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McKeen’s 2020-21 Hockey Yearbook: Vancouver Canucks Top 20 Prospects

McKeen's Top 20 New York Rangers prospects for the 2020-21 season. You can read an organizational assessment prior to the draft in Ryan Wagman's article found here. Following the draft we provided a review on each teams performance based on our rankings found here.

  1. Vasili Podkolzin, RW (10th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 1)

Podkolzin is a dynamic winger with a lot of good assets in his toolbox. He is a strong skater with terrific balance and is technically solid. He can get to top speed within a few strides. He is exceptionally good at puck protection and has a creative hockey mind. He works hard and plays a physical game. He still lacks a bit of consistency in his production, but he has been a teenager playing against men and he gets pushed out physically when he tries to create. He is not a typical transition player; he likes to play tight to the body and create from down low which makes a lack of physical strength a natural problem. Podkolzin also sometimes tries to be too creative instead of just making the easy play. He will always aid his team’s puck possession with elite skills and do good things with that possession. Although he did not score many points, his underlying numbers were good, and it is expected that he will receive a bigger role in the KHL this season. He has one more year with St Petersburg after which he could compete for a top six role with the Canucks. - JH

  1. Nils Hoglander, LW (40th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 2)

WJC star Hoglander plays intensively and is particularly strong in the corners and around the net. He will set up a power play or drive the play all over the ice. His passes to the slot were more frequent during the WJC than in the SHL as he was constantly trying to create. He is small and is not to able to break away from his opponents in the corners in the same way at the senior level as he did at the World Juniors, and that could be a concern as he prepares to transition to North America and the NHL, as his game prevails through stick handling, covering the puck and making quick turns and creative plays. That type of game will be tough for him in the NHL and he will need to vary his game. Hoglander was supposed to start the 2020-21 season with the Canucks organization, trying to earn a spot in the NHL; While he waits for the NHL to start, he has returned to the SHL, where his offensive game has begun to take off. - JH

  1. Olli Juolevi, D (5th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 3)

After playing his first nearly full season as a professional with AHL Utica, Juolevi seemed to be playing back to the same high level as made him the fifth overall pick in 2016. He brings a high hockey IQ and composure to any situation and as he grew more comfortable facilitating more scoring chances as well. He is a good skater, a good puck handler, and the type of player you forget is on the ice until he helps out in scoring or putting the puck in the net himself. He should certainly be making his long-awaited debut with the Canucks’ bottom pairing in 2020-21, where he will stay until he has mastered the NHL game enough to move up the lineup. Juolevi will simply have to be more physical to differentiate himself and to earn added trust from the coaching staff, learning to protect himself better in an organization that is not known for their grit. - SC

  1. Jett Woo, D (37th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 4)

Woo has the potential to play on a second pairing but lacks the offensive toolkit that many were expecting after his eye-popping seasons in Moose Jaw. He is an effective, physical, in-your-face defender who skates well and competes hard for every inch of ice. He is tenacious in his own zone using big hits, stick checks, good reads and aggression to minimize the opponent’s ability to get to his net. His gap control is good, and opponents know he will step up if they bobble the puck or show any hesitation in the neutral zone. He is a fine passer, capable of making good plays to start the transition, however his decision making in the offensive zone is concerning. His vision is good, but he frequently tries to do too much and turns over the puck at inopportune times. While Woo is capable of recovering better than most, he is more the complementary defender than the one the dictates the offense. He plays the game the right way and has an edge and abrasiveness in handling himself. He is willing to jump into the rush and has the speed to get himself into the play as a trailer. - VG

  1. Jack Rathbone, D (95th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 5)

From the moment Rathbone stepped on the ice at Harvard, even as a freshman, he made an impact. While there is usually an adjustment period for rookies when transitioning to college hockey, especially for those who come straight from prep school as he did, some, like Rathbone, are exceptions. An offensive defenseman, last year he ranked fourth on the team in scoring, leading all Crimson defenders. His shot is characterized by a quick release. He appeared on the team’s second penalty kill unit and the first power play unit. He was possibly the team’s best puck mover on the power play. He is excellent at running the unit from the point. Defensively, he has a very active and quick stick and is able to poke check effectively, minimizing the negative impact of his smaller stature. Rahtbone’s offensive capabilities as well as his solid defensive skills give him a legitimate chance at making the NHL in a top half of roster role, a journey which will move to the professional ranks next season. - JS

