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  • Kyle Welsford

Canucks Draft Class 2023

Record Card

Grading Scheme:

A: Exceptional, Fantastic, Great

B: Good, Solid, Quality

C: Average, Ordinary, Meh

D: Bad, Poor, unsatisfactory

F: Terrible, Fail, Insignificant

N/A: Incomplete

In order of position drafted

Stats are taken from the highest level of competition played (min 10 games)


Tom Willander: 11th Overall/1st Round - RD

(Grade B)

GP: 39 G: 4 A: 21 TP: 25 (SJR)

Tom Willander was the third defenseman taken in the 2023 NHL entry draft as the Canucks selected him 11th overall. He shot up draft boards as he was a key player for Rogle's U20 team, a team that would eventually win the J20 title in Sweeden. He also impressed at the U18 Worlds as he played significant minutes for Team Sweeden and solidified himself as one of the top defensemen in the Tournament.

Willander is one of the best skaters in the draft, period. He has a quick, powerful skating stride which allows him to push the pace in transition and shut-down opposing skaters in the defensive zone. Despite his elite skating ability many draft "experts" aren't sold on his offensive upside as they don't view him as a big-time playmaker at the NHL level even though many "experts" agree that he has good enough skill and vision to move pucks at higher levels, especially given the space his feet can generate. Confusing analysis to say the least...

The reality is, Willander's scouting profile is a mixed bag. Many scouts like his toolset but feel like he is ways away from realizing his potential. I couldn't find one draft ranking with Willander at 11 or lower, many having him anywhere from 17-26. This pick could haunt the Canucks for years to come as Zach Benson went two selections after the Canucks pick, a unanimous top-10 selection...

The Canucks did a poor job at maximizing their draft value as they could have traded down to re-coop assets and still have taken Willander, or they could have taken the best player on the board which was clearly Benson. Willander is a fantastic prospect and helps fill the biggest hole on this team, right-handed defenseman, but I didn't love the process with this selection.

Willander will be making the rare jump from Sweeden to the U.S. as he is playing in the NCAA for Boston University next season. I really like this move as it will help him get used to the NHL ice size as well as acclimatize him to North America.

Excited to see what he does this year!

NHL Arrival: 3-4 seasons


Hunter Brzustewicz: 75th Overall/3rd Round - RD

(Grade A+)

GP: 68 G: 6 A: 51 TP: 57 (OHL)

The Canucks doubled down on right-handed defensemen as they selected Hunter Brzustewicz with the 75th overall pick. Brzustewicz is another smooth-skating defenseman who excels in the offensive zone. In his first season playing in the OHL Brzustewicz finished 6th in assists and 8th in points among defensemen. He thrived on the powerplay recording an assist on a whopping 41% of the Kitchener Rangers powerplay goals during the regular season. This powerplay dominance led Brzustewicz to finish 7th in the entire OHL in powerplay assists.

Like many offensively inclined defensemen at the junior level, Brzustewicz leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end. His willingness to jump up in the play often creates odd-man rushes against and he has the tendency to exit the zone early leaving him out of position. Kitchener is expected to give him a larger role next season and the hope is his defensive game continues to grow.

The Canucks from a value perspective made one of the best selections in the entire draft by selecting Hunter Brzustewicz. Draft rankings had him ranked as early as 41st overall and most had him in the early 50s. It's not every day that third-round selections have legit top 4 potential but Hunter Brzustewicz certainly does.

NHL Arrival: 3-4 seasons


Sawyer Mynio: 89th Overall/3rd Round - LD

(Grade C+)

GP: 68 G: 5 A: 26 TP: 31 (WHL)

Sawyer Mynio was the third consecutive defenseman drafted by the Canucks as they selected him with the 89th overall pick. This came as a bit of shock as many pundits had him as a 4th or 5th-round pick. Mynio may not be the most dynamic defenseman when it comes to offence but he is certainly strong defensively. He finished the season with an astonishing plus 50 in the plus/minus column and was a key piece on a Seattle Thunderbirds team that won the WHL championship and went on to play in the Memorial Cup.

While Mynio is a somewhat a one-dimensional defender, he performed exceptionally well in his role. "His attention to detail in the defensive zone makes him a low-maintenance player who rarely allows high-danger scoring chances. He maintains a tight gap in the neutral zone, quickly retrieves pucks, and efficiently moves them out of his zone and up the ice” – Donesh Mazloum, FC Hockey

His ceiling is that of a Chris Tanev or Jaccob Slavin. Tanev was an undrafted player and Slavin was a 4th round-draft pick... if all the stars align could Sawyer Mynio become an elite stay-at-home defenseman? It's possible, but quite unlikely, hoping for the best!

