Canucks’ 2015 NHL Entry Draft: One Year Later

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:47 am by Jeremy Davis

Draft Review - 2015

With the summer winding down, we at Canucks Army are looking to fill the dead space between our Top 20 countdown and the start of the World Cup of Hockey. This week, I’ve decided to head back to the draft, and I’m going to be looking at the past, present and future on Canucks drafting and NHL prospects by going over the 2015, 2016, and 2017 NHL Entry Drafts and how they pertain to the Canucks.

First up in the 2015 draft. It’s been a little over a year since Jim Benning and co brought home seven players from their trip to Sunrise, Florida, including their reigning top offensive prospect in Brock Boeser. Now it’s only been 14 months, so these prospects are all still works in progress, but some development has taken place. So how exactly has one full turn of the calendar affected the value of Vancouver’s 2015 class?

Disclaimer: When it comes to pGPS numbers, you may notice that some have changed over time. That’s because I’ve been doing ongoing research and development of the system throughout the entire summer, and when I push a new update, individuals’ percentages often change (I spoke of this recently in my article on Olli Juolevi). This is particularly true with prospects in leagues with wider age ranges (college, and professional leagues even more so). This is designed to make the numbers more representative of the players by tightening the similarity of the factors involved. At this point, I think I’ve found a formula that I’m planning on sticking with for the foreseeable future, so pGPS scores should be fairly stable for a while.

Brock Boeser – RW – 1st Round, 23rd Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #1 Canucks prospect

A lot of Canucks fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the Boeser selection right away. With high profile options like Anthony Beauvillier, Jansen Harkins, Oliver Kylington, Jeremy Roy, and Nick Merkley still on the board, there were plenty of options that bore the CA stamp of approval. We knew right away that Brock Boeser wasn’t a bad selection – but we weren’t sure yet how good it was.

Well, one year out, it looks to be an incredible pick. Not only has Boeser turned out to be a fantastic value selection at 23, he likely rates in the top ten of that draft class now. It seems that Jim Benning thought the same thing a year ago, as this video reveals that they’d had their eye on Boeser before the top ten had even been selected.

After the draft, Boeser attended the Canucks development camp in Shawnigan Lake, before heading for the University of North Dakota for his freshman year on NCAA hockey. There, he exploded onto the college scene by becoming one the top freshmen in the nation and one of the best freshmen in UND history, all en route to a national championship.

2014-15 USHL Waterloo Black Hawks 57 35 33 68 18.3% 35.6% 25
2015-16 NCAA Univ. of North Dakota 42 27 33 60 16.7% 37.0% 48

The fact that Boeser managed to increased his points per game between 2014-15 and 2015-16 (from 1.19 to 1.43) while transitioning from the USHL to the NCAA demonstrates an incredible level of development, which is reflected in his NHL equivalency, which nearly doubled.

Brock Boeser Y2Y

Boeser’s massive jump in pGPS percentage is partially due to moving from the USHL, a league that has only recently begun supplying NHL players at a respectable rate, to the NCAA, an organization with a long history of doing so. Of course, doubling his NHL equivalency played a much larger role in his improved projection. His pGPS points per 82 games also saw a large increase, owing to statistical matches like Jonathan Toews and Thomas Vanek this past year.

Boeser is currently sporting the single highest pGPS percentage in the Canucks organization, which is one of the reasons that he ended up as our selection for the Canucks’ top prospect two weeks ago. At this point, he is about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to see if you browse through the Canucks’ cupboards.

Boeser is a dynamic offensive player with a shot that would be considered top notch at the NHL level already. He scores a lot of his goals with 30-foot laser wrist shots, but he’s not afraid to get dirty and bang in pucks in the crease either. He projects as a top line winger in the NHL.

Boeser is already committed to heading back to the University of North Dakota next year, meaning we won’t be seeing him at the Young Stars tournament or in training camp. Come the start of the 2017-18 season though, expect Boeser to push for a roster spot on the big club. In the meantime, he’ll head back to college in search of a second consecutive national championship.