  1. Will Lockwood, RW (64th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 6)

On the small side, but incredibly feisty, Lockwood spent the full four seasons at the University of Michigan, before finally signing an ELC with the Canucks shortly after COVID-19 paused play the world over. The former USNTDP grinder had an up-and-down collegiate career with the Wolverines, but his best two seasons were certainly his last two. He is a strong skater who can flash creativity with the puck in the offensive zone, can tend to play too deliberately as well, negating his inherent skill set. When he plays decisively, Lockwood has been a disruptive presence at the collegiate level. He plays a physical game, especially when he plays angry and relishes open ice checking. He is the type of player who could be ready for the NHL within one season of turning pro, but whose reasonable upside is never more than a bottom six winger, who could frustrate with the hints of more, but who can’t show it consistently enough for the possibility to be reasonable. - RW

  1. Michael DiPietro, G (64th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 7)

DiPietro brings a new definition to the word ‘focus’ with an ultra-dialed-in and intense personality. He performs reliably well every game and gives maximum effort, no matter the opponent. He has a good track record for performing well under pressure and for keeping a good attitude, going above and beyond when it comes to athleticism, which he must due to his smaller size. He reads plays well and does well in one on one situations however he will have to battle harder to get to his position in net scrambles, as he works towards a permanent NHL role. The future is bright for DiPietro, who is so naturally gifted with the right instincts, attitude, and athleticism needed to be a top level goaltender, look for him to have a go at an NHL job within the next season should he start off the upcoming season the same way with Utica. - SC

  1. Zack MacEwen, RW (Undrafted Free Agent, signed Mar. 3, 2017. Previous ranking: 8)

MacEwen is not a cookie cutter smooth-skating type. Instead he is the hard working, crash and bang guy that brings a lot of energy to a roster. He is not the most graceful of skaters and does not stand out for skill either, but he does well at completing the little things. He is a steady net front presence, forces turnovers, and plays the body at the right times. A little clumsy at times, he has learned to be a good backchecker and defend well in his own zone, however he still needs to work on his passing in order to avoid turnovers and better contribute to the breakout. It is no surprise that MacEwen has earned a spot on the Vancouver Canucks 2020 playoff roster as he brings the right energy and can get the job done in a way that the other players cannot, which is why he is an asset to their bottom six, and should continue to play at the highest level as long as his cap hit remains low. – SC

  1. Jacob Truscott, D (144th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

In every game with the USNDTP, there will be one or two moments where Truscott authors a play that makes you take notice. And each of those moments were substantially different. Those good plays would not be at all possible if he were not an above average skater, with impressive acceleration, very good edges and pivots and top speed, and mostly incredible backwards skating. The package plays into his heads-up game. He reads and processes the game fast and is very decisive when the situation calls for action. He can react correctly to a broken play. He can also excel in driving the play, as he can set and alternately vary the pace. He plays with mature composure. On the other hand, Truscott lacks flash. He has a decent wrist shot from the point, but not a power play quarterback rocket. He can skate with the puck but doesn’t often execute high level trickery. He can time the odd big hit but lacks the big frame to play that style with regularity. At the end of the day, he can leverage what he has into a long and successful career on a good team’s second pairing. – RW

