Photo credit:Nick Barden
Blackfish: Arshdeep Bains returns in style, Vilmer Alriksson heats up, and more
By Dave Hall2 months ago
Welcome back to another installment of the Blackfish Prospect Report.
We are officially into December, and many prospects are in the final leg of their first half of action before taking a mini-break for the holidays and the World Junior schedule.
It was a somewhat quiet week, but we did have a few standouts in Abbotsford, an OHL forward who finds himself in a nice hot streak, as well as some devastating but not-so-shocking news about the upcoming World Junior Championships.
As always, here are the updated statistics.
Let’s kick off this report by turning our attention to the Abbotsford Canucks, who hosted a double-header against the Laval Rocket over the weekend.
As anticipated, the Canucks took both games, keeping the North Division basement dwellers (Laval) in check, and extending their losing streak to seven.
The standout performer and number one star was Arshdeep Bains, who returned to action after a brief two-game absence.
He wasted no time making his presence felt, showcasing remarkable speed and creating offensive opportunities right from the opening faceoff.
Over two games, he notched an impressive four assists, forming strong chemistry with a couple of newfound linemates in Vasily Podkolzin and John Stevens. Together, the trio combined for a solid 10 points over the weekend.
Let’s delve into the highlights.
The first assist came from a faceoff where he tracked the circle and sold the shot, fooling everyone before dishing to John Stevens to tie the game.
Here, he’ll take the same angle after chipping past the Laval defender, opening the netminder up, and nearly grabbing the goal himself. Once again, John Stevens cleaned up the scraps, giving Bains his fourth assist of the weekend.
His two additional helpers came off drop plays, one of them allowing Vasily Podkolzin to go to work.
Speaking of Podkolzin, he continues to do his best to navigate his return from injury. He contributed two points over the weekend, which included this tremendous drive.
He continues to fire tons of shots, notching 11 over the weekend and sitting second on the team with 46, despite missing nearly a month of action. Slowly but surely, he is getting his swagger back.
The goal above is a reminiscent display of his pre-injury prowess, showcasing strong determination, putting his head down and aggressively driving to the net to secure his sixth goal of the year and 11th point in 12 games.
The weekend’s standout moment, however, belonged to Tristen Nielsen, who decisively took the game into his own hands on Saturday.
With a little over six minutes remaining, all square at 3-3, Nielsen received an outlet pass from Jack Studnicka and went to work.
He deftly maneuvered past the last defender with a slick toe drag, capping off the move with a clever backhand to secure his fifth goal of the season.
If this doesn’t qualify for Goal of the Week, nothing will.
Jett Woo continues to show intrigue this season, hitting the 10-point plateau in just 19 games. It wasn’t pretty, but he’ll take it.
He sits just 11 points away from his career high with 53 games left on his ledger.
We have said it for weeks now, but if the Vancouver Canucks need a long-term replacement, which doesn’t look to be the case any time soon, Jett Woo is doing all the right things to get his first sniff in the big leagues.
With Linus Karlsson receiving a call-up to the NHL and Max Sasson sidelined due to injury, Aatu Räty returned to his familiar position centring the team’s third line.
Much like when he was in this position in October — before the move to the wing — he focused more on the defensive aspects of the game and did not contribute to the scoresheet.
During his 10-game tenure on the wing, Räty amassed nine points and had blossomed into a confident player in nearly all facets of the game.
Now back in the third-line centre spot, he failed to produce in consecutive games for the first time since the opening weekend.
Points are not the be-all-end-all, but you could tell that he did not carry his typical pizzazz, much like we have grown custom to over the last few weeks.
Danila Klimovich made an appearance in the lineup on Friday but left the game early, lasting only 20 minutes of play.
His injury remains unclear, but he did not return for Saturday’s action.
The 20-year-old simply cannot catch a break and unfortunately, has been plagued by injuries, suiting up in just six games this season and producing two assists.
Speaking of the injury bug, Akito Hirose had a tough weekend in his first couple of games in a few weeks.
First, he made this mistake, fumbling the puck at the netfront before attempting an awkward slide move.
And on Saturday, he left the game with an injury, falling down awkwardly after attempting a cutback to avert a Laval defender.
It’s been a very slow start for the 24-year-old at either stage, to say the least.
In the goaltending department, the tandem of Artūrs Šilovs and Nikita Tolopilo split starts over the weekend, each securing a victory.
Šilovs, facing 32 shots, made 30 saves, grabbing his fifth win in six starts. While not subjected to many high-danger shots, he played a composed game, as expected, and continued his impressive form.
After a challenging start to the season, the Latvian netminder has reestablished himself as one of the league’s premier goalies, currently ranking third in wins (8), while his two shutouts place him second in the league. Additionally, he now boasts a 2.49 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage – all of which sit at the top echelon of the league.
Oh, and thanks to his incredible stretch, he was named AHL goaltender of the month.
Nikita Tolopilo experienced a bounceback of his own, notching his third consecutive win.
Despite a rocky start, allowing three goals in the first 20 minutes off just nine shots, Tolopilo weathered the storm. Colliton’s decision to stick with him proved wise, as Tolopilo stopped the remaining shots, making 28 saves for the win.
