Photo credit:Nick Barden
Blackfish: Abbotsford Canucks welcome back a few key bodies, Tom Willander extends his point streak, and more
By Dave Hall3 months ago
Welcome back to another instalment of the Blackfish Prospect report.
Following a relatively quiet week, the Vancouver Canucks’ prospects picked things up and gave us some things to talk about.
The two OHL defenders were up to their usual tricks; Tom Willander extended his point streak; and the Abbotsford Canucks welcomed back a few key bodies to their lineup over the weekend.
Before we dive in, let’s check in on our updated statistics.
After nearly a week off, the Abbotsford Canucks grabbed back-to-back wins over the weekend, extending their winning streak to five games.
Getting the nod in Friday’s matchup, Artūrs Šilovs made 29 saves and was lights out, once again, in a 3-2 overtime victory.
The win extends his personal streak to four games. He’s allowed just three goals in that span, stopping 91 of 94 shots.
After a miserable start, the Latvian has jumped back on the wagon and is playing nearly perfect hockey, while sharing the lead in league wins with seven.
His counterpart, Nikita Tolopilo, also had a strong showing over the weekend, grabbing himself a much-needed bounce-back victory following a subpar stretch.
Following a strong start to the year, and torching expectations, his play had dropped back down to earth over his last few starts, allowing four (or more) goals in each of his last three.
In this game, he stopped 31 shots and made several key point-blank saves to keep the game in check.
None larger than this glove save against the red-hot Brendan Brisson, leading to an eventual 3-2 shootout decision.
Life is good when your goaltenders are performing up to their ability.
Aside from sweeping the weekend series against a Divisional rival, the big news of the week was on the injury front, as the team welcomed back several key prospects.
Vasily Podkolzin highlighted this list, as he skated in his first set of games since suffering a frightening head injury back on Oct. 25th.
He slotted right back in on the team’s top line but did not contribute any points.
Of course, that’s not from a lack of effort.
He fired seven shots on net throughout the weekend and was going wild with the half-wall one-timers on the man advantage. Had some of them not been blocked, he would have easily tracked into the teens in shots on goal.
Tristen Nielsen was the other big name who returned from injury, playing in one game after missing nearly a month with a concussion.
Honestly, it was hard to tell he had missed a beat.
Right from the opening whistle, he was up to his usual antics, hounding pucks and setting the tone.
Here is a clip of him hustling back to deliver a timely stick lift on the back check to break up a scoring chance.
While he did not contribute any points in his return, he did happen to call the game with this slick shootout goal to give his team the series sweep.
Nielsen is carving out quite the name for himself down in Abbotsford and has quickly become a fan favourite and potential bottom-six pest hopeful.
Even with the returns of several other players, Jeremy Colliton refused to mess with the newly found chemistry between what we are referring to as “the trio.”
That being, Aatu Räty, Max Sasson, and Linus Karlsson, who have easily been the club’s most consistent line over the last three weeks.
Despite going pointless on Friday, the three combined for another five points on Saturday and have now contributed 15 points over five games.
They have even been handed primary power play time as a result. That’s right, the club was given eight power plays over the weekend, and this trio was part of the unit that began most of them.
We have had a ton of questions surrounding Aatu Räty and his lack of deployment up the middle these days, and the answer is probably far less complicated than you think.
The proof is in the pudding, folks.
What originally began as a line blender experiment has now blossomed into a powerful formula that you just can’t stray away from if it’s providing your team with wins.
It’s really as simple as “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and things are clicking right now. Until they show signs of cooling off, it’s likely that they just continue to roll together.
Here are the two goals that they combined for.
On both goals, we love the effort on the board battles from Max Sasson. He has quietly been a huge asset for this club and is now showing off his offensive upside. Chalk him down as another strong NCAA free-agent signing from this management regime.
Karlsson, although we do not typically cover him in this report, had a big week on a personal level.
In case you missed it, he was awarded his first taste of NHL action. On his 24th birthday, nonetheless.
He skated just 11:54 in the match (against the Calgary Flames), but did not look out of place. There have been lingering questions surrounding his skating ability and whether it could stand the test of NHL competition, and you know what, it looked just fine.
He grabbed three shots, a hit, a blocked shot, and a plus-one rating in the match.
As you saw from Aatu Räty’s goal (clip one above), Cole McWard picked up the secondary assist. This was his first point in eight games and his fourth of the season.
Filip Johansson picked up another assist, supplying Jack Studnicka with a simple outlet pass before he went for an impressive skate to call the game into overtime. They don’t come much easier than that.
