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Photo Credit: Northeastern/Jim Pierce

Exclusive: Aidan McDonough says his plan is to sign with the Canucks after he captains Northeastern this season

After Aidan McDonough decided to go back to school for his fourth season with Northeastern, worry was beginning to seep into the minds of Vancouver Canucks fans that the talented NCAA forward prospect was going to bolt for another organization as he becomes a free agent on August 16th, 2022.

McDonough shut down those worries in an interview with CanucksArmy as he praised how the organization worked with him through the tough decision.

“It was huge, to be honest, they were great with me throughout the whole year,” said McDonough when asked about how the Canucks helped him with his decision to go back to Northeastern for his fourth year. “I told them that I wanted to wait until the end of the season and just focus on my game and what was going on at Northeastern. The Canucks respected that and they still helped me develop throughout the year. Then, when the season ended, they were there to walk me through it and talk through what they thought and that the decision was ultimately up to me and told me that they were going to support me no matter what.”

That support began with the Canucks’ director of player development, Ryan Johnson. McDonough said that Johnson is one of the best guys he’s ever met in the game of hockey. The Canucks laid out a plan for McDonough if he were to go pro and always showed him what the situation for the next year would look like if he were to go back to Northeastern for another year. McDonough said that Johnson had earned his trust over the years because everything that Johnson suggests works well for McDonough. Making the decision was tough for McDonough but school ultimately won the battle and he was very happy with how it all played out with the Canucks being very supportive of his decision.

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“Having that support really makes you feel at ease because you know you can make the decision that you feel is best for you and that no matter what you end up choosing — they’re going to be supportive of it. That was so important to me, the feeling of knowing they’re in your corner and they’re on your side and they want what’s best for you and that either way, there’s going to be a lot of development for me on the things I need to work on. I am super grateful for the Canucks to be so supportive of me, that means so much. They have been so supportive and you can trust or lean on them and go to them with anything. I think it’s pretty special and not a lot of draft picks can say that they have that type of relationship, it’s definitely super special for me.”

McDonough has laughed at some of the things he sees on social media and is quickly becoming aware of the Twittersphere around the Canucks. He wanted this quote to be in the story so he doesn’t get “radioed” again because of his comments on his situation with the Canucks.

“My plan is to sign with Vancouver at the end of my NCAA season,” he said.

Before we get to that point, McDonough has a lot to do.

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He will be attending the Canucks’ development camp in mid-July at UBC and is very excited to get back with other Canucks draft picks as he shows his skills and builds relationships with people in the organization as well as fellow Canucks prospects.

“I’m super excited for the summer development camp,” said McDonough. “I’ll be here at Northeastern until the end of June because I’m doing summer classes, then I’ll go home for a week and go right to Canucks development camp. I feel like it’s been so long since I was in Vancouver. It’s been so long since I’ve been there that I wasn’t even a college student yet. It’s pretty wild, I was super excited when they told me that they’re going to be having one this summer, I can’t wait to get back over there.”

McDonough established himself as one of the Canucks’ top prospects after scoring 10 goals in 21 games during the 2020-21 NCAA season and followed that up by raising his stock with a 25 goals season this past year.

Scoring goals has been McDonough’s strength since the Canucks signed him but he wants to continue to develop his all-around game by being trusted on the penalty, being even stronger in the corners and taking his skating to another level. McDonough will return to work with his skating coach very soon and is excited to break down his skating stride and continue to improve on being lighter on his feet.

When it comes to offseason workouts, McDonough has that covered. He is in the gym every day at 7 AM with a handful of his Northeastern teammates who have also stuck around for summer classes. The goal behind the summer classes is to have a lighter course load during the hockey season. McDonough is only a handful of classes away from graduating and is excited for himself and his family that he can be a Northeastern graduate next summer.

Northeastern has high hopes for their 2022-23 season. They are returning some very important pieces to a team that has their eyes on being the best team in the Hockey East. The best goalie in college hockey, Devon Levi is returning to the team and McDonough couldn’t be happier about having his unreal goaltender back in the crease for the Huskies. The team was disappointed with how they played in big games last year and with McDonough stepping into the role of captain, he wants to be the leader on and off the ice for his Huskies.

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McDonough said it was a pretty special moment when he found out that he was going to be the captain of the Huskies next season. He found out at the end-of-year banquet and learned that his teammates voted for him to be the next up to have a ‘C’ on his chest.

“It’s amazing, it’s such an honour,” said McDonough, who scored 25 goals for Northeastern this past season. “I’ve had some great captains to look up to and I’ve always wanted to be like them and lead as they did. I’m really looking forward to leading these guys next year. It hasn’t fully hit me just yet but that first game with the ‘C’ on my chest is going to be super special. In 30-40 years, it’ll be something I look back and will probably just say ‘wow’. It’s not just about hockey to me though, it’s about being a leader and having this experience. This inspires me in life and in a lot of ways. I’ve never been a captain, we didn’t have captains in high school, then I only had one year in junior. This is going to be a really good learning experience for me and I am so excited to lead.”

With McDonough being an NCAA player, he won’t be available for the young stars tournament in Penticton. Instead, he will be in classes and gearing up for his final year at Northeastern.

His focus this season is all about the team and he knows that he has to score goals but with the added pressure of being the captain — he plans on being there in every situation, in all the big roles and being the example that leads this team to a great season.

We know that McDonough can score and with this new role as the captain, there is a burning desire to be the best he can be. This will set him up to make the transition to pro hockey an easier one. McDonough plans on going through this entire year with professional hockey in the back of his mind. His focus during offseason training is to prepare himself to be ready for that jump to the NHL. He has found that at 6’4″, he is most effective at around 210 pounds and now plans to just become stronger at the weight that he played at this past season. There’s no need to add or lose weight this offseason as there has been over the past two years. McDonough knows what weight his body works best at on the ice and he now simply wants to make sure that he is more than prepared for the jump to pro hockey.

Though he wouldn’t speak on his expectations for how many goals he will score this season, we here at CanucksArmy believe he has the offensive talent to be one of the top-scoring players in the NCAA. With the ‘C‘ on his chest and a drive to be a leader in the Huskies’ locker room, we are expecting a huge year from the Milton-born sniper.

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It’s been a slow burn for McDonough as a Canucks prospect and he now set his sights on lighting the lamp in the NCAA as he inches closer and closer to signing with the Canucks and making the jump to pro hockey.

Will his pro debut be in Abbotsford or Vancouver?

His 2022-23 season may be the indicator.

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