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Blackfish: Aidan McDonough gains momentum, Aatu Räty and Max Sasson set franchise records, Jonathan Lekkerimaki’s season is over and more

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
30 days ago
Welcome back to Blackfish, CanucksArmy’s Vancouver Cancuks prospect report.
The statistics:

Abbotsford  Canucks

This week’s standout performer is undoubtedly Aidan McDonough. The 24-year-old has seamlessly adapted to his new line alongside John Stevens and Arshdeep Bains and has been making a major impact over the last several weeks.
McDonough continued his hot streak with two goals and two assists, maintaining a point-per-game pace over his last seven games. He has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable contributors since finding his new home in the top six.
Heck, he even recorded his first multi-goal game as a professional skater.
Whether this impressive run is merely a hot streak or a sign of sustained success, McDonough’s performance is certainly a welcome development for the team. What we’ve liked is the fashion in which he is scoring, utilizing that release that we’d been anticipating since his transition.
Oh, and even though it was a secondary assist, how about this move to make the defender look foolish?
On that line, Bains contributed a goal and two assists in the week, bringing him to 48 points in 51 games.
Aatu Räty made headlines by setting a new club record for most points in a single period during a dominant 8-3 victory on Saturday. In an explosive opening frame, Räty notched two goals and two assists, scoring not one, but two goals off the strength of his wicked release.
Goal one.
Goal two.
When given the space, this kid can sure snap the puck.
These goals were a long time coming, as Räty was coming off a seven-game pointless skid where he looked quite flat and, in some cases, was a non-factor. His four-point outburst catapulted him to seventh among U22 skaters with 41 points on the season.
We’d be remiss not to show you one of his two assists, as he contributed to this beautiful tic-tac-toe to set up Tristen Nielsen, who collected a goal and two assists of his own during the week.
Don’t get it twisted, four points in a period aside, there are still lingering questions about Räty’s readiness for the NHL. While the outburst may warrant a few eager beavers to call him up, his game has some growing to do before he’s NHL-worthy, let alone playoff NHL-worthy.
In other news, Max Sasson made a triumphant return to the lineup after missing eight games due to injury. Sasson wasted no time making an impact, tallying two goals and two assists.
Räty wasn’t the only player making records, as Sasson tied a franchise record with his sixth game-winning goal (goal above) of the season.
 
On the defensive end, Akito Hirose notched the first AHL points of his career with two assists after playing 22 relatively quiet games. It was a long time coming, as we were genuinely becoming concerned with his game at the pro level. While two points don’t completely alter that narrative, it’s a step in the right direction.
So far, he simply hasn’t made much of an impact, and there have been instances where he seemed out of sync on the ice. Given the limited sample size and his return from injury, we’re continuing with our grace period, but for now, he’s the odd man out in our books.
Odd man out for whom, you ask? Well, Elias Pettersson has arrived in Abbotsford and has officially been added to the roster.
While the exact timing of his debut remains unclear, the team is in the midst of nearly a week off, offering an opportunity for Pettersson to integrate himself into the system and hopefully make his debut in the near future. Perhaps on Saturday?!
Filip Johansson posted four assists over the four games, bringing him up to 16 points in 45 matches.

OHL

Josh Bloom has been on a scoring tear, hitting his stride just in time for the playoffs. With another three goals and five points this week, the 20-year-old forward has officially surpassed the point-per-game mark in his return to the OHL, tallying 31 points across 30 games. Impressively, he’s notched 23 points in his last 17 games alone.
One of Bloom’s goals showcases some soft scoring touch, as he cleverly tossed a change-up toward the netminder, slipping the puck under the goaltender to clinch the game in overtime.
The Saginaw Spirit are set to resume action on Friday, closing out their 2023-24 regular season with three games in as many nights. Currently ranked as the second-best team in the OHL, they appear poised for a deep playoff run, with Bloom playing a pivotal role. As hosts of the Memorial Cup, they’ve already secured an automatic berth into the tournament.
While Vilmer Alriksson may not have set the OHL on fire with his 16 goals and 31 points in his rookie year, when he does perform, he puts on quite the show.
Standing tall at 6’6″, the Swedish forward possesses an impressive array of tools including size, reach, good skating, and hands. When he gets going to combine these traits, it creates a player who is nearly impossible to defend against. At least at the Junior level.
Alriksson has shown glimmers of his potential throughout the season, leaving us eager to see his development in the coming years. Hopefully, with an increased role and potential World Junior invitation, he’ll show us a little more in his sophomore season in Guelph.
With four games remaining in Guelph’s schedule, they have already secured a playoff berth, currently sitting sixth in the Western Conference standings.
Kirill Kudryavtsev contributed a couple of assists to bring his season total to 47 points, just three shy of his total from last year. One of his assists showcased a familiar play we’ve seen throughout the season: a well-executed, heads-up stretch pass that led to a teammate’s (shorthanded) breakaway.
Kudryavtsev currently ranks ninth among all defenders in assists and 12th in plus/minus (plus-26).
Out of his 42 assists this year, 26 have come at 5v5 compared to 16 last year. Additionally, his impressive plus/minus differential (41) shows us a remarkable turnaround in his overall game, going from a minus-15 rating to now boasting a plus-26 in just a single season.
As the Soo wraps up their schedule with three remaining games, they have secured the third spot in the Western Conference standings.

