LATEST | Canucks' prospect pool greatly represented in rankings: Three prospects identified

Cooper Godin
March 6, 2024  (7:41)

Vancouver Canucks prospect Tom Willander.
Photo credit: NHL.com

The Vancouver Canucks have a handful of names in their prospect pool that could become top players at the National Hockey League level and some of those prospects could be coming to North America very soon.

On Monday, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic released his list of the top 75 drafted NHL prospects, as well as plenty of honourable mentions, and three members of the Vancouver Canucks organization were named.
The first one was Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who's having a solid season with Orebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League, putting up 29 points (19 goals, ten assists) in 42 games. The Tullinge native was named MVP at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship after putting up seven goals and ten points in seven games. Lekkerimaki comes in at 17 on Wheeler's list.
"Lekkerimaki's talent is undeniable. He's dynamic, in control and threatening from anywhere in the offensive zone. He can beat you in an instant with a quick catch-and-release or curl-and-drag shot, or hang onto pucks and make things happen himself. He's got a knack for hitting holes in the net, frequently beating goalies low-blocker and five-hole. He's got A-level hands, a deceptive release, a lethal one-timer and a slyness to his game that allows him to get to spots to score with and without the puck. He's going to have clear power-play upside at the next level because of all of those things. He slowly has become more threatening on a consistent basis at five-on-five against men, coming and going less in games, fading to the perimeter in control less, and making sure he's getting touches by keeping his feet moving more and working to involve himself in the play more. He is just playing with more intention off the puck and on the forecheck and has found more consistency in his approach and consequently his game." Wheeler said in his profile on Lekkerimaki.

The second name on Wheeler's list from the Vancouver Canucks organization is defensive prospect Tom Willander, who is playing at Boston University in the NCAA. Willander has 18 points in 30 games in the NCAA and also put up three points in seven games at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Willander is listed at 28th by Scott Wheeler.
"One of the better-skating D prospects in hockey, Willander was a beast for the Swedish under-18 team and Rogle's junior team last year and has driven strong two-way results for the Terriers as a freshman and for the Swedish under-20 team this year. He's a strong-in-all-three-zones defenseman who plays a confident and decisive defensive game that uses his beautiful, balanced skating to swallow up opposing carriers and then push forward or fall back onto his heels and outlet the puck." Wheeler said.

The third and final name listed, albeit an honourable mention, is Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin, who made his season debut with the Canucks on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks. While the Canucks would like to hold onto him, there's a chance he could be used as a trade chip this week to bring a big name to the organization. In 44 AHL games for Abbotsford this season, the Moscow native has 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists).
"There's a lot about Podkolzin's game that has typically drawn evaluators to him: His power and strength over his feet. His good hands through and under sticks or in tight. His knack for seeing the first play and then executing it, whether that's attacking the slot when it's available or knifing through coverage with surprising finesse for a heavyset player. His sneaky passing ability when seams open in coverage. His tenacious and physical disposition." Wheeler said.

Which prospect are you more excited to see in the NHL - Jonathan Lekkerimaki or Tom Willander? Let us know in the poll below!
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LATEST | Canucks' prospect pool greatly represented in rankings: Three prospects identified

Which prospect are you more excited about?

Jonathan Lekkerimaki53867 %
Tom Willander18322.8 %
See Results8210.2 %
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