Jack Rathbone is a prime prospect for the Vancouver Canucks.
Expected to fit in for a third duo next season, this should relieve a National Hockey League club in desperate need of supporting their back end in the long-term through improved drafting and development.
Rathbone, 23, was a 2017 fourth-round pick, who converted Patience from injury to this season’s performance with the NHL team in Abbotsford. He quickly walked out of the area without a map, jumped into play and collected 40 regular season points (10-30) in just 39 games.
His 1.03 points per game and 19 assists in power play was fifth among defenders in the league, and he was also named to the AHL’s rookie team. The quarterback shouts the NHL’s second powerhouse of the future.
This is the good news.
The bad news is that there is no other defensive possibility on the horizon. Among the top 10 considerations, Victor Pearson had a rookie Western Hockey League season, but moved from 9th to 10th, Jet Woo slipped from 4th to 8th while Johnny Gormo remained in 6th. t made the cut and Toni Utunen did not sign.
There is no quick fix to boost the rear end with the 15th overall pick in the 2022 draft. When the Canucks’ new hockey operations division ascends to the podium on July 7 in Montreal, three defensemen must pique their interest.
Pavel Mintyukov of Saginaw (OHL), Kevin Korchinsky of Seattle (WHL) and Owen Pickering of Swift Current (WHL) bring in different dimensions. And if they’re still on the draft board, they deserve to be considered as the best player available who can also fulfill a pressing need.
Shane Malloy is the long-running author of The Art of Scouting for her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary development studies. He thinks the Canucks should stock up on a defensive man. Especially without a second-round pick (47th overall) that went to Arizona in the Oliver Ekman-Larson trade last summer and was then moved to Minnesota.
“The biggest need is defense, and frankly, it’s not even close,” Malloy said on Wednesday. “If I’m running the Vancouver Project and if there’s a group (of players), I take the defender first and every time. And because they don’t have that choice in the second round, I would look seriously at the Russian and European defenders and those who go to college in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds .
“These players may have warts and things to work on and take longer to develop. They can’t be in the NHL at 20. You don’t want to. Regardless of their talent, baptism with fire is a real challenge. At the earliest, Be 21 or 22 for AHL.
“You have to be patient with your draft form. They (Canucks) don’t have a choice. If they expect these introductory classes to be ready in two or three years, they’re kidding themselves. It’s not going to happen.”
The Canucks have a bit of interest in left winger Liam Omgren, who can also play in a central position and has earned 58 points (33-25) in 30 games this season with Dijorzgardens of the Swedish junior circuit. They might also like quarterback Marco Kasper, who split last season between Rogle BK Junior and Rogle BK Angelholm of the Swedish Hockey League. He earned a total of 24 points (13-11) in 58 matches.
However, Malloy measures the long-term value of a player who emerges as the No. 3 defensive man over a player who might develop to be a second line center.
“I take the Defense Man every day,” Malloy stressed. “See how much does it cost to trade for Defense No. 3 or get one at a free agency? It costs you an arm and a leg, so to get one in the draft, don’t think twice.”
Mintyukov, is a raw left shot who is 6 feet 1 1/2 and 192 pounds. The Russian of origin in Moscow is good in transition, defends well and expects in the attacking area. He has had 62 points (17-45) in 67 games this season and can go from 10 to 20.
Korchinski is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-footed shot. The Saskatoon native has a cool, smart play, with bar-to-bar transition passes resulting from good edge work. He has had 65 points (4-61) in 67 games this season with the Thunderbirds.
Pickering is a 6-foot-5, 179-pound left draft that moves well and uses reach and range to convey good offensive instincts. He earned 33 points (9-24) in 62 games this season with the struggling Broncos.
“Will I take Pickering in the first round? Yes, I will,” Malloy said. “But the other two have a bigger potential upside. The floor for all three is roughly the same, but the ceiling of Mentyukov and Korchynsky is higher due to their offensive potential.
“Mentyukov could return to Russia and play a few years for the pros before coming. So there is a bigger potential runway in his development.
“With Pickering you have to weigh the value of a good player on a bad team and have to face the top lines all the time and not have isolation from the front group. That’s what you have with players out of the US national team development program like (draft expectations) defender Ryan Chesney and Seamus Casey They play with two of the best lines in the USHL.
“You have that front isolation and not that these players are defensive, they are offensive and they always have the disc. Pickering doesn’t have that at the same level. You have to change the metrics for how you rate that.”
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