NHL Draft: Could the Canucks look to Wiliam Nylander, Robby Fabbri at No. 6?
Head to YouTube, and you'll have no trouble finding a flattering five-minute montage of William Nylander.
The Swedish 17-year-old – born in Calgary – and son of former NHLer Michael Nylander has undoubtable skill and top-end speed. He is, quite possibly, the most exciting and offensively talented player in this year's draft.
"(I'm) an offensive player, I like to score goals and make plays," he said, when asked to describe his game at the NHL Draft's combine recently. "I like the way Jonathan Tavares and Patrick Kane play. Great players."
Not bad role models, either, and there are certainly a handful of scouts who think Nylander could score like either of them in the NHL someday.
So, why will he be around for the Vancouver Canucks at No. 6 then?
Well, with any European, there's a sense of the unknown. Especially when you're unable to really learn about that player beforehand, other than through his best-of demo reel – and YouTube is a collection of best-ofs.
Rarely do you see a YouTube video titled "Alex Ovechkin Is Just OK At Defence" or "Roberto Luongo Can't Stickhandle Very Well" or "Patrick Kane Gives Up On This Meaningless Goal".
No, it's all top corner rifles and glove saves.
Also, you also have no idea what a European player wants or expects heading into the NHL Draft. Like, do they actually want to be a Canuck? Do they want to stay in Russia, Sweden, Finland, or – even worse – return there after five years in the Chel, leaving you without a guy you thought could be a franchise player while the players you drafted him over have Hall of Fame careers in North America?
Unlike the other top-end players in this year's Draft, all of whom played their junior hockey in Canada – the consensus top 5 are CHL stars Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, and Michael Dal Colle – we haven't had a chance to see Nylander play any night we want, live whenever we want.
We don't know what he looks like without the puck because, as I mentioned above, YouTube doesn't show us how good a player is positionally.
So for guys like Nylander and Finnish phenom Kasperi Kapanen and – to some extent – Halifax's rookie Danish import Nikolaj Ehlers (who plays four time zones east of Vancouver), all we fans have are their stats. And their stats are mouth-watering.
Playing in Sweden's pro second division, Nylander put up 27 points in 35 contests, a very good number in a low-scoring league. He also led the 2014 IIHF World U-18 Championships with 16 points in just six games. He was named that tournament's best forward, well ahead in the scoring race over Canada's best player, Abbotsford's Jake Virtnanen. (Virtanen had six points in the tournament and is also expected to be drafted in the top 10 in this year's NHL Draft.)
What about Robby Fabbri?
While the Canucks are expected to look to Nylander, Dal Colle, big winger Nick Ritchie, or Virtanen with their sixth overall pick, don't surprised if a late-season charge puts Robby Fabbri in the mix, too.
Fabbri, who plays for the OHL's Guelph Storm, was named the league's playoff MVP after leading his team with 28 points in 16 games. The Storm won the OHL playoffs and won a spot in the Memorial Cup, where they finished third.
Most draft rankings have Fabbri hovering around the 20th overall range, but even that's a steep climb from where he started his 2014 season, when he was off the first round's radar.
But the small-ish winger has blazing speed and has proven himself at the highest level he's seen, so far, so don't be surprised if he keeps hiking toward the Canucks at No. 6.
(*Canucks.com blogger Tyson Giurato has Fabbri pegged as his 8th-ranked prospect, ahead of Ritchie and Brendan Perlini, who both also play in the OHL.)
"Fabbri has very good speed and uses it to attack well," said TSN analyst Craig Button, quoted in the Canucks.com write-up. "He plays hard and goes into the areas where it may be challenging but rewarding.
"He's a player who takes the initiative to be a factor in winning."
That last line by Button is the most encouraging thing to hear, when it comes to Fabbri.
If last season is any indication – where Vancouver too often looked like the audience to its own show – the Canucks need that initiative and they need it quick.