The best thing about the Vancouver Canucks’ best prospect in a generation is that Brock Boeser is not the only one.
The 20-year-old rookie winger from Burnsville, Minn., opened a lot of eyes last weekend when he was the Canucks’ best forward on his first National Hockey League visits to Toronto and Montreal, influential markets full of Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voters who will pick the Calder Trophy winner next spring.
But largely unseen behind Boeser the Canucks have stacked an array of talented, offensive prospects unprecedented in depth and quality in the organization’s history.
“We used to hold our prospects camp or go to the prospects tournament and we’d be hoping this (one) guy looks good or that guy looks good,” president of hockey operations Trevor Linden said. “Now we have a bunch of guys. It’s really exciting for us.”
With an assist from Canuck director of player development Ryan Johnson, here is a mid-season look at the best Vancouver prospects by league across North America and Europe.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Kole Lind, 19, RW, Kelowna Rockets
Second round, 33rd overall, 2017
Season to date: 32 GP | 21 G | 33 A | 54 PTS | +15
The powerful winger handled disappointment over being cut from Team Canada’s world junior camp by scoring four goals in his first two games back in the WHL, and through last weekend carried a nine-game points streak in which he had amassed eight goals and 18 points. In 32 games for Kelowna, Lind had 21 goals, 54 points and 43 penalty minutes – an indication of the abrasiveness with which he plays. The Canucks like that Lind is a natural scorer who gets to the net, but they love the way he competes.
Ryan Johnson: “Obviously, his skill set and the way he moves is impressive. But he has a nasty side to him which not a lot of players have in today’s game. He has a natural edge to his game, which I like. He plays a physical game and we need that in Vancouver. I really do think the sky is the limit for Kole.”
Jonah Gadjovich, 19, LW, Owen Sound Attack
Second round, 55th overall, 2017
Season to date: 22 GP | 15 G | 11 A | 26 PTS | -3
After missing a month with a wrist injury last fall, Gadjovich won a gold medal with Canada’s world junior team, finishing the tournament with two goals and three points in seven games. In 22 games with Owen Sound, the power forward with huge net-front presence had 15 goals and 26 points in 22 games and a staggering 118 shots on goal. Gadjovich plays a “heavy” throwback game. And working with skating coach Ryan Lounsbury, Gadjovich has gotten quicker this season.
Ryan Johnson: “He knows what he is as a player and knows completely what he has to do to contribute on whatever line he is on. He’s a character kid. You just need to tell him something once and he applies it to his game. He just gets it.”
Adam Gaudette, 21, C, Northeastern Huskies
Fifth round, 149th overall, 2015
Season to date: 20 GP | 15 G | 15 A | 30 PTS | +5
A four-point game in a 6-1 win last weekend against Bentley extended Gaudette’s points streak to six games and lifted the junior forward into a tie for first place in NCAA scoring with 15 goals and 30 points in 20 games. No wonder the forward from Braintree, Mass., was on USA Hockey’s radar for next month’s Olympics, although Gaudette wasn’t among the four college players selected to play in South Korea. Gaudette is expected to turn pro this spring and, like Boeser did last year after leaving the University of North Dakota, could show up in a Canuck uniform in March.
Ryan Johnson: “Of all the rinks I go into and all the scouts I talk to, Adam Gaudette is the player people ask me about more than anyone else. Everyone is like, ‘Gosh, how did you get this guy where you did (in the draft)?’ His development has been incredible. He may be under the radar for some people, but he’s not under the radar for us.”
Elias Pettersson, 19, C, Vaxjo Lakers
First round, fifth overall, 2017
Season to date: 27 GP | 11 G | 24 A | 35 PTS | +11
The offensive dynamo had an excellent world junior tournament for the Swedish team that dominated much of the final before losing the gold-medal game to the Canadians. Pettersson finished with five goals and seven points in seven games. Playing back home in what used to be the Swedish Elite League, Pettersson has 11 goals and 35 points in 26 games and is considered not only the league’s best rookie, but one of the best Swedish prospects since Peter Forsberg. Known as a playmaker who loves to dangle defencemen one-on-one, Pettersson has demonstrated a world-class shot which has the Canucks salivating at the idea of a power play one day with Boeser launching one-timers from one side and Pettersson from the other.
Ryan Johnson: “I could go on and on about his game. But the thing that impresses me most is that for a very good, crafty, play-making player. . . I love that Elias has a shoot-first mentality. He is a threat to score every time he gets the puck inside the blue line. With his other abilities, that threat to score makes him even more dangerous.”
Jonathan Dahlen, 20, LW, Timra IK
Second round, 42nd overall, 2016 (Ottawa)
Season to date: 27 GP | 18 G | 15 A | 33 PTS | +5
The dynamic forward is among the scoring leaders in Sweden’s second-division pro league with 18 goals and 33 points in 27 games for Timra. But his start was slowed by mononucleosis and Dahlen actually leads the Allvenskan with 1.22 points per game. Canucks strength and development coach Bryan Marshall travelled to Europe to help Dahlen work on his strength, which, as with Pettersson, must improve for him to play in the NHL. But there’s no doubts about the player’s darting, offensive game, which includes a willingness to get to the net.
Ryan Johnson: “Obviously, he’s gifted. But he plays in traffic and tight areas. In small areas, he’s very quick and has great puck skills in small areas that you have to have in today’s game. Unfortunately with what he faced with the mono, that didn’t help him. But it has got us focussed a lot on the off-ice stuff – his strength and conditioning. He’s a willing kid and there’s no doubt he will put in the work.”
Olli Juolevi, 19, D, TPS Turku
First round, fifth overall, 2016
Season to date: 21 GP | 5 G | 10 A | 15 PTS | +10
Playing in his third world junior tournament, Juolevi was one of Finland’s top players, but was unable to help the 2016 Under-20 world champions medal in Buffalo. He had four points in five games. Playing in the Finnish Elite League, where his coaching staff includes former Canuck defenceman Sami Salo, Juolevi has five goals and 15 points for Turku and is plus-10 in 21 games. Drafted fifth overall because he does everything well – but nothing spectacularly – Juolevi has improved the offensive side of his game this season and is being pushed by the Canucks to be more assertive defensively.
Ryan Johnson: “His puck skills are very good and he’s very smart, which we knew. I thought he got more aggressive in the D-zone (at the world juniors) and when he does that, he’s a dangerous player at both end of the ice. Playing against men back home, he is around professionals every day who are there to work and get better, and that’s rubbing off on Olli.”