This goaltending tandem continues to propel the team toward the top ranks in the league, providing a solid foundation for success.
In our tweener section, we spotlight Ty Glover, who maintains a consistent point production in the ECHL.
In the latest week, he contributed with a goal and an assist.
Despite playing fewer games (11 games) compared to the top scorers on the Kalamazoo Wings (18 games), his impressive tally of 13 points (six goals, seven assists) has him third on the team in points.
Hunter Brzustewicz maintained his usual production in the OHL this week, adding another six assists to his stat line over three games.
The 19-year-old has officially hit the 40-assist milestone, and his 46 points position him as the third-highest scorer in the Canadian Hockey League.
He’s now projected to reach a ridiculous 112 points by the end of the year…
Despite these accomplishments, the big news dropped Monday surrounding his status for the upcoming World Juniors in Sweden.
We touched on this last week, and it appears that our fears have come to fruition.
Despite racking up astronomical point totals, Brzustewicz has officially been left off the Team USA camp invitees list.
There are likely a few reasons for this snub, but in reality, it probably lies in the fact that he took his talents to the OHL, rather than sticking it out in the US Development Program. We saw this with Alex DeBrincat, and although it may sound ridiculous, it’s a reality that most Americans face when making the move.
Of course, with standout defencemen such as Lane Hutson and Seamus Casey, there is an argument that they simply did not have the room to accommodate his skillset.
However, you’d have to imagine that the historic season that he has had up until this point would offer him an invite, at the very least.
You can make your own judgment.
We will leave you with one more Brzustewicz assist.
Vilmer Alriksson is heating up lately and has begun to put everything together in the OHL.
He collected a goal and three assists over the week, amassing six points over his last seven games. All four coming at even strength, I might add.
His goal was tremendous, showcasing nearly every tool he has in his bag.
Breaking out alone, Alriksson showed off his wheels before opening up the netminder with a fake and placing it top corner in tight to seal the game in overtime.
It’s not every day that we see a 6-foot-6 frame be able to pull off a move with speed such as this.
While his efforts aren’t likely to see him at this year’s World Juniors, it’s encouraging to see his game develop at the OHL level, and with 18 points in 26 games, he’s doing just that.
After a few quiet weeks, we have a couple of Jonathan Lekkerimäki clips – both at even strength, nonetheless.
First came his goal, where he does a nice job walking the line, tucking the puck inside before unleashing a sneaky snapshot aimed for the top corner.
Does the netminder want this one back? Probably.
Yet, you have to give Lekkerimäki credit for doing a good job of keeping his plans elusive. It’s not often you see players deliver shots off their stride, on their off-foot, no less, and for him to generate that sort of torque he does in this sequence.
That’s his first goal in six SHL games.
His assist came in the opening minutes of his next game, where he stripped the puck at his own blue line before rushing down and grabbing an easy assist.
He’s up to 14 points on the year, sitting 10th in goals while leading the entire U24 circuit in points.
Unlike Brzustewicz, Lekkerimäki is a near lock to not only compete at the World Juniors but also contribute as one of their go-to offensive drivers.
Elias Pettersson notched an assist this week, snapping a five-game pointless skid. It came as a typical outlet pass, as he has done so many times this season already.
EP26 is another name that could be added to Team Sweden’s World Junior roster, as a returnee from last year’s tournament.
After a couple of months of adjusting to the NCAA circuit and working his way up the lineup, Tom Willander was handed the keys to play alongside Lane Hutson on Boston University’s top pairing over the weekend.
If you aren’t aware by now, Hutson is considered one of the top collegiate offensive defenders and a high-profile prospect in the Montreal Canadiens prospect pool. Sticking with him should bring its fair share of points over the next few months.
He only managed one point over the two games, but it was a nice goal that began behind his net.
Gingerly skating up the ice, Willander somehow snuck in to find himself all alone in front of the net before banging home his third goal of the year.
On top of his goal, he was a plus-four on the weekend, adding to his impressive plus-minus rating. He not only leads BU with a plus-13 but sits eighth among all NCAA defenders.
He’s up to three goals and eight points in 15 games.
We should have an announcement in our next installment, but Willander is expected to patrol Team Sweden’s blue line at the end of the month.
As expected, Aku Koskenvuo split Havard’s weekend slate.
Of course, he allows just two goals, making 27 saves and his Crimson skaters cannot muster up a single goal.
The Finn continues to play sound hockey, sporting a .908 save percentage. However, he just can’t catch any breaks and shows a measly 0-2-2 record.
For the second straight week, Jackson Dorrington secured first-pairing minutes with Northeastern, following his recognition as Defender of the Week and a three-point performance in the previous week.
He continued his strong play with another assist, bringing his season total to five points and leading the team with a plus-seven rating.
Daimon Gardner hit the scoresheet over the weekend, registering his third assist of his freshman year. This marked his first point since October 14th, as the 19-year-old has shifted down to Clarkson’s third line and has been playing on the wing in recent weeks.
Ty Mueller contributed to the scoresheet by securing an assist directly off a face-off, bringing his season total to 11 points across 14 games.
Jacob Truscott picked up another assist over the weekend and has hit the 10-point