Canucks prospects: Pipeline beginning to circulate forward of latest season

The Vancouver Canucks enter the 2023/24 marketing campaign with a much-improved prospects pipeline

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A brand new season, a brand new batch of prospects to welcome to the ranks.

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The Vancouver Canucks continued to restock their organizational cabinet this previous low season — and the remainder of the hockey world is taking discover.

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Persistently ranked within the bottom-five of the NHL final season, the prospects pipeline is beginning to circulate after areas of want have been addressed on the draft and past.

Within the newest leaguewide rankings, the group clocked in at twenty fourth in The Athletic, twenty third on Yahoo Sports activities, twentieth at Elite Prospects (up eight spots from final 12 months) and was the most important riser in The Hockey Writers’ rankings, leaping from thirtieth total final season to twenty first this time round.

Actually, in-house growth, late-season trades and a few savvy signings have helped bolster the system, however let’s check out the freshest faces to affix the membership with pre-season effectively underway and earlier than the Younger Stars event in Penticton on Friday and Canucks coaching camp in Victoria on Sept. 21:

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Tom Willander was selected by the Vancouver Canucks with the 11th overall pick during round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tom Willander was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks with the eleventh total choose throughout spherical one of many 2023 Higher Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Area on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Picture by Bruce Bennett /Getty Pictures

Tom Willander

A key organizational want and the consensus greatest total prospect within the system.

Not dangerous work for Patrik Allvin and Co. with the eleventh total choose on the draft.

Tom Willander is being touted because the tonic to the issues which have plagued the appropriate facet of the Canucks’ defence lately.

“I might see him being a man who can eat a whole lot of minutes and play with Quinn Hughes and utilized in a shutdown function due to the way in which he skates and his I.Q. There’s positively an pleasure from our employees,” Allvin mentioned on the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Realistically, that form of success in Vancouver is a number of years away for the 18-year-old Stockholm product.

Willander might be a freshman at Boston College this coming season and can look to maintain the momentum going after surging up the draft charts within the second half of final season.

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The 6-foot-1, 176-pound D-man confirmed effectively on the U18 World Juniors, anchoring Sweden’s second pairing and notching eight factors (3G, 5A) in seven video games whereas going a plus-6 total. Willander went from taking part in U18 junior hockey all the way in which to the SHL final season — and that’s after changing from a winger simply two years in the past — so he’s come a great distance.

How he did it was by his distinctive skating potential and a motor that by no means quits. Willander is at all times engaged defensively, guides attackers away from the center of the ice and breaks up performs alongside the boards. He’s additionally robust and expert bodily, and may make up for errors along with his toes and positioning.

“Put it this manner: If I used to be taking part in, I wouldn’t wish to play in opposition to him,” said Todd Harvey, Canucks director of amateur scouting. “He’s going to compete on the market, and that was one of many issues that we favored.”

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The knock on Willander’s recreation is claimed to be his Restricted offensive upside, however each Canucks brass and the strapping prospect disagree.

“We see some offence in his recreation there … he’s a reasonably good self-evaluator and he thinks there’s extra there, and we are inclined to agree,” mentioned Harvey.

Boston U’s first common season recreation is on Oct. 7 at Bentley College. The Terriers have been the No. 5-ranked staff within the NCAA final season and made all of it the way in which to the Frozen 4 semifinal, the place they misplaced to top-ranked Minnesota 6-2 on April 6.

It was the primary Frozen 4 berth for Boston U since 2015, so Willander is becoming a member of a program on the rise.

Sarnia Sting's Ethan Del Mastro (77) is chased by Kitchener Rangers' Hunter Brzustewicz (4) at Progressive Auto Sales Arena last season.
Sarnia Sting’s Ethan Del Mastro (77) is chased by Kitchener Rangers’ Hunter Brzustewicz (4) at Progressive Auto Gross sales Area final season. Picture by Mark Malone /Postmedia

Hunter Brzustewicz

Inside clock. Poise. Imaginative and prescient.

To listen to Canucks participant growth coach Mike Komisarek describe Hunter Brzustewicz, you’d assume the staff took a quarterback with their third-round choose this previous summer season.

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Factor is, they form of did.

The 18-year-old American quarterbacked the Kitchener Rangers energy play final season — his first within the OHL — and racked up 23 energy play assists, seventh most for a defenceman within the league however first amongst draft-eligible D-men. Brzustewicz’s 57 factors (6G, 51A) in 68 video games was additionally tops amongst draft-eligible D-men

“He’s a participant that has tons of confidence with the puck and a excessive threshold below stress,” Komisarek advised’s Lindsey Horsting final month. “He’s like a quarterback within the pocket, when there’s go rushers coming at him, he’s acquired the interior clock, poise, and imaginative and prescient to make the appropriate play, see the ice and what’s occurring round him.”

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Brzustewicz isn’t simply all about transferring pucks and placing up factors, although. His hockey IQ, skating potential and upper-body energy give him a real two-way presence on the ice.

Final Sunday, the 6-foot, 190 pound right-shot D-man began on the primary defensive pairing and tallied a major energy play help in a 5-3 win over the Oshawa Generals, the Rangers’ first recreation of the pre-season. Brzustewicz completed the sport with two pictures on aim and a minus-1 ranking.