Guillaume Brisebois – D – 3rd Round, 66th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #11 Canucks prospect

Guillaume Brisebois was selected with the highest pick that the Canucks received in return for Eddie Lack, and for a short time it seemed that Brisebois would carry that weight around. However, an impressive increase in defensive depth in conjunction with the rejuvenation of Jacob Markstrom and an underwhelming first season by Lack in Carolina have lessened the pressure on this Mont-Saint-Hilaire native.

Brisebois’ draft-plus-one season in Bathurst was incrementally better than his draft year (despite a decrease in assists and total points, he increased his points per game and more than doubled his goal output), but some of the context issues still remain from a year ago. Namely, the Titan were once again a very bad team, despite winning 10 more games than they did in 2014-15. Brisebois also improved his plus-minus from minus-40 to minus-13, and though it’s a flawed statistic, a 27-goal increase is certainly notable.

2014-15 QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst Titan 63 4 24 28 2.5% 17.7% 9
2015-16 QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst Titan 52 10 16 26 4.5% 11.6% 11

While Brisebois’ stats showed marginal increase, it still left a fair bit to be desired. After all, junior players are expected to improve year to year, and slight increases could still lead to decreases in projection, as was unfortunately the case with Brisebois.

Guillaume Brisebois Y2Y

Brisebois played a ton of minutes this year. estimates his average TOI to be just over 25 minutes per game, which was the third highest eTOI in the QMJHL this year among draft-plus-one season players. He was a heavy minute muncher of a team that didn’t have very much going for it offensively or defensively.

I handtracked a few of Brisebois’ games earlier in the season (before Hockeystreams went dark), and came away with a couple of key observations. One, Brisebois is particular adept at clearing his own zone. Rare was the occurrence when he had the puck on his stick in the defensive zone and didn’t make a good play to exit it. Plays off the boards were used mostly as a last resort, as Brisebois preferred to carry the puck to the line and distribute it to a forward from the neutral zone.

This brings me to my next point: Acadie-Bathurst was a terrible team. The amount of plays like this that were die on forwards’ sticks and head back into Brisebois’ end was staggering. He did show the occasional propensity to rush the puck up the entire ice and enter the opposing zone himself, but he didn’t do this as often as I would have liked, given that his teammates were not very reliable puck carriers. Perhaps his reluctance had to do with an obligation to hanging back as a safety valve, given that most of his teammates weren’t reliable in that regard either.

The positive thing here is that Brisebois is set to join a new team in the fall – he was traded at the QMJHL draft to the Charlottetown Islanders, a team that isn’t great by any means, but is certainly an improvement on where he came from.

Dmitry Zhukenov – C – 4th Round, 114th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #10 Canucks prospect

As a Russian coming out of the MHL, there was some inherent mystery about Dmitry Zhukenov. The Molodezhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga has only completed seven seasons as Russia’s major junior league – their answer to the CHL and USHL. With no comparable leagues before it, prospect projection tools require some outside of the box thinking to predict what kind of players kids like Zhukenov really are.

Of course, there’s always international play, and that was an area where Zhukenov shined in 2014-15, which was likely a major factor in his 2015 selection.

Following that season, Zhukenov was selected 10th overall in the 2015 CHL import draft by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens – a regrettably awful QMJHL team. He still have a relatively successful rookie season in North America, and was one of Vancouver’s highest scoring prospects.

2014-15 MHL Omskie Yastreby 35 3 16 19 1.7% 10.4% 8
2015-16 QMJHL Chicoutimi Saguenéens 64 15 42 57 6.7% 25.6% 19

Zhukenov was also a point per game player in the QMJHL playoffs this year, scoring three goals and adding three assists in six games. Six games may well feel like an accomplishment for Chicoutimi, as they were certainly outmatched by their opening round opponents. But in the QMJHL, 16 teams make the post-season in an 18 team league, so this is a relatively frequent occurrence.

Dmitri Zhukenov Y2Y

It’s hard to look good in the QMJHL, given its low graduation rate compared to the other CHL leagues. Given that, Zhukenov’s abysmal pGPS score should be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. The same statistical profile, adjusted for league, would produce a pGPS score of 8.5 percent against the WHL database, or 7 percent in the OHL, which still isn’t that impressive. The moral of the story here is that scoring under a point per game in your draft-plus-one season bears a mediocre projection in any junior league.

