Top prospects for Vancouver Canucks

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NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the top five prospects for the Vancouver Canucks, according to NHL.com.

 

[Canucks 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Vasily Podkolzin, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 10 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 30 GP, 2-6-8

The 19-year-old right wing could join the Canucks once his Kontinental Hockey League contract expires April 30, 2021. Podkolzin (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) scored three points (one goal, two assists) in four KHL postseason games last season and five points (one goal, four assists) in three games at the 2020 Karjala Cup (led tournament in scoring). Podkolzin, upon his NHL arrival, could play on the second line with center Bo Horvat and left wing Tanner Pearson.

“When [Podkolzin’s] season is finished in Russia, we’ve communicated to him and his agent that we’d like to get him signed and bring him over,” Vancouver general manager Jim Benning said. “We think he can for sure step in and play in the NHL right now. … He plays a power forward-style game and is a good two-way player, which coaches like in young players. … We feel like he’s going to be another one of those guys that’s going to be in our group of young core players that’s going to drive winning for the team for a long time.”

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

2. Nils Hoglander, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 40 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Rogle BK (SHL): 41 GP, 9-7-16

The left wing, who turns 20 on Dec. 20, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks on April 29. Hoglander (5-9, 185) was third in scoring at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship for Sweden with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games, including a lacrosse-style goal.

“Nils is a dynamic player with a high skill level and a strong work ethic,” Benning said after Hoglander signed his contract. “He’s a creative playmaker with great hands and goal-scoring abilities.”

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

3. Olli Juolevi, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 5 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Utica (AHL): 45 GP, 2-23-25

The 22-year-old has dealt with knee, hip and back injuries since being drafted but is healthy and a leading candidate to play on the left side of Vancouver’s third defense pair this season. Juolevi (6-2, 182) participated in training camp before the 2020 postseason and made his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

“[Juolevi has] always been a very smart player in his reads defensively,” Benning said. “He has great vision of the whole ice. He makes quick decisions and is a good transition player. … If it wasn’t for the injuries, he would’ve been up and playing in our lineup a long time ago. … We feel he’s ready to play in the NHL and be a consistent everyday player for us.”

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Jack Rathbone, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 95 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Harvard (NCAA): 28 GP, 7-24-31

The 21-year-old signed a three-year, entry-level contract July 14 after playing two seasons at Harvard University. Benning said Quinn Hughes, who led NHL rookies in scoring (53 points in 63 games) last season, and Rathbone (5-10, 177) could form a strong 1-2 punch as left-side defensemen in the years ahead.

“The way [Rathbone] can skate, his mobility, he’s a new-age defenseman in that way,” Benning said. “Sometimes coming out of school, there’s an adjustment period that goes on, but I know he’s working hard now, and we think he’s going to come in and challenge for a spot on the back end. We’ll do what’s best for his development as a player because we feel he has a high ceiling and could turn out to be a real good player for us over a long period of time.”

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: 31 in 31: Vancouver Canucks 2020-21 season preview 

 

5. Brogan Rafferty, D

How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent April 1, 2019

2019-20 season: Utica (AHL): 57 GP, 7-38-45

The 25-year-old was third among AHL defensemen in scoring last season. Rafferty, who shoots right (Juolevi and Rathbone shoot left), could fill one of Vancouver’s available spots on the right side after the departure of Christopher Tanev (Calgary Flames) and Troy Stecher (Detroit Red Wings) in free agency. Rafferty (6-0, 195) played two NHL games in 2018-19 and participated in training camp before the 2020 postseason.

“Rafferty’s a little bit older, has a little bit more experience [than Juolevi and Rathbone],” Benning said. “His strength is his ability to handle the puck and slow the play down. There were a couple of things he worked on last year when he was down, and he improved on those things, so we think that he can come into camp and earn a spot on our group.”

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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