logo

Blackfish: Aatu Räty and Josh Bloom continue hot streaks, CHL playoff picture unveiled, NCAA Championship recap, and more

alt
Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
3 months ago
Welcome back to the Blackfish Prospect report.
It’s playoff time, folks!
While the NHL and AHL are wrapping up their remaining weeks of regular-season hockey, leagues around the world are either gearing up for the postseason or already deep into the battle.
Let’s take a closer look at where each Vancouver Canucks prospect stands, shall we?
First, the statistics:


Abbotsford Canucks

By now, are you really surprised?
The trend continued for the baby Canucks this week, as they experienced their typical pattern of dropping game one before bouncing back with a strong performance in game two. This time, they managed just 12 shots in their opening game
Aatu Räty once again stole the show with another exceptional Sunday, marking his second four-point performance within a calendar week. His day began with a well-placed shot to the low glove side against former Canucks’ goaltender Colin Delia.
He would follow that up with three assists, two of which were primary, en route to a 5-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose.
As a side note, who misses the old Canucks affiliated Manitoba Moose jerseys? They were one of the best jerseys of all time.
With nine points, Räty has maintained an impressive three-point pace over his last three games and now sits fifth among U22 scorers and third-highest on the Abbotsford Canucks with 46 points.
As Cody Severtson highlighted, it has been a whirlwind year for the Finn, marked by various inconsistent and incredible stretches.
Even before his current three-game stretch, Räty struggled through a seven-game drought without recording a point.
Up. Down. Up. Down.
One player who hasn’t seen up-and-down stretches and has remained consistent all year is rookie centreman Max Sasson. Since November 1st, Sasson has played in 37 games and has experienced just one instance where he went two games without registering a point.
With a goal and an assist this week, Sasson extends his point streak to six games, accumulating seven points during that time. He also led the way with a plus-4 this week and now sits just one shy of Arshdeep Bains for the lead on the team with a plus-14.
Speaking of Bains, he scored a goal this week and is now just one point shy of 50 points. If and when he hits that mark, he’ll be the 15th player in the AHL to reach that plateau this season.
The goal was strong, too — taking on a nice bank pass from Christian Wolanin, who dressed for his first game in 27 games. Bains followed up his own rebound to jam home the goal to chase Delia out of the net.
*Cue the drumroll*
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new addition to our AHL section in our Blackfish report…
Though typically in our Swedish section, we are going to take this opportunity to do some housekeeping and officially move this organization’s top prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, into our Abbotsford Canucks section.
That’s because reports surfaced this week indicating Lekkerimäki is coming to Vancouver for an 8-10 day stint with the Abbotsford Canucks. After that, he will return to Sweden to try out for this year’s Swedish National World Championship team. 
Well, Lekkerimäki has landed in Vancouver and been officially assigned to Abbotsford. There is even a chance he sneaks in a game or two. For now, he’ll use this opportunity to familiarize himself with the team, get a glimpse of his new surroundings, and claim his spot in the locker room for next fall.
It looks like he’ll wear #44, at least for now.
If you are curious what to expect from the club’s two newest additions, Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson, here is all you need to know.

OHL

Josh Bloom finished his season on a high note, riding a remarkable 12-game point streak, with 22 points during that span.
Struggling to find his footing at the professional level, Bloom was reassigned to the Saginaw Spirit in the Junior league for one last chance at a Memorial Cup run. Saginaw earns an automatic entry as this year’s host city and has a solid chance to contend, especially with the team’s prospects.
Tournament hosts or not, the Spirit have been dominating the 2023-24 campaign. Despite a quiet start, Bloom’s recent performance has been outstanding, entering the playoffs with 40 points over 34 games.
Bloom kicks off the postseason journey on March 28th in a best-of-seven series against the Owen Sound Attack.
Vilmer Alriksson wrapped up his inaugural North American regular season on a relatively positive note, scoring two goals this week. Finishing the year with 17 goals and 33 points in 67 games, his imposing size and reach should be key assets for the Guelph Storm as they head into the playoffs.
We have been steadfast in our comparisons to Alexey Toropchenko, who followed a similar path and also played for Guelph in his junior career; let’s delve into their numbers:
  • Vilmer Alriksson’s North American debut season: 67 games, 17 goals, 16 assists, 33 points, 35 penalty minutes, and an even plus/minus rating.
  • Alexei Toropchenko’s North American debut season (at the same age): 66 games, 17 goals, 22 assists, 39 points, 31 penalty minutes, and a minus-11 rating.
Toropchenko spent another year with Guelph before transitioning to the American League at age 20, which aligns with the approximate timeline for Alriksson’s development.
Guelph faces off against Kirill Kudryavtsev and the Soo Greyhounds in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Russian defenceman fell three points short of his impressive 50-point campaign from the previous season. However, he still had a strong showing as a reliable minute-muncher in all situations. One notable improvement this year was in his defensive game, where he made noticeable adjustments.
Yes, the Greyhounds were a strong team, but Kudryavtsev finished the season as a plus-29, marking a significant improvement from his plus-44 differential compared to last season. And let’s not overlook his offensive contributions — his 42 assists ranked him 10th among OHL defencemen, while he finished fourth on his team with 47 points and second with his plus-29 rating.
Get ready Canucks fans. Kudryavtsev vs. Alriksson begins March 28th.

