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Photo Credit: Rick Boots/Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

Aidan McDonough lived a dream this season and is now ready to create his own story

The Canucks have found another diamond in the rough and he is ready to step up after a brilliant freshman season.

I’m talking about the Canucks’ seventh-round pick from the 2019 NHL draft, Aidan McDonough.

Over the past few years, the Canucks have had a great track record when it comes to prospects that play for Northeastern University. If McDonough is able to build off of his freshman success he will be the next Husky to bring excitement to Canucks fans, following in the footsteps of Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Gaudette.

This season was definitely a success for McDonough; his goal was to make an impact as a freshman and he accomplished that. I spoke with McDonough this past week and got his thoughts on his freshman season.

This season, he managed to pot home 11 goals and added 17 assists in 31 games. All five of the players ahead of him in freshman scoring were selected before him in the 2019 draft, including two first-round picks in Cole Caufield and former BCHL stud Alex Newhook. Here’s what McDonough had to say about the elite company he’s in:

“Yeah, I mean, to be in that company with those guys is really cool and I think this year I wanted to prove to myself that I’m just as good if not better than those guys that are really highly touted and highly drafted, I think I’m a pretty good player in my own right.”

The Northeastern Huskies were loaded with freshmen this season, they had 11 on the roster and two other new players who joined the team this season. McDonough was told in the offseason that he was going to be relied upon for leadership and scoring and will be relied upon as one of those leaders with a very young Northeastern team next season as well.

“Yeah, I mean I think there was definitely a lot of trust and responsibility on us as freshmen right from the get go. And I think we did a really good job with that. We had two championships that we were able to win this year and we won them both. And who knows what would have happened at the end of this year but next year is a huge step. We have just as many, if not maybe a little less than the same amount of new freshmen coming in. We still have 11 sophomores so we’re going to be a pretty young team again so I think we have a really big duty to do to carry that job and I’m just trying to take a little bit more responsibility offensively and defensively so that I can become more and more of a dynamic player.”

He mentioned the two championships that Northeastern won this season. One of those being the Beanpot, which is a four-team tournament that has been held annually since the 1956-57 season. The four teams in this tournament are Boston University, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern.

As a kid growing up in Massachusetts, McDonough dreamed of the day where he could not only participate in, but maybe win the Beanpot. Those dreams became reality as Northeastern won the Championship game 5-4 in double overtime. McDonough was a massive contributor in that game, having scored one goal and three assists including setting up the double overtime winning goal.

“That was probably one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in for sure. I’ve been going to the Beanpot my whole life, I’ve said that 5 million times. I’ve dreamed of playing in that game and I’ve seen a lot of crazy games, double overtime games, late games and wild stuff so I wasn’t surprised with that at all in the Beanpot.”

And to win it all, how did that feel?

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“Amazing, we we’re going nuts. That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever skated in my whole life. I was on the ice, in the corner, all the way down at the other end, I think I was sprinting. Yeah, really cool I mean I had so many friends and family that were there, I mean all my best friends growing up and they all came back from school but to see the game and a couple of them got a box so and my parents were there with a lot of my extended family, aunts and uncles and cousins and it was really cool after the game to see them in the stands. We were kind of sharing the Beanpot trophy with them in the corner after the game. Taking pictures and stuff with them, for them to be a part of that, see them after the game and celebrate with everyone was awesome.”

He has been clutch in big games throughout his hockey career. The Beanpot was the biggest stage he’s ever been on and McDonough stepped up when his team needed him. His playmaking ability is at a high level compared to his NCAA competition but perhaps the strongest part of McDonough’s game is his shot and more specifically, his quick release.

He’s a big, strong winger who when given enough space can get off a quick shot that catches goaltenders off-guard. His office was the right side of the powerplay where he would fire off his shot into many open cages, similar to what Northeastern fans saw Adam Gaudette do from the left side just a few years ago.

There were a ton of positives for McDonough this season. He showed that he can be an effective player at the NCAA level. One of the knocks on his game was that he benefited from playing with the talented playmaker and former Canucks’ prospect Tyler Madden.

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McDonough is now ready to become known as a scoring threat due to his own ability and not because of the linemates in which he plays with.

“For next year I’m just really focused on taking a really big step in my all-around game. A lot of time I was touted as Tyler Madden’s sidekick and I think for me I’ve got a goal to prove that I can have success with or without good players. I don’t need a good player along my side to create offense and to have success. So, for me I’m just really looking forward to proving myself again I think. My goals line up really well with the team goals in terms of winning championships, scoring goals and playing good defense.”

Creating offence is hard, and Tyler Madden made it look easy at the NCAA level this past season. The former Canucks’ third round pick recently signed with the LA Kings and won’t be returning to Northeastern next year. McDonough will continue to be relied upon to be a first-line winger whose main goal is to put pucks in the back of the net.

He’s got that quick shot and drove play a lot of the time when he was on the ice. As a freshman he stepped right into a much more difficult level of hockey and was able to dominate at times. His four-point game against Dartmouth is a perfect example of that and McDonough said he felt extra pressure to make that happen that night.

“Yeah, just one of those games I guess. Where everything you shoot seems to be going in. I actually remember that I had two tough plays in the D zone that costs us goals. I wasn’t quite in the doghouse but I definitely felt a little more pressure and determination to make it right on the offensive side of the puck.”

When asked about contact with the Canucks organization, McDonough said that he often speaks with Chris Higgins, whose title with the Canucks is Assistant Director of Player Development. Higgins has been involved in conversations with a few of the other Canucks NCAA prospects that I have spoken to in the past.

The Canucks were on the road trip near the Boston area when the Beanpot was going on and McDonough got to speak with some Canucks staff and media members at that time.

“Obviously the Canucks have a huge following and fanbase. So when Tyler Madden was a part of the organization there was a lot of media people talking to him and then they would sort of see me after sometimes. At the Beanpot, the media really picked up with the Canucks out on the road.”

He is hopeful that there will be some sort of Canucks prospects camp in the future because he wants to get back to British Columbia.

“I hope to be back to Vancouver soon. I’ve only been to British Columbia once and it was beautiful. I’m hoping to get back up there soon. I really hope that (prospects camp) still happens, I don’t really know what’s going on with my season next year but I really enjoyed camp last year and I was really looking forward to it this year.”

The summer months will include McDonough focusing on his studies at Northeastern as he’s opted to get ahead of schooling with his second consecutive year of summer school. He jokes that the online format is a bit challenging for his calculus class but he is liking how online classes seem to have a preponderance of multiple-choice questions.

For a seventh-round pick, Aidan McDonough has definitely punched above his weight class. The biggest on-ice questions for next season is if he can perform without Tyler Madden consistently setting him up.

That, and if there will even be an NCAA hockey season next year.

His quick release will be back next year with even more goals — in fact, he battled a broken finger at the beginning of this season. Throughout the year he played with only four fingers in a special glove but claims it was easy to adjust to the glove. He did say the hardest part was getting up to speed because he did miss out on being healthy through the first few weeks of Huskies training camp.

A confident and healthy start for McDonough has the potential to be a jetpack season that jumps him up the Canucks’ prospects rankings. McDonough has 6’3″ size and a high level shot to go with it. As a seventh-round overage pick he looks to be drawing more attention than others drafted around him.

It’s now time for McDonough to no longer be the sidekick and instead create his own scoring. Tyler Madden is a great NCAA player, but so is Aidan McDonough. Here’s hoping that the NCAA season can return next season and give this kid an opportunity to have a chance to build on his momentum build up from his successful freshman season.