Photo Credit: Rick Boots/Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

Aidan McDonough overcame a tough COVID-19 filled offseason and is ready to take on the NCAA with his British Columbia roommates

One of the Vancouver Canucks’ top rising prospects is back in NCAA action and is learning a lot about British Columbia from his three roommates.

Aidan McDonough was selected in the seventh round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and has been able to raise his stock ever since that day. After putting in a strapping freshman season with Northeastern University, McDonough is now ready for an even bigger role with the Huskies.

It was a tough return to play for McDonough as his team was antsy to get back into game action after three months of practicing.

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I almost felt just as nervous for that first game than I did for the Beanpot,” said McDonough. “It’s been so long and we’ve practiced for so long, you kind of forget how things go in games. It helped getting the first couple shifts out of the way and after that it’s like riding a bike, we’ve been doing it our whole lives. It was awesome to get out there with the guys and beat up on someone else for once instead of each other.”

The Huskies were definitely ready to beat up on some other teams as they came out of their first weekend of play with two wins which saw them outscore their opponents 14-5. McDonough had two goals and two assists in those two games.

He talked about gaining a step in the offseason and noticed it immediately in the first weekend of play. “I feel like I’m a bit more powerful in my strides, I don’t have to use as much energy getting around the ice. I think off the blocks I’ve gotten a bit quicker and working on below the dots has helped me.”

McDonough talked about how his ability to read the play quicker at the NCAA level has helped him take a step in his sophomore season, as well. “When you have the puck and can see where the play is going to go, you can take a jump on things instead of reacting and being late on things.”

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With the added step, it gives McDonough more of an offensive arsenal. He is currently playing on a line with two other bigger players as we joked about his coach just strapping together all the big fellas on one line. He said the funny thing is that there is another line that is full of players who are all under 5’10”.

One of McDonough’s linemates (and roommates) is Riley Hughes. Hughes spent the 2018-19 season in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies and told McDonough all about the great province of British Columbia. “Yeah, he talks about BC almost too much,” he said with a chuckle. “Two of my three roommates Riley and Jeremy played together in Victoria so all we hear is Victoria stories and this and that about BC. They talk about Vic all the time. They loved it there and had an unbelievable experience. They were both there for one year and played with a really good team with [Alex] Newhook, Alex Campbell and Carter Berger. They have nothing but good things to say about BC, the BCHL and the whole Vancouver area.”

We spoke about how cool it is to see the attention that Canucks fans give to their prospects and McDonough was blown away with how much attention a seventh-round pick gets on social media. I mentioned that Canucks fans are very engaged with following their prospects as the team hasn’t been great over the past five or so years and that fans are now used to getting excited from great play out of their draft picks.

It was a tough three months of practice before getting into game action as the Huskies were very strict with their COVID-19 protocols. The Huskies had to embrace the quarantine life which included a two-month binge of Game of Thrones for McDonough. “We’ve done all the right things, we thought we were going to get shut down for a lot longer but our team hasn’t had any positive cases, we’ve really done all the right things,” said McDonough.

It was a tough adjustment for McDonough but it was all worth it for the team to get back on the ice. “We’ve sacrificed a lot, we don’t have any gatherings with the team outside of the rink and even in the rink we are separated in different locker rooms and honestly we just want to play so we are doing anything we can. We know we have to be careful, we’ve seen what happened to other schools when they have outbreaks, we’ve been focused on keeping to ourselves. We’ve done all the right things and have been rewarded with being able to play games.”

He went on to talk about how his mental health has been affected throughout this tough time. “The pandemic has affected so many different people in different ways in every walk of life, there’s no denying that. To say that didn’t have an effect on our mental health over these three months would be false because we’ve had so many ups and downs. It’s been tough, but just to be able to play and play in the future has been really really rewarding.”

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The relationship between the Canucks management and McDonough has been exactly what McDonough had hoped for. “They trust my coaches here at Northeastern so they don’t wanna be in my ear too much but it’s nice to hear from them (Ryan Johnson and Chris Higgins) and be checked in on, that’s always great to feel like you’re wanted.”

Almost all of his dealing with the Canucks go through Senior Director of Player Development Ryan Johnson and Skills & Development Coach Chris Higgins. “I heard from both of them in the fall a pretty good amount. They were just checking in to see if I had access to training and skating, which I did. They were just making sure everything was going well and talking about this year. I heard from RJ about a week before we played and heard from Higgins right after my first game. I think they do a really good job of giving me space and allowing me to be coached and developed by my coaches here while also giving me some pointers.”

McDonough now has his focus on his NCAA season at Northeastern but still gets excited thinking about the possibility of returning to Vancouver for prospects camp sometime in 2021. “It’s a while away but whenever we get word that will be something I’ll look forward to for sure. I think when that time comes, I’ll be really excited to hopefully go out there and get out to Vancouver again and compete and kind of judge myself up against those guys once again. I’m really excited for whenever that time is.”

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McDonough has improved his skating and all-around game this year. He was excited to score a 5-on-5 goal so early in the season and said his teammates and coaches gave him a hard time about it as it took more than half the season for him to score his first even-strength goal last season.

The offseason improvements in his game are showing on the ice this season and with that, he potentially could rise even higher in our rankings as we move into 2021.

We will continue to follow McDonough’s sophomore season and guarantee to keep you updated on all the latest news on the big Northeastern winger.