Danila Klimovich played in only one of the club’s two matches, skating on a line with Nils Åman and Tristen Nielsen.
He managed to pick up an assist, using his stick to disrupt the play and create a turnover. This marked his second assist in three matches since returning from injury last week.
While he may have been the healthy scratch for game two, it’s worth noting that he took a puck to the face on Friday evening and left for some time. He did return for the third, however.
Arshdeep Bains, who has just one point over his last five games, left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury.
Luckily, the team has a full week off, giving him ample time to recover if that is the case.
Much like Podkolzin, his lack of production was not exactly indicative of his play. He was given several opportunities to collect assists, including numerous bumper plays on the man advantage that the team just could not put past the Silver Knights’ netminders.
Here are a few examples of some opportunities (Bains is #9).
Because he delivers so much more than points, we aren’t concerned with his recent cold streak in the slightest.
With multiple bodies returning in Abbotsford, Ty Glover found himself back in the ECHL after a five-game stint among the Canucks’ bottom six.
He slid right in and continued rolling, grabbing another two goals and two assists over the weekend.
He’s now got seven points in a mere four ECHL games.
If he can translate this offensive prowess to the AHL level, there’s a promising potential for solid AHL depth, complementing his already well-established physical style of play.
This week saw the organization’s two OHL stalwarts rack ’em up this week, with both Hunter Brzustewicz and Kirill Kudryavtsev notching four points in two games this week.
Bruztewicz picked up his first goal in 10 games with an incredible snapshot to the top corner.
This is a goal that the goalie, who is caught overcommitting to one side, likely wants back, but you can’t argue the shot.
He also collected three assists, which includes this terrific keep-in for the primary helper.
He’s up to 36 points on the year, sits second in OHL scoring, and became the first player among the entire CHL to hit the 30-assist plateau this season.
We ran our Prospect Film Room (here) on him this week, so make sure to check that out if you have the time.
As for Kudryavtsev, he picked a primary and three secondary helpers this week, which included this ring-around the boards off the face-off.
We were originally going to provide some additional clips this week showcasing some of his game but decided to keep them for a future Prospect Film Room piece…stay tuned.
Vilmer Alriksson did not grab any points over the week but fired a whopping nine shots over three games.
His game continues to revolve around being productive on the man-advantage, having grabbed seven of 11 points in that department.
He’s been tossed around the lineup and even saw some first-line minutes this week.
This week saw both SHL prospects face off against each other.
As expected, Jonathan Lekkerimäki assumed his role on the top line for Örebro, while Lucas Forsell continued his deployment on the fourth line, skating just 10:48 in the match.
With the clipboard in hand, we had plans to focus some attention on this game — for obvious reasons.
Of course, the game ended up being somewhat uneventful, especially for the two prospects, and finished with a 3-0 decision in favour of Färjestad.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki had the best chance between the two, with this point-blank attempt from the slot, but that was the extent of noteworthy events.
It was a slow week for Lekkerimaki, who went minus-two with five shots across two games.
Lucas Forsell, on the other hand, contributed yet another Champions League point. Here is his assist from the game, as he turns around and begins the breakout.
The 20-year-old has found success in this tournament so far, especially when compared to his league play.
Throughout 18 sparingly used SHL league matches, he has contributed just two points (one goal and one assist) and a minus-five rating, while averaging just 10 minutes of ice time. However, in Champions League play, he’s accumulated two goals, two assists, and a plus-five rating in just seven games, with an average ice time of 12:42.
Low usage or not, we continue to like this kid’s game. His motor runs high shift after shift, and he works for every puck.
While he won’t get any credit on the scoresheet, here is a goal that has Forsell’s footprint all over it and exemplifies the type of game he plays.
He grabs the interception, turns on the jets, battles to win possession, and deftly sets up his teammate, ultimately contributing to the goal.
Say it with me, folks: “We. Love. To. See. It”.
Hugo Gabrielson picked up a secondary assist off of a spinning play at center ice this week.
This was the 21-year-old’s finest clip from the season, thus far, as it has been a very slow year for not only him but his entire Västerviks team.
Production-wise, his three points sit just three shy of his total from last season, and tie his Allsvenskan rookie totals from 2021-22. While that is a slight progression, we just haven’t seen enough both offensively or defensively to warrant any excitement.
Elias Pettersson continues to sit out with an injury that he sustained over the U20 Five-Nations tournament, but the extent of the injury remains unclear. We hope that this does not interfere with his ability to play at this year’s World Junior Championships in just a few weeks.
