We’re deep into the 2021-22 hockey season and a lot has happened in the Canucks’ prospect pool.
Some prospects are gaining hype while others are falling out of favour. A few prospects are looking like they are ready for the AHL next season and others are showing legitimate potential to get to the NHL.
In no particular order, here are a few prospects who you should really care about over the next few months or years.
Aidan McDonough, 22, LW, 6’2”, 200 lbs
The big winger has been scoring at a tremendous rate this season in his junior year with Northeastern University.
No drafted NCAA player has more goals than Aidan McDonough. Through 30 games, McDonough has 18 goals for the defensive-minded Huskies team. McDonough shed weight this offseason to become quicker and it has paid off as he looks like a better skater.
He may be the Canucks’ top prospect if he is able to improve his skating to be at an NHL level. The AHL team has Mackenzie Braid as their skating coach and he has done great work with other Canucks prospects this season.
Getting McDonough signed this spring needs to be a top priority for this management team. We want to see if McDonough is able to show well in pro hockey and that could begin in just over a month. The NCAA men’s hockey playoff schedule could have McDonough in a Canucks jersey by late March or mid-April at the latest if his Northeastern Huskies go on a Cinderella run to an NCAA championship.
The signing process can be a tough one and McDonough has been on the record saying that he is still not sure if he will leave school to go pro or return for his senior season.
Abbotsford is a nice spot for him to land in the spring but it could depend on how his junior NCAA season concludes as well.
Danila Klimovich, 19, RW, 6’2”, 205 lbs
He may have been a point producing machine if he went to the QMJHL but as a teenager, Danila Klimovich is learning what pro hockey is all about.
He also happens to look pretty decent at times. Klimovich has shown some impressive hands in his rookie season and though his shot is pretty inconsistent, when he gets good wood on a shot, it explodes off his blade.
Through nearly 40 AHL games, Klimovich has taken steps defensively while still maintaining his confidence to attempt advanced dekes. Klimovich does a good job gaining the offensive zone with his fancy hands through the neutral zone and seems to attempt to walk a defenceman every game.
Most of his dekes don’t work but at least he is trying them. It seems that Abbotsford Canucks head coach Trent Cull wants to see Klimovich be creative with the puck. Cull wanted to be more of a “father figure” to Klimovich in the early parts of the season but you can now see the coaching come through as Klimovich is looking improved defensively from day one to now.
There’s still a long path for Klimovich before he becomes an NHL regular but if he has a big offseason, there’s a slim chance we may see Klimovich debut in the NHL during the 2022-23 season.
Linus Karlsson, 22, RW, 6’1”, 180 lbs
Linus Karlsson is the Canucks prospect who has shocked me the most this season. He is showing a shot that features a release that looks like it belongs in the NHL. He gets his shot off very quickly and is able to consistently beat SHL goaltenders.
Skating isn’t necessarily a weak part of his game but we will need to see how he fits in with the AHL pace before beginning to believe there is an NHL future for Karlsson. He is already 22-years-old and signed a two-year extension in the 2021 offseason. He will return to the SHL next year and there may be an NHL future if he continues to produce at a high rate.
Karlsson has had to prove himself at every level and he’s been up to the task over the past couple of years. If he grows his all-around game next season, we will see him in North America, where he will need to prove himself all over again.
Lucas Forsell, 18, RW, 6’0″, 165 lbs
The last week and a half has been the best week and a half for the youthful Lucas Forsell. He had seven points in two J20 games and has now scored in each of his last three SHL games.
Forsell signed a two-year extension in the SHL and is already being given a much bigger role with the team. He is currently playing third line minutes while getting time on the second power play unit. It was a different team but even Nils Höglander wasn’t getting this type of deployment during his draft plus one season.
The most intriguing part of Forsell’s game is his offensive IQ and his motor. There are so many things that he does well in the offensive zone and with some work in the defensive zone to hone in his aggressiveness, he could turn into the great steal of the 2021 seventh round.
Honourable mentions: Arturs Silovs, Jonathan Myrenberg, and Connor Lockhart
Arturs Silovs has had some excellent games in the AHL this season. He will look for more action next season as the AHL backup but for now, the 20-year-old is just happy to be in the AHL.
Jonathan Myrenberg is a right-shot defenceman who is getting some time in the SHL of late after being a fifth-round pick in this most recent NHL draft. He looks like he may play his way onto next year’s world junior team.
Connor Lockhart has a shot that catches your eye and is putting up solid numbers in the OHL this season. He will likely be back with the Otters in the OHL next year but is always fun to watch.
There are a lot of prospects that I left off the list but through the halfway point of the season, these are the names who fans should be getting the most excited about due to their play.