Stylistically, Zhukenov has been compared to (brace yourselves) fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk, at least by the Canucks’ Russian scout, Sergei Chibisov. Consider him a light, light version of what Datsyuk is. He’s incredibly dedicated to his own end, possibly to the point that it inhibits his own offence. His offence is certainly there too, and it’s got some creative flair. Like Datsyuk, he has a propensity to pull out the dangles from time to time. The Canucks will certainly want to see him continue to develop his offensive game as he prepares for another season in the Q.

Carl Neill – D – 5th Round, 144th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #16 Canucks prospect

Carl Neill was selected as an overager in 2014-15, having been passed over at the previous draft. According to the Lachute, Quebec native, that was a bit of a wake up call – Neill nearly doubled his point total in in roughly the same amount of games between his first and second-time eligible seasons. The up tick convinced the Canucks to take a chance on him in the fifth round.Prior to the 2015-16 season, was given the captaincy of his QMJHL team, the Sherbrooke Phoenix Carl Neills, demonstrating some leadership qualities. He also gained some notoriety in Vancouver for having a team named after him.

2014-15 QMJHL Carl Neills 63 14 26 40 6.1% 17.5% 13
2015-16 QMJHL Carl Neills 64 8 42 50 3.9% 24.2% 17

The season following his draft (which was technically his draft-plus-two season, as it were) saw another increase, though it wasn’t quite as impressive as the one he showed between draft and draft-plus-one season. The increased may have been more profound if it wasn’t for a late season slump.

Carl Neill Y2Y

Both Neill’s pGPS percentage and pGPS points per 82 stayed relatively static from year to year, as his improvement was more or less on par with what we’d expect between 18- and 19-year-old seasons.

Given his age, Neill is eligible to turn pro this season. Whether he will is not yet a sure thing. Though he spent some time in Utica at the end of last season on a PTO, he never played a game, nor has he signed an NHL contract this off season. Despite his eligibility, it’s still possible that Neill returns to the QMJHL for an overaged year to avoid being relegated to the ECHL if the Canucks feel that there isn’t room in Utica (more on the roster situation in Utica in the coming weeks).

Adam Gaudette – C – 5th Round, 149th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #13 Canucks prospect

The fifth selection that the Canucks made last year, this time out of the USHL, was a centre by the name of Adam Gaudette. This was seen at the time as a “Weisbrod selection”, given what is known about Jon Weisbrod’s affinity for the top American junior league. Gaudette was ranked higher than his eventual draft position by a lot of scouting services, while his statistical profile made him appear unimpressive even in the 149th spot, and could even be considered a bit of a reach. These contrary observations seemed to indicate that there was more to Gaudette than what was showing up on the stat sheet.

In 2015-16, he proved that to be true. Though his first few months at Northeastern University were fairly quiet, he caught fire in the second half of the season, scoring 25 points in the final 23 games, a pace that would have among near the top of the freshmen leaderboard if sustained over a full season.

2014-15 USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 50 13 17 30 6.2% 14.3% 12
2015-16 NCAA Northeastern Univ. 41 12 18 30 9.0% 22.4% 22

As it were, he finished 11th among NCAA freshmen – and the best freshman at Northeastern University – with a points per game of 0.73. This explosion of production led to a major improvement in his projection. Much like Boeser, Gaudette’s ability to raise his points per game while moving from the USHL to the NCAA is very impressive, again reflected in a large increase in NHL equivalency.

Adam Gaudette Y2Y

Gaudette’s 2015 projection score was rather poor. This is due in large part to the projection process – taking historical comparable players and tracking their percentages of success – and the fact that the USHL is a league on the rise. A good portion of the historical data used to compare modern players to is from years in which the USHL wasn’t producing very many draft picks, and even fewer successful players. As such, USHL prospects are typically undersold by projection models.

The same cannot be said for the NCAA, where graduation rates have been fairly stable for decades. Thus we would consider Gaudette’s 2016 projection score to be a bit more reliable. Of course, he’s still looking at about a one-in-five shot, so it’s far from a guarantee, but a percentage in the range is much better than your average fifth round pick, suggesting that it was a much better value pick than we originally thought.

