With their first pick on day two of the draft, the Canucks made a pick that might polarize the fanbase. On one hand you have fans that are willing to give Jim Benning the benefit of the doubt when it comes to drafting, trusting his ability to find diamonds in the rough.
On the other hand, you have fans that see a 5’10” lightweight who didn’t put up points in his draft year and wonder what the hell Benning is thinking, particularly when better players were available.
Personally, I think there’s a middle ground. The Canucks certainly took a risk drafting a winger who only had 16 goals and 39 points in 79 combined games for the US National Team Development Program, but there are good reasons to believe he might be more skilled than his performance last year would indicate.
The general consensus about Lockwood is that he’s a good skater who brings a lot of energy and grit to every shift he plays. The question is whether there’s more to him than grit, speed, and energy. The Canucks believe there is and they’re not the only ones who think so.
Corey Pronman was one of the people who had Lockwood in his top-100 draft rankings, putting him 75th, not far off from where the Canucks picked him. He says, “I always came away impressed when I saw Lockwood play this season.”
Where some suggest that Lockwood lacks offensive talent, Pronman suggests he has “high-end offensive talent” thanks to his skating and confidence with the puck. Other scouts report that Lockwood has a good shot and finishing ability, even if it didn’t show up in his goal totals.
That offensive ability did show up at the U-18 tournament, where he put up 7 points in 7 games while playing on the third line for Team USA. His highlight reel from the tournament shows a player with above-average hands, a willingness to throw the body, and a hunger for the puck on the forecheck.
The Canucks have already said they hope he can be a Jannik Hansen-type and that seems like a good, if optimistic, comparison: speed, surprisingly good hands, and a tenacious and contagious energy.
Other rankings that had Lockwood near where the Canucks picked him include McKeen’s, who had him 71st overall, and Bob McKenzie, who placed him 74th. With that in mind, Lockwood is indeed a reach, but perhaps not as much of a reach as some might suggest.
He does have weaknesses, as any third-round pick, with some scouts questioning his defensive positioning, while others point out that he needs work winning puck battles. All reports that I’ve seen agree that he’s a north-south player who isn’t a creative playmaker. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it is a limitation to his game.
Lockwood is heading to the University of Michigan, where the Canucks and fans will hope to see him develop his offensive game to the point where he is considered a steal at 64th overall.