  1. Joni Jurmo, D (82nd overall, 2020. Previous ranking NA)

Jurmo is a big-risk/big-reward player. The physical tools are impossible to miss. He skates beautifully, with a fast and powerful stride. His edges are solid and his has four-way mobility, and the speed is remarkable. His carries out of his own end are thrilling. On the other hand, he is still incredibly raw. He has not often shown the ability to slow the game down, regroup and let the play come to him. He has shown significant improvement in his own zone work this year, to his credit, reading the play better and forcing opposing forwards to the outside, but he still has a way to go in this regard. There could also be some concern that he lacks experience at high levels, or at prestigious age-group tournaments. Jurmo recently moved from the Jokerit system to JyP, where he is expected to play in Liiga this season. If Vancouver can be patient, he represents a potential play on a future top four defender with dynamic qualities. He has come a long way in the last two seasons and still has room for added development. He might not get there, but it was a gamble worth taking. – RW

  1. Kole Lind, RW (33rd overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 9)

Lind has finally had the breakout confidence-replenishing year that staff and writers were hoping for. He is a good shooter and good at making quick plays and reacting to what is going on around him. He can be relied upon to play special teams, however he is not the smoothest of skaters, but he makes up for it in the way he gets to the net and his work ethic on the forecheck. Lind will certainly have to get faster and more agile on his blades, but his hands and his passing are good and lead him oftentimes to contributing to good scoring opportunities or assisting on plays. He will most likely earn his chance to crack the Canucks lineup this coming season as a potential third liner alternating in the bottom six if he finds another gear for his skating and on ice agility while continuing to work on his two way play. - SC

  1. Brogan Rafferty, D (Undrafted Free Agent, signed 1, 2019. Previous ranking: 10)

After leading the AHL Utica Comets in points for defensemen it is safe to say that Rafferty is a strong and dependable defenseman in the Vancouver pipeline. All of his skills are good, and his positioning and hockey IQ are what lead him to stand out, earning points in nearly every game. He will need to get a bit tougher when it comes to physicality and taking the body, but aside from that there is nothing of concern. He brings a great two-way game and is nearly always in the right position which could be an asset for the Canucks looking into next season, despite this past season only being Rafferty’s rookie year. A late bloomer, his potential may be surprisingly high because of the progression he has had so far, however when he gets the call up look to see him as part of the bottom four to start proving himself. - SC

  1. Aidan McDonough, LW (195th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 12)

McDonough’s value may turn out to be higher than his seventh-round draft pick status. After graduating from prep school at Thayer Academy, McDonough spent one season in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before entering the collegiate ranks. As a freshman, he was one of the highest-scoring players for Northeastern and the highest-scoring freshman by a mile and earned the team’s rookie of the year award. He has a big frame but could be stronger on the puck, although he is not afraid to engage in puck battles. While he needs to pump his legs on his strides, he is very hard to contain in the offensive zone as he glides around. McDonough is a sharp passer and can score from multiple spots but buzzes frequently around the net. While he certainly held his own as a freshman, he is still raw and needs to refine his game more before turning pro. - JS

  1. Marc Michaelis, RW (Undrafted Free Agent, signed Mar. 19, 2020. Previous ranking: 13)

The NCAA’s top scorer over the past four seasons, Michaelis was a First Team WCHA All American through each of his four seasons at Minnesota State. The slight German winger already had a lengthy history of high-level international play, including two appearances at the World Championships for his homeland before signing as a free agent with Vancouver a few days into the COVID-19 lockdown. Michaelis makes himself seen through high end skating ability, which allowed him to skate laps around the WCHA competition, as well as very interesting playmaking potential, with vision and creativity. The skating will have to be his ticket to the NHL though, as his playmaking ability has been more a function of brains than pure skill, leaving in question how much those brains will allow him to play up as a pro. If Michaelis makes the adjustment to the pro pace and continues to make his presence felt in the offensive end, he could push himself up to the highest level for a lengthy stay. – RW

  1. Dmitri Zlodeyev, C (175th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Zlodeyev is a strong two-way center who shows extremely well off the puck. He uses his strong skating to apply pressure on the forecheck and was one of the anchors of Russia’s penalty killing unit at the U18 level. Additionally, he excels at the faceoff dot. As an offensive player, he is at his best working the half wall, where he can use his quick feet to elude checks and create lanes to attack. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer but is willing to drive the net and can finish from in tight with a quick release. The remaining question is his upside. Zlodeyev is a skill player, but it is not clearly enough yet to project to a scoring line role in North America, and without the strength to play in a bottom six role, he may be stuck as a tweener. His early work this year in the VHL (Russia’s second men’s league) is promising enough that he might just make it work, even if he is only in the early stages of his journey. – BO

