Vancouver, British Columbia. Where the mountains meet the ocean, and breathtaking landscapes and scenery are in abundance. This beautiful city located in the heartland of Western Canada is also home to the Vancouver Canucks. Over the past few seasons, things have been anything but roses and unicorns in the city of Vancouver. Long departed are the Sedin brothers (Daniel and Henrik) who together spent the better part of 17 seasons in a Canucks uniform. The team has seen a fundamental shift in personnel both on and off the ice to a squad built around skill, speed, charisma, grit and youthful exuberance.
Turning the Page
Prior to the half of the NHL season due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canucks were a team right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture. Canucks fans have been itching for something to cheer about, having missed out on the postseason in 5 of the past 6 seasons. The current Canucks team boasts some pretty impressive names with the likes of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Jacob Markstrom, Brock Boeser, Quin Hughes, and J.T. Miller. General manager Jim Benning has also been the architect of a pretty deep prospect pool as a result of excellent drafting and player development with 3 names in particular that are sure to grab many hockey fans’ attention in the not so distant future. So just who are the Canucks’ top-3 prospects, and what sort of impact can we expect them to have at the NHL level?
Number 3: Olli Juolevi, Defenseman, Utica Comets (AHL)
It feels like a decade ago when the Canucks proudly selected Finnish-born defenseman, Olli Juolevi fifth overall during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The prototypical Finn, Juolevi can skate, think the game at a high level, and use his stick to good effect in the defensive zone. In addition, the former Canucks first-round pick is also a strong skater, who can move the puck around the ice with his poise and above-average passing skills. He’s not an overly physical player, but uses his body to good effect, allowing his team to regain possession of the puck and transition to offense. The Canucks have been impressed with his development with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League (AHL), over the past few seasons, and feel as though he’s ready to make the jump to the big leagues by next fall. This extended time in the AHL, has allowed Juolevi to gain experience and further perfect his craft. If Juolevi can find ways to stay off the injured reserve, he should be a shoo-in on the Canucks blue-line in 2021-21.
Number 2: Nils Hoglander, Left-Wing, Rogle BK (Swedish Hockey League)
One of the outright steals of the 2019 NHL Draft already seems to have appeared in the form of Swedish winger, Nils Hoglander. His coming out party, Canucks fans? This past years’ 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, where he led team Sweden with 6 goals, and 6 assists for 11 points in 7 games. Not too bad for a best-on-best international tournament. Taken in the second-round, 40th overall during last summer’s draft, Hoglander is a stand-out talent who’s primed and ready for a long career in the National Hockey league. Hoglander possesses exceptional hands, stick-handling ability, with a knack for explosive and highlight-reel goals. Hoglander’s playmaking ability, acceleration, and his ability to break a game open is sure to keep Canucks fans at the edge of their seat. One of the most underrated parts of Hoglander’s game is his propensity to make hits and “mix it up” with the opponent despite his 5 ‘9 frame. He loves the competitive aspect that the sport of hockey provides, and plays with a sport of hunger that should place him in good stead as a raw, natural NHL talent. Canucks fans will be licking their collective chops at the thought of Nils Hoglander.
Number 1: Vasili Podkolzin, Right-Wing, St. Petersburg SKA (Kontinental Hockey league)
Vasili Podkolzin tops the list as the best prospect in the Vancouver Canucks organization. At 18 years of age, Podkolzin has already appeared in two World Junior Tournaments for team Russia. During this past year’s tournament, Podkolzin emerged as one of the team’s leaders posting 1 goal, and 5 points in 7 games played as Russia lost out to Canada in the Gold Medal Game. Podkolzin possesses size, speed, and exceptional vision and passing skills. This trait, executed with such precision, allows Podkolzin to make high-level, intelligent plays in the offensive zone. An interesting but lethal mix of Evgeni Kuznetsov and Ryan Getlzlaf, Podkolzin is still under contract with St. Petersburgh SKA of the KHL for another season before he can make the leap to the Canucks. Another year of development will work wonders for Podkolzin, who is set to be a bona fide top-six winger at the National hockey League Level. The Canucks definitely have a few diamonds in the rough coming down the pipeline which is sure to ignite the fan base when they join names like Pettersson, Horvat, and Hughes.
Honorable Mentions: D Jet Woo, D Jack Rathbone, RW Kole Lind
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images