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Photo Credit: Northeastern University

“I’ve definitely gained a step or two”: A conversation with Canucks prospect Aidan McDonough

After a strong freshman season, Aidan McDonough is ready to be more of a leader as a sophomore.

The Canucks drafted Aidan McDonough in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, he went on to be one of the best scoring wingers in the NCAA last year.

McDonough has been back skating with his Northeastern Huskies this fall and is ready go get the season going. I spoke with McDonough last weekend and asked how the return to hockey has been so far.

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“Yeah, I mean, it’s been really good to to go on the ice and be able to be together with the guys. In the first two weeks we couldn’t do anything really so we we’re stuck in our dorms pretty much for a week and weren’t allowed to leave. We still couldn’t even have practice or workout or anything like that so you know, work hard all summer and spring, and you get to school and not be able to show what you’ve done. (Now) it’s been really good, we’ve been practicing for probably a little over a month, we started off in small groups without the coaches, without doing any battle drills just having to stay six feet apart and doing a lot of skating and flow drills and then we’ve kind of gradually worked their way up to a full team and we’re allowed to do battle drills, but we still can wear masks on the ice. But honestly no complaints, it’s really good just to get back and get things going.”

He was an older freshman last year but with another big crop of freshman joining Northeastern, McDonough finds himself in more of a leadership role this year.

“By age, I’m a bit older, because we are a young team. I think we have 10 freshmen and we had 11 freshmen last year. More than half of our team are freshmen and sophomores. I think that I’m taking a bit more of a leadership role, we don’t have a ton of upper classmen. That’s something that I’ve always tried to do.”

Even with all the young players coming in and older players like Tyler Madden moving on, McDonough feels like the team has not taken any steps back.

“I don’t think it’s a rebuild year at all. I think we’re still going to be very competitive. We only lost one defenceman, our d-core is just one year older. Our goals are still the same; to win the Beanpot and the National Championship. I think those are very attainable goals. I think this is a very different team from last year. We’re faster, more skilled and a bit more deep up front.”

McDonough’s best skill is his shot and I asked him about how he works on that shot in the offseason.

“I work on my shot almost everyday. I have a spot in my backyard with a net and some turf where I am able to work on (my shot). It’s something that I take pride in and I really don’t see it as work. I kind of see that as fun.”

He mentioned that his neighbour plays professional hockey so they are always working together and that he is spending a ton of time before and after practice. He’s trying to perfect his one-timer shot from the right side.

It’s not all shooting for McDonough who has said that he is ready to come out of Tyler Madden’s shadow and be “the guy” this year with Northeastern. That requires him to score more at 5-on-5 and he has dedicated the summer to getting stronger for this season of hockey.

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“This summer I worked a lot on getting stronger. Being heavier below the dots and quicker and faster overall. I think I’ve done that, I feel really good so far and I’ve definitely gained a step or two while feeling much stronger with the puck and being more elusive.”

After the success in his freshman season I wondered if there was more confidence as he heads into this season.

“Yeah, college hockey is really tough so I want to increase the chances and opportunities to score. I think being quicker and faster is going to do that. Last year I had a good shot but you have to put yourself in positions to use it. After playing college hockey for a year and now being back stronger and faster I’m going to get to those spots and hopefully that leads to more goals.”

As for the season, Northeastern players are currently unaware of when that will begin. McDonough said that it’s a day-to-day waiting game right now but that every player is itching to get into action.

The team has held a few 4-on-4 and full game scrimmages over the past week and a half and the players all ready for some game action. McDonough had a an excellent first year of NCAA hockey and if he is able to build on his rookie success then he will be climbing up the charts for Canucks prospects.

McDonough was ninth in the NCAA for powerplay goals last season and thrives with his shot on the right side.

McDonough says that he hasn’t really thought much about playing in Vancouver as it’s still a few years away but he loves the city and the fan base has blown him away with how engaged they are, even for a seventh-round pick like himself. He later said that the city is beautiful and that playing in Vancouver would be a “dream come true” for him.

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We will follow along with McDonough as the season goes on and to hear the full interview, check out the Canucks Conversation podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify or any other podcast app.