For weeks, there have been a few naysayers criticizing Tom Willander’s lack of NCAA production, despite him doing all the right things in nearly every other category.
Well, don’t look now, but the kid finds himself on a three-game point streak, contributing another two points over the weekend. This included his second goal of the season, which happened to be a seeing-eye wrist shot from the point.
His assist looked very similar to the two we saw last week– head up, quick instincts, and a strong pass to kick-start the play.
He currently leads his Boston University Terriers in plus/minus, with a plus-10 rating, and has jumped to the second pairing over his last four matches. Things are progressing just fine for the Canucks’ most recent first-round investment.
Ty Mueller continues to pile on the goals.
After a somewhat slow start, with three assists over his first five games, Mueller has turned up the heat, and now has goals in five straight matches and seven points in that time.
Not only is he scoring goals, but doing so in highlight-reel fashion. After we saw an absolute rocket from the top of the circle last week, he backs it up with this tremendous in-and-out move to go far-side top corner.
Okay, Ty, we see you.
Here is goal two.
Some questioned this pick in the fourth round, as he had already been passed on at the draft podium in consecutive years, and was already in the midst of his NCAA career.
However, his high motor and offensive creativity have certainly piqued our interest as of late, and as a Junior with Nebraska-Omaha, we wonder if there could be some immediate professional interest, should he keep this up.
Jacob Truscott collected his first goal of the 2023-24 season off the power play.
He’s slid down to Michigan’s second pairing recently, which means that he has been missing out on sloppy Seamus Casey secondary points (leads the team with 20 points). However, he continues to patrol the club’s secondary power play and top penalty-killing units.
His point totals are certainly trending downward from last season, but that’s not the be-all, end-all with him. Truscott is known as a strong defensive defender, and as long as he continues to provide substance in his own zone, he is still primed to become a noteworthy prospect within the system by season end – if he signs, that is.
After 10 games slotting on the wing next to Cutter Gauthier, Jack Malone was handed his own line, to centre Boston College’s third line. The top-six honeymoon appears to have run its course, for now, but he continued to slot in on the club’s lethal power play unit, where he picked up another assist this week.
He’s up to seven points (four goals and three assists) in 12 games.
Matthew Perkins jumped back up to Minnesota Duluth’s second line this weekend and collected his first goal (and point) in eight games.
Despite slotting in as the extra forward for the majority of the early season, Jackson Kunz grabbed a spot on North Dakota’s fourth-line wing for the weekend. He picked up a secondary assist on the breakout.
While there are no statistical updates for these two, here are some quick updates on a couple of NCAA prospects who haven’t been active in our Blackfish reports.
Jackson Dorrington has been skating on Northeastern’s second pairing for most of his Sophomore season, although he missed two games with injury. However, the team is in hot water right now, sporting a seven-game losing streak, scoring just eight goals in the process.
He scored a goal in his season debut, but it’s been crickets ever since. He currently sports a minus-three rating on the year, but that’s not surprising, seeing as the team has just three skaters sitting above even right now.
Despite starting the year on Clarkson’s top line, Daimon Gardner has found himself patrolling the team’s third line. He’s got two assists over 11 games and a minus-three rating. Let’s hope we can give him a Blackfish bump, much like we did to Tyler Mueller a few weeks back, and get his Freshman year going.
Sawyer Mynio collected another three points this week, giving him four points in as many games.
The two-way defender continues to play heavy minutes on the Seattle Thunderbirds’ blue line, getting top power play time — they have been running the two-defender system — and is one of their go-to skaters on the penalty kill.
We will close things out with Ty Young, our goaltending prospect for the high-flying Prince George Cougars.
Having grabbed his best and worst starts of the season, we will label his week: the tale of the two-headed week.
On Tuesday, Young stopped all 32 Vancouver Giants shots, en route to his first shutout of the year, and second of his WHL career. The next night, against that very same Giants’ team, he surrendered a season-high six goals on 30 shots.
This has been the case for much of the year, as he has struggled to string together two strong games consecutively.
As a result, his tandem partner, Joshua Ravensbergen, has played in six of the team’s previous nine games and has two shutouts in that time. As a rookie, he (Ravensbergen) is sporting a 2.08 GAA and .927 over 10 games, in comparison to Young’s 3.13 and .885 across 14. If Young continues to provide inconsistent starts, he may find himself on the back of the team’s rotation sooner, rather than later.
That wraps up another week. Thank you for reading and to all of our American readers, Happy Thanksgiving.
See you next week!
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