  1. Linus Karlsson, C (Trade: Feb. 25, 2019. Originally: 87th overall, 2018 [San Jose]. Previous ranking: 14)

A big center with nice hands who was acquired in a pure Swedish prospect trade, as Jonathan Dahlen was sent the other way to San Jose. Karlsson is not as a big name in Sweden as Dahlen is but Karlsson is a decent prospect in his own right, and he scored 40 points in Allsvenskan as a 20-year-old. He is an offensive minded center with an above average shot and above average hands. He is not elite an any way but a decent depth prospect, and if everything goes well, he could be a good third line option in the future. He needs to work on his skating and play at a faster pace to reach the highest level. He will have a couple more years of development before he can be ready to compete for a spot. I would be surprised if he has a long NHL career, but I can definitely see him being a good SHL player in near future. – JH

  1. Guillaume Brisebois, D (66th overall, 2015. Previous ranking: 11)

The last three seasons with the Utica Comets for Brisebois have not gone as originally hoped since his near fifty-point final season in the QMJHL. Brisebois has struggled to produce a similar offensive output and anywhere near the success he had in major junior. He plays with grit and passion and brings a focus to every game that is admirable as he is always ready to make a play. The downside to his game is the fact that he has not been able to find the same confidence as he once had, and he has struggled to even get his passing game going. The hope is that next season Brisebois will finally find the extra gear he once seemed to have and reach his potential before it is too late. He will most likely be able to qualify for one more crack at a roster spot on the Canucks, hoping to find a home at the bottom of the defensive rotation. - SC

  1. Arvid Costmar, C (215th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 15)

The 215th pick in 2019 took good steps during the season. He was a steady top line center for the junior team and played big minutes. His production went up and he doubled his goal total last season despite playing 15 games less than the year before. He received some cups of tea at the senior level as well, but without success. In Allsvenskan he had a more diminished role when he played. His skating speed needs to improve but is a skilled offensive-minded player with good hands. His puck skills excel well on the power play as he likes to set up the play. He is also skilled one-on-one and can make nice dekes. For next season, I would like to see him earn a top six role on an Allsvenskan team and compete for a WJC roster spot. To do so he will need to work on his all-around game and play at a higher pace. – JH

  1. Petrus Palmu, LW/RW (181st overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 16)

One of the smallest drafted prospects around, Palmu tore up the OHL as an Import player, but has spent the bulk of the past three seasons back in Finland. At every stop, he has left little doubt but that he is a dynamic, productive offensive player, with only the mild exception of his 12-game stint in the AHL in 2018-19. Just from a tools perspective, he isn’t the most impressive. He skates well, but questionably whether he is fleet enough to overcome his size concern. He has fast hands, and reads the game well, but neither approaching elite. He is not a sniper. But somehow, he has made it all work well together to give him an overall package that has been greater than the sum of his parts. Like all players of his stature, even ones who play with his courage, Palmu will need to prove himself anew at every new level, and next up is the AHL, to which he is expected to play this year. - RW

  1. Carson Focht, C (133rd overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 17)

Drafted as a moderately offensive second year eligible, Focht’s post draft performance was somewhat disappointing, as he failed to take his game to another level in the WHL. Not meeting expectations is not new for Focht, the one-time seventh overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft. This is not to imply that his professional prospects are dead, as his game has elements that could fit in a bottom six role. He has decent size, and he can play with some grit up and down the ice. When his team has possession, he some smooth hands and the wherewithal to keep the play moving in the right direction. On the right day, he can even look like a sniper, with a very quick release on his snapshot. He just doesn’t do it all at once, or consistently. Still unsigned, it is unclear where he will play this year, as he turns 21 in early February. - RW