Lukas Jasek – RW – 174th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #17 Canucks prospect

Lukas Jasek (that yashek, by the way – think Dominic Hasek) is an interesting case. After suiting up for more than two dozen games with HC Trinec of the Czech Extraliga in 2014-15, Jasek’s outlook was looking pretty solid – after all, sticking around on a professional roster as a 17-year old is a pretty reliable sign of success.

Canucks Army alumnus Cam Lawrence ventured to suggest that he could be “the biggest late round steal in the 2015 NHL draft”, given that he PCS and PSCO were among the best value for draft position in all of the 2015 draft. Several prospect followers, including myself, hitched our wagons to Jasek as a player to watch going forward.

2014-15 Czech Extraliga HC Trinec 27 0 2 2 0.0% 1.1% 3
2015-16 Czech Extraliga HC Trinec 25 2 1 3 1.6% 2.5% 5
2014-15 Czech ELJ (U20) HC Trinec U20 24 10 17 27 5.0% 13.4%  *
2015-16 Czech ELJ (U20) HC Trinec U20 14 15 13 28 8.3% 15.5%  *

*No NHL equivalency numbers for Extraliga Junior

A year later, it’s tough the gauge where and what Jasek is. His 2015-16 season at the pro level was largely indiscernible from his 2014-15 campaign: he scored a couple of goals, whiling tallying one extra point in two fewer games.

Lukas Jasek Y2Y

pGPS was unimpressed with this development. As his projection in 2015 was largely due to his young age, a nearly static year-to-year level of production sent his 2016 projection into the tank. Additionally, his international play in 2015-16 left a lot to be desired, after being one of his strongest aspects in 2014-15. He was also cut from the Czech U20 team prior to the World Junior Championships, probably due to his uninspiring pro

There is one area the Jasek impressed in though – he absolutely tore apart the Czech U20 league, finishing with an even 2.0 points per game – nearly double his production rate in the same league the year before. There seems to be some level of advancement in his abilities, but given where he plays, it’s often difficult to track.

That will unfortunately continue next year, as Jasek was not selected in this summer’s CHL import draft (more on that from J.D. Burke in Jasek’s prospect profile). He is expected to head back to HC Trinec for next season, where hopefully gets a better opportunity, and achieves better results with it.

Tate Olson – D – 7th Round, 210th Overall

Ranked Canucks Army’s #9 Canucks prospect

Tate Olson was taken 210th of out 211 players at the 2015. In this position, the expectation is going to be that the prospect doesn’t work out, and one that does should be celebrated. Tate Olson, while still very young, is looking like a great selection at 210th. Heck, given how his 2015-16 season went, he looks like he would have been good value in the sixth, fifth, or even fourth rounds as well.

2014-15 WHL Prince George Cougars 68 5 19 24 2.3% 10.8% 8
2015-16 WHL Prince George Cougars 65 9 38 47 3.8% 19.6% 16

Olson saw a huge increase in points this past year, doubling his assists and nearly doubling his goals and points, all while playing three less games. He also swing his plus-minus from minus-13 to plus-16, a difference of 29 goals (subject to the same skepticism mentioned under Brisebois above). These factors conspired to massively increase a projection that was already impressive for a seventh rounder.

Tate Olson Y2Y

The Saskatoon native spent a portion of last season as one of the Canucks’ highest projected prospects. A late season dip in production, coupled with late surges from fellow Canucks prospects like Brock Boeser and Andrey Pedan, and the drafting of Olli Juolevi, have dropped Olson down the ladder a bit, but as a seventh round selection, he should be considered the best value for cost in the organization at this point. The fact that he was ranked 9th in our prospect profiles, second among this seven player draft class, is a testament to that.

Olson received a lot of praise this season beyond his statistical prowess – TSN’s Craig Button ranked him the Canucks’ fourth best non-NHL prospect back in February. Hockey IQ is an area in which Olson is consistently lauded. His ability to make the right play before anyone else knows what the right play even is will be a very useful feature moving forward. Olson will return to Prince George again this year where he will play an even larger role on their blueline.


The Canucks’ 2015 draft looked decent on the day of, and only got better as the 2015-16 season progressed. Now, one year later, it looks outstanding, and may prove to be among the Canucks’ best drafts in the last 10 or 15 years. It’s still very early, but it isn’t outrageous to suggest that they should be able to get three or four NHL players out of this group.

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