NHL Arrival: 4-5 seasons


Ty Mueller: 105th Overall/4th Round - C

(Grade D)

GP: 34 G: 12 A: 13 TP: 25 (NCAA)

After picking exclusively defensemen with their first three picks the Canucks took three forwards in the fourth round, starting with Ty Mueller. Mueller is a 20-year-old Center in his third year of draft eligibility and went entirely unraked by scouts in the public sphere...

Mueller has been described as a jack of all trades, but a master at none. He has some offensive talent, decent hands, a touch of scoring ability, a dash of playmaking, and is reliable defensively. The problem is that there is very little to indicate that Mueller has any high-end ability that will separate him from the pack and turn him into an NHL player.

The Canucks absolutely needed more center depth in their prospect pool but reaching on an over-aged unranked player in the 4th round is certainly an odd choice. Will be interesting to see if Mueller gets a shot in the AHL this season, if not he go back to the NCAA.

NHL Arrival: n/a


Vilmer Alriksson: 107th Overall/4th Round - LW

(Grade C)

GP: 43 G: 12 A: 9 TP: 21 (SJR)

Size still matters... the Canucks picked 6'6" left-winger Vilmer Alriksson two picks after they selected Ty Mueller in the fourth round. Alriksson is undoubtedly a long-term project as he lacks consistency in every facet of his game.

Reports are mixed on Alriksson as one will praise his skating ability one game and then question his coordination the next. This goes for his defensive game too as one report will suggest Alriksson has a strong two-way game, but then another report will question his commitment away from the puck.

It is important to note that Alriksson was selected 34th overall in the CHL import draft by the Guelph Storm. He now has the option to play in Sweeden for Djurgården’s junior team where he has been for the past 3 seasons or come over to the CHL and play for the Guelph Storm. He has not made a decision on where he will play in the fall, but I would like to see him come over to Guelph as I am sure the Canucks would as well.

NHL Arrival: 5-6 seasons


Matthew Perkins: 119th Overall/4th Round - C

(Grade D)

GP: 60 G: 15 A: 29 TP: 44 (USHL)

The Canucks finished off their fourth-round selections with another over-age center as they picked 19-year-old Matthew Perkins. Perkins was in his second year of draft eligibility with limited production in the USHL, well below a point per game. As much as points aren’t everything in assessing a prospect, it’s a troubling indicator for a forward that the rest of his game might not project to be NHL calibre.

Perkins wasn't ranked by any public draft rankings making the fourth-round selection quite puzzling. While he has above-average hockey IQ his skating and hands are severely lacking. To illustrate this Elite Prospects gave Perkins an “F” grade in their draft guide but left some room for optimism because of his intelligence.

Perkins' play away from the puck is solid at both ends of the ice and he can play on the wing as well as center. He added penalty killing to his resume last season, something the Canucks are always looking for. He is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season, which gives him a long development path, as he can stay in the NCAA for up to four years without the Canucks losing his rights.

NHL Arrival: n/a


Aiden Celebrini: 171st Overall/6th Round - RD

(Grade C+)

GP: 47 G: 5 A: 16 TP: 21 (AJHL)

Aiden Celebrini was the Canucks last selection in the 2023 draft being the third right-handed defenseman taken. Aiden, the older brother of projected 2024 No. 1 overall pick Macklin Celebrini, is a mobile defensive defenseman who was mostly used as a shutdown defenceman, a penalty killer, and a stabilizing presence at 5-on-5.

The main issue with Celebrini's game is his offensive output. A lack of points in Junior A is rarely a positive sign as the puck skills that a player needs at the NHL level typically result in points at the junior level. That being said there are positives to his game. He is a good skater which he uses to close quickly on opponents and deny them time and space with the puck. His gap control against the rush is very good and he combines his mobility with a physical edge.

Aiden Celebrini has committed to Boston University for the 2024-25 season, so it’s unclear where he’ll be playing next season. He might be returning to the AJHL for another year or might head to Boston early to join his brother, Macklin, and Canucks top draft pick Tom Willander.

NHL Arrival: 6-7 seasons


Final Draft Thoughts:

The Canucks had a low-event draft as they didn’t make any trades and stayed pat with every selection they had going in.

The Canucks did well to address the team's needs as they selected 4 defensemen, 3 of which are right-handed, whilst also selecting 2 centers. While they addressed the team's needs they did a poor job at maximizing their draft value. They consistently reached for players with limited upside, especially with their 4th round center selections.

One positive thing this management group emphasized is high character and high hockey IQ. All the players the Canucks selected fit these criteria and I am excited to see how they do this upcoming season!

Final Draft Grade: C+

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