Brzustewicz then scored his first of the pre-season on Friday, notching a power-play aim in a 5-3 loss to the Brantford Bulldogs. The aim got here on a superbly positioned wrister from the purpose, with a few Rangers screening the Bulldogs goaltender.

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The Michigan product went a minus-2 with two pictures on aim within the loss.

In his third and last pre-season recreation right this moment, Brzustewicz tallied two extra energy play assists and had a plus-1 ranking in an 11-3 thumping of the Oshawa Generals.

The Rangers open the common season on Sept. 29 in opposition to the Saginaw Spirit.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Vilmer Alriksson.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Vilmer Alriksson. Picture by Jeff Vinnick /Vancouver Canucks Picture Library

Vilmer Alriksson

They’re preaching persistence with this choose, within the hopes that Vilmer Alriksson’s recreation grows as a lot as his 6-foot-6 body.

Alriksson, 18, began final season within the Swedish juniors as extra of a finesse-type participant, said Canucks amateur scout Bobby Hagelin last month, however began to seek out his id within the second half and have become extra of an influence ahead who performed a two-way recreation.

“He began to know that he’s a giant child and used his measurement to his benefit,” mentioned Hagelin. “For being a giant man, he’s actually fluid and clean and has a superb launch. So it’s actually the place he’s bodily. You’ve acquired to be affected person, it’s going to take a while for him to develop into that physique.”

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Effectively, we didn’t have to attend too lengthy to see some manufacturing from the large winger, taken within the fourth spherical of the 2023 draft.

Taking part in with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, Alriksson notched an help in his first pre-season recreation on Sept. 1, then adopted it up with a power-play aim and 6 pictures on internet in a 5-3 win in opposition to the Mississauga Steelheads on Sept. 3. 5 of these pictures have been from harmful areas of the ice.

The massive Swede then recorded one other help on Friday in a 5-2 win over the Niagara IceDogs. On the play, Alriksson used his wheels to hold the puck up the ice and his massive body to fend off a few defenders earlier than dishing the puck to the excessive slot to start out the scoring sequence.

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The Storm start their common season on Sept. 22 at Brantford.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Nikita Tolopilo during development camp in July.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Nikita Tolopilo throughout growth camp in July. Picture by Jeff Vinnick /Vancouver Canucks Picture Library

Nikita Tolopilo

Arturs Silovs is effectively on his option to turning into an NHL common.

So too might Nikita Tolopilo, below the steerage of elite goaltending coach Ian Clark.

The Canucks’ goalie whisperer loves the potential of the 6-foot-6 Tolopilo, whose massive physique and further lengthy limbs are tailored for Clark’s tutelage.

The sensation, apparently, is mutual.

The prospect to work with Clark and his assistant Marko Torenius was what offered Tolopilo on the Canucks when he signed a two-year contract in late March.

“That’s the most important factor why,” he mentioned. “I’m tremendous excited to work with them, and I actually imagine that may assist me,” Tolopilo mentioned.

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Tolopilo is anticipated to again up Silovs within the Abbotsford internet this season, his first in North America. With the Canucks signing 25-year-old goalie Zach Sawchenko on the primary day of free company this previous summer season, Abbotsford will almost definitely rotate three goalies this coming season.

Tolopilo, 23, excelled in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan final season, posting a .924 save share and had a sterling 28-17-0 document as Sodertalje’s starter.

It additionally gained’t damage to have fellow Belarusian Danila Klimovich round in Abbotsford to indicate him round.

The Abbotsford Canucks — who we might be monitoring carefully all season — kick off their 2023/24 common season marketing campaign on Oct. 13 at Laval.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimaki plays in a game for Djurgardens in the HockeyAllsvenskan last season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimaki performs in a recreation for Djurgardens within the HockeyAllsvenskan final season. Picture by James Foster Images /Submitted

What’s previous is new once more for Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who’s again to his scoring methods after a suspect season a 12 months in the past.

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The Canucks’ 2022 fifteenth total choose scored his fourth aim of the SHL pre-season on Thursday in a 2-1 loss to Linkoping. The sport was Orebro’s last exhibition contest earlier than their common season opener on Thursday in opposition to Leksand.

Lekkerimaki, 19, has labored his approach up the Orebro lineup to the primary line and seems to be adopting his “glide” mantra he spoke about in Could when he signed a three-year, entry stage contract with the Canucks.

He’s taking part in quick and unfastened and letting his ability do the remaining.

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A robust season would vault the dynamic 5-foot-11, 172-pound right-shot winger into blue-chip prospect territory. Lekkerimaki is probably going the one Canucks prospect with a respectable shot at being a top-six fixture sooner or later. His fingers are too comfortable and his shot too laborious to have it another approach.

Lekkerimaki might want to proceed to get stronger this season and restrict the slumps and accidents that just about derailed his marketing campaign a 12 months in the past.

Elsewhere: Defenceman Joni Jurmo (2020, Rd. 3) has performed in 4 Champions Hockey League video games for Ilves over the previous couple of weeks, averaging round 10 minutes of ice time a recreation and registering an help and a minus-1 ranking for the Finnish Liiga facet. Jurmo, a fleet-footed 6-foot-5, 209-pound left-shot defenceman, remains to be unsigned by the Canucks and must show he can deal with the defensive rigours of the skilled recreation with a view to earn his first NHL contract.

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— with information from Patrick Johnston and Ben Kuzma

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