On June 24th, 2016 Jim Benning and his team gathered around the table on the draft floor at First Niagra Arena in Buffalo, New York. With the Vancouver Canucks picking fifth overall, their highest selection since 1999 where the Canucks selected Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin 2nd and 3rd overall.
Fans eagerly waited for the Canucks next potential superstar, while Benning and company sat at the table waiting to see if forward Pierre-Luc Dubois would fall to fifth. If this did happen reports were the Canucks would deal Dubois to Nashville for then star defenceman P.K. Subban. This was not the case.
So how has the 2016 draft worked out for the Canucks?
One of Jim Benning’s most controversial picks came in 2016 when the Canucks selected London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi. Ranked as the fifth North American skater entering the draft, selecting Juolevi had Canucks fans scratching their heads as the next three picks were Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes), and Alexander Nylander (Buffalo Sabres). Although Keller was a reach at the time Nylander and Tkachuk were not both being ranked higher than Juolevi prior to the draft.
Juolevi would spend the next season with the London Knights, followed by two seasons with the Utica Comets. Both seasons in Utica were cut short due to injuries, he would play just 63 games in two years. Juolevi would make the Canucks out of training camp to start the 2020-21 season. Although he would play just 23 games averaging 13:13 minutes of ice-time. After a disappointing 2021-22 camp the Canucks have decided to move on from Juolevi, trading him to the Florida Panthers.
Side note. Tkachuk and Keller have each played five NHL seasons with one All-Star game appearance, while Nylander has played four NHL seasons.
Second, Third, and Fourth Round
The Canucks did not have a second-round selection due to a trade with Florida, where the Canucks received Erik Gudbranson.
The Canucks would select right-winger William Lockwood from the U.S. National Development Team with the 64th overall selection. After two seasons with USNDT Lockwood would go one to play four seasons with the University of Michigan. Lockwood has played just two games with the Canucks totaling zero points and averaging 14:12 minutes of ice-time. He will be starting the 2021-22 season with the Abbotsford Canucks.
Side note. The Calgary Flames selected defenceman and Norris winner Adam Fox two picks later at 66th overall from the USNDT.
The Canucks traded their fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in the Gudbranson trade.
Fifth, Six, and Seventh Round
The Canucks traded their fifth-round pick along with Zach Kassian to the Canadiens in exchange for Brandon Prust. Although they acquired the New York Islanders fifth-round pick in the Gudbranson trade.
The Canucks would select Cole Candella of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the fifth round but did not sign him. In the sixth round, they would select Jakob Stukel of the Calgary Hitman and not sign him either. Then in the seventh round, the Canucks would have two picks selecting Rodrigo Abols from the Portland Winterhawks and Brett Mckenzie of the North Bay Battalion. The Canucks did not sign either Abols or Mckenzie.
Been told the #Canucks are not signing 20 year old forward Brett Mckenzie from the 2016 NHL Draft. Vancouver will also not sign 20 year olds Cole Candella and Jakob Stukel.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) May 1, 2018
2016 NHL Bust
The Canucks missed big in 2016 and fans will never let Jim Benning live it down. With the major swing and miss on Juolevi and the potential for another swing and miss on Lockwood, due to the home runs hit by the rival Flames, the first three rounds were rough for the Vancouver faithful. Follow that up with the Canucks failure to sign the fifth, sixth, and seventh-round picks the Canucks were almost better off not attending the 2016 NHL entry draft. Luckily for Canucks fans the 2017 draft was a different story where the Canucks made the right choice at fifth overall selecting franchise cornerstone Elias Pettersson.
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