.
The 17-year-old defenseman is a converted forward who has remarkable vision and hockey awareness, and was the fifth-overall pick in the 2013 QMJHL draft. He’s been playing for an undermanned Arcadie-Bathurst Titan team that has lost a lot of games and has been completely unable to put the puck in the net relative to the rest of the Q, scoring just 2.3 goals per game.
Because Brisebois is a two-way defenseman on an offensively challenged team, he hasn’t put up many points, but it’s probable that his production has been deflated as a result of his circumstances. After all he played on a team whose leading scorer managed 45 points, and he at least led all Titan defenders in scoring. He may have more upside than his relatively pedestrian 28 points in 63 games would indicate.
“He's a quiet kid,” said Canucks president Trevor Linden of the club’s second-round draft pick, “but he's got a real sense of determination and leadership about him. He's a two-way guy, he'll need to get physically stronger, but this is a kid that will be in our lineup in the not too distant future.”Dmitry Zhukenov
In the fourth-round of the entry draft, the Canucks selected 5’11 Russian-born centre Dmitry Zhukenov, who plays for Avangard Omsk’s Jr. (MHL) team. Though Zhukenov’s MHL scoring was unspectacular – he managed three goals and 19 points in 35 games – he lit up international competition, producing 16 points in 16 games with Russia’s U18 national team.
Though MHL players who have produced offense at a similar rate to what Zhukenov has managed haven’t generally panned out in the NHL, his dominance of the international game bodes well for his NHL future. His U-18 scoring rates compare favorably to NHL players like Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Anton Lander, Jacob Josefson and recent San Jose Sharks signee Joonas Donskoi.
For the second consecutive season the Canucks used a mid-round pick on a second-time draft eligible defenseman. In 2014 it was Nikita Tryamkin, and in 2015 it was Carl Neill – a Montreal-born defenseman who plays for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL.
Neil was young for his draft class, and won’t turn 19 for another week or so. A big 6-foot-3, 215 pound blue-liner, Neill scored 40 points in 63 games for the Phoenix, and was second among his teams blue-liners in both point production and estimated ice-time per game, according to data found at CHLstats.com.
Neill’s QMJHL production in his age-18 season is comparable to that managed by NHL players like Simon Despres, Eric Gelinas, Milan Jurcina and Dmitri Kalinin.
With their second fifth-round pick at the 2015 NHL entry draft the Canucks selected a second USHL player, Adam Gaudette. Gaudette, like Neill, is a second-time draft eligible player whose game developed nicely during his first USHL campaign with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.
"His upside is very high,” Gaudette’s Cedar Rapids coach Mark Carlson recently told SBN. “Once he adds more muscle to his frame, he'll be able to get to the net more and win more puck battles.
His coach also described Gaudette as a tenacious two-way player who was dependable in his own end.
The 18-year-old forward is committed to Northeastern University for next season. Among USHL alumni who produced at a similar rate and went on to appear in the NHL are players like Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith, former Los Angeles Kings Scott Parse and John Zeiler, and former Canucks minor leaguer Yan Stastny.
Lukas Jasek is a toolsy Czech-born winger and another very young player who won’t turn 18 until late August.
Though he’s a bit slight of frame at the moment, Jasek is a stellar skater and lit up the Czech junior league. He also appeared in 27 regular season games (and one playoff contest) with the senior-level team, though he didn’t play much or produce much.
Even so, it’s not very often that a 17-year-old plays at the top-level of Czech hockey, but several players who did so went on to have meaningful NHL careers even if they weren’t particularly productive, including Rostislav Olesz, Jiri Novotny and Peter Stastny.
At the junior level, Jasek’s better than point per game production compares closely with what Martin Erat and former Canucks Jan Hlavac managed at a similar age.
The Canucks owned the second-last pick at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft as a result of a trade with the San Jose Sharks, and they used it to select Tate Olson from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL.
Olson played a depth roll on a veteran Cougars blue line this season, but he has some decent tools and upside – particularly for the 210th player selected on draft day. Scouting reports describe him as a strong skater and a heads up puck mover who doesn’t have a cannon of a shot, but possesses the ability to get the puck on net.
Among WHL defenseman of a similar stature who produced at a comparable rate during their age-17 season, you’ll find a surprisingly high number of regular NHL defensemen including Eric Brewer, Joel Kwiatowski, Clayton Stoner, David Schlemko, Victor Bartley, Bryce Salvador and Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa.
Stats in this piece compiled from CHLstats.com and eliteprospects.com. Comparable player lists generated using the Prospect Cohort Success (PCS) model.