SHL/Allsvenskan

After Örebro’s thrilling shootout victory to secure a playoff berth, Jonathan Lekkerimäki made his debut in the SHL playoffs, and it started promisingly.
In a low-scoring 2-1 game, the 19-year-old contributed a primary assist, helping his team secure a crucial victory in the best-of-three series.
However, in the following two games, Örebro ran into some deep penalty trouble, accumulating 51 penalty minutes over two games to spend more time killing penalties than generating offence. They were outscored 4-0, ultimately leading to their elimination in overtime in game three.
With his season officially over, we wait.
While initial plans may have involved bringing Lekkerimäki over to train and potentially play in Abbotsford, recent reports suggest a shift in focus due to his potential commitments to Sweden and the upcoming World Championships scheduled for May.
As we talked about in detail last week, this news doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as this was always one of the plausible options.
Who knows, circumstances may change, and there’s a possibility that he could still make the transition across the pond, even if it’s just to gain exposure to the new brand of North American hockey. We’ll be closely monitoring any updates over the next month.
Lucas Forsell and his team, who finished the regular season in first place, have received a bye to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. They are set to face Rogle in the quarterfinals with game one happening on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Hugo Gabrielsson is currently participating in a best-of-seven play-in series, with relegation at stake. The series is currently tied 2-2 and Gabrielsson has contributed a goal during the series.

NCAA

The college playoffs are in full swing, and many of the organization’s prospects remain heavily in the picture.
NCHC
Nebraska Omaha participated in a best-of-three series, with Ty Mueller contributing a goal to push his team to a 2-1 series victory.
They will now face off against fellow Canucks prospect Jackson Kunz and the top-ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Kunz also played in a three-game series, tallying a goal and three assists in the round.
Matthew Perkins and his Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs were less fortunate, dropping both games of their best-of-three series and ending Perkins’ freshman year. Perkins showed improvement in the second half of the season, finishing with six goals and 15 points.
Hockey East
Over in the east, Tom Willanders‘ and Aiden Celebrinis’ Boston University Terriers faced off against Jackson Dorrington’s Northeastern team. Willander contributed a secondary assist in the game, pushing BU toward a 4-2 victory and advancing to the quarterfinals.
BU will now face Maine University in a single-game elimination match on Friday at 4:30 pm Pacific time.
Willander was also named to Hockey East’s All-Star!
As for Dorrington, his season has come to an end. He enjoyed a progressive sophomore campaign, showing improvements both offensively and defensively. In his freshman year, he recorded six assists and 31 blocked shots. This season, he doubled his goal production, scoring six goals, including his first NCAA goal, and tallied a total of 12 points. Additionally, he contributed significantly on the defensive end with 49 blocked shots, ranking third on the Northeastern team in this category.
We fully expect him to return as a Junior, likely taking on a first pair role with the rebuilding Huskies.
The standout NCAA performer of the week was Jack Malone of Boston College, who contributed two goals and an assist in a 5-4 victory over Connecticut. BC will face the University of Massachusetts in their upcoming match.
Let’s hope they can secure the win and we see a BU/BC Hockey East Championship Game, which will be hosted on Saturday. Stay tuned next week.
Big10
Jacob Truscott and his Michigan Wolverines also secured a victory in their single-game elimination match, setting up a Big Ten Championship game against the Michigan State Trojans next Saturday at 5 pm Pacific time.
ECAC
Unfortunately, Aku Koskenvuo chose the most important game of the season to finally have a stinker, allowing four goals on just 23 shots in the opening period of game one for Harvard. Unfortunately, Harvard dropped both games in the series, ending their season.

WHL

Sawyer Mynio continued his strong performance, tallying a goal and two assists in his lone game of the week. With this contribution, he has now reached 15 goals and 52 points for the season, with only four games remaining in the regular season schedule.
Unfortunately for Mynio and the Seattle team, they are well outside of the playoff race. Consequently, their season will come to an end after the next installment.
Thanks for checking in for another week, folks.

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