One month from the Canucks Young Stars Classic in Penticton, what better time to talk Canucks prospects with one of Canada’s leading draft/prospect experts Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet. (six-minute video below)
First of all, “Coz” breaks down 2022 Canucks 1st-rounder Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who spent almost all of last season at the 2nd tier of Swedish professional hockey with the Djurgardens club in Stockholm. After just a nine point regular season, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound right winger lit up the playoffs. He was a point-a-game player in 15 matches.
Oddly enough, he had nine points in 26 games the previous season in the top Swedish Hockey League.
“High upside guy, shooter extraordinaire, unique personality,” Cosentino says. “Huge, huge upside to this player, but finding consistency in his game (is key) and having him work on some of the details away from the puck defensively. Kind of needs to get back on track this year.”
Lekkerimäki will be back in the SHL this season on loan to Örebro HK. He just turned 19-years-of-age on July 24th, so there’s no sense of urgency.
The Canucks went back-to-back Swedes with their 1st-round picks in 2022 and then 2023, and the consensus is they found a “rock star” in right-shot defenceman Tom Willander this past summer. The mobile 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is still growing and will hop the pond to play US college hockey at Boston University this season.
“A little bit of a different path though, for most Swedes you usually stay in the SHL or the Allsvenskan (2nd level pro),” Cosentino points out. “I like the fact that he feels that this is his best path to development. It’s being supported by everyone around him. Really cool scenario that you don’t see often, so fascinated to watch him play in that high level of competition at a really good school.”
Willander had 25 points last season in 39 Under-20 junior games.
“I think there was a huge rise to prominence for him going back to November at the Four Nations (tournament) in Plymouth (Michigan),” Cosentino points out. “He was spectacular there and just kind of continued to rise and of course at the Under-18’s, really, really good there. A guy who’s a two-way defenceman, he’s going to be able to move pucks, he’ll be able to carry pucks, he’s going to be able to give you something on your power play, I don’t know about unit-one, but at least a PP-two type of guy. He plays with bite in his game and is really confident in his abilities.”
As for Swedish Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin “going with what he knows” the past two NHL Drafts, Cosentino doesn’t see a problem. Similarly, down the road with the Seattle Kraken, Director of Amateur Scouting Robert Kron went with a kid from his hometown of Brno, Czechia with his first pick in 2023, forward Eduard Sale.
“You have to feel super comfortable with the players you’re picking, so looking at Willander, he’s a guy that I think has universal appeal,” Coz stated. “Lekkerimäki, I think you would have had to do a deep dive and be really confident with the person you were getting and the character you were getting. Willander, I don’t think there was any kind of concerns or deep dive needed, I just think he was he was going to be the guy for Vancouver no matter what.”
During the interview, Cosentino provides the names of two top prospects for the both the 2024 and 2025 NHL Drafts.
Other VHI Recents:
— Ranking Canucks and Pacific Division Top-2 D-men
— Ranking Canucks and Pacific Division Top-2 Centres