Sweden

Lucas Forsell’s Farjestad entered their quarterfinal best-of-seven series after a week-long bye into the round. Despite being the top-ranked team, they are having one heck of a time getting through the ninth-seeded Roggle, who finished just one point ahead of Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s Örebro and barely made it into the playoffs.
On Monday, Forsell kept his best highlight of the year for the playoffs, as he made a tremendous move to slide past the defender and tuck his first of the playoffs past the netminder.
His team eventually lost the game and now faces elimination, down 3-0 in their series. Forsell has contributed two hits and three shots on goal in the series thus far.
Meanwhile, down in the Allsvenskan, Hugo Gabrielsson’s Vasterviks’ squad suffered defeat in their best-of-seven play-in round, leading to relegation to the HockeyEttan (tier-3 Swedish hockey). He’s on an expiring one-year deal, meaning Gabrielsson may explore other opportunities this summer rather than drop leagues.
Despite the setback, Gabrielsson experienced improvement in nearly every aspect of his game, contributing five goals and 15 points in 47 games and adding another goal and two assists over four relegation matches. He remains a long-term prospect for the organization.

NCAA

Heading into the weekend, the Canucks carried six prospects vying for a conference championship…
Only one emerged victorious.
In the Hockey East conference, both Boston University (Tom Willander/Aiden Celebrini) and Boston College (Jack Malone) advanced to the championship game after winning their respective semifinal matchups. However, it was BC’s top players who dominated the game, leading to a 6-2 victory over BU in the championship clash.
For what it’s worth, Will Smith (San Jose Sharks) took hold of the night, notching four goals and an assist. Smith’s teammate, Cutter Gauthier (Anaheim Ducks), also stood out with a goal and two assists. These two are going to be trouble for the Canucks and the Pacific Division for a long, long time.
In the NCHC conference, Ty Mueller’s Omaha team pulled off an upset by defeating the top-ranked North Dakota squad, which features Jackson Kunz, who did score a goal in the match.
Omaha would go on to lose 4-1 to Denver University in the finals.
In the Big Ten conference, Jacob Truscott and the Michigan Wolverines were defeated in the championship match by their state rivals, Michigan State.
Although each of their regular seasons and playoffs have concluded, all five teams have advanced to the Frozen Four tournament, which follows a single-elimination format.
The big show begins on Thursday.

WHL

Both Sawyer Mynio and Ty Young concluded their respective regular seasons, with one advancing as the WHL’s second-ranked team and the other preparing for the off-season golf trips.
Mynio capped off his season on a high note, tallying his 16th goal and 53rd point of the campaign.
He showcased significant improvement in his draft-plus-one season, increasing his production from five goals and 31 points to 16 goals and 53 points.
He played a vital role in all situations for the Seattle Thunderbirds, thriving despite the team’s rebuilding and lacklustre roster. At just 18 years old, he will return for his third year in junior hockey and should be considered the team’s go-to option on the blueline with the departure of Jeremy Hanzel (turning pro).
Young concluded his season with an impressive six-game winning streak, sending himself off with a strong performance against the Kamloops Blazers. He stopped 34 of 36 shots in a resounding 9-2 victory.
Despite losing the starting job midway through the season, Young had a fine year, finishing with a .903 save percentage, 2.79 goals-against average, and a 23-11-0 record. He entered the postseason hot, boasting a 7-1-0 record from February onwards.
Prince George’s playoff series against the Spokane Chiefs begins on Friday, March 29th.
Thanks for tuning in. As always, please feel free to drop a comment with any questions you may have!

Check out these posts...