The Canucks picked three defencemen in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, starting with their first round pick, Quinn Hughes. They added Jett Woo in the second round and Toni Utunen in the fifth. It added some much needed top-end talent and depth to their prospect pool on defence, but they arguably need more.
That’s why it was surprising to see the Canucks make nine selections at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and not pick a single defenceman.
The Canucks haven’t gone an entire draft without selecting a defenceman since 1976. While this was a draft distinctly light on high-end defencemen, it still is odd that they didn’t take a chance on a blueliner in later rounds.
“It’s just kind of how the draft fell,” said Jim Benning. “We have [Brogan] Rafferty, [Josh] Teves and [Mitch] Eliot that we signed as free agents. We've got some guys that we had before — Chatfield, Brisebois — so we’ve got some depth, I feel like, on the back end.”
“If there was a defenceman we really liked along the way we would have taken him,” he added, “but kind of as it fell, we took the best players when we picked and it kind of turned out to be forwards today.”
That thought was echoed by Judd Brackett, who pointed to their free agent signings as providing the needed depth in their prospect pool on defence.
Judd Brackett on how the #Canucks approached the draft: "In the first round we wanted BPA. Obviously we took a lot of forwards, but we think we addressed defense in college and CHL signings and will continue to do so."— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) June 22, 2019
The Canucks have had some success in the past in finding defencemen in later rounds — on their current roster, Alex Edler was a third-round pick and Ben Hutton was a fifth-round pick — but evidently preferred the forwards (and one goaltender) available to them when they picked instead.
It’s also true that the Canucks have had success finding NHL defencemen in college free agency. Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher both came to the Canucks via that route and the Canucks are hopeful that they’ve found another two NHL defencemen in Teves and Rafferty, as well as CHL free agent Eliot.
It seems the Canucks decision to go without drafting a defenceman was a combination of multiple factors: the three defencemen they drafted last year, their confidence in their ability to find undrafted defencemen in free agency, and the overall weakness of the defencemen in this draft class.
Is the Canucks’ defenceless draft defensible? Or should the Canucks have rolled the dice on a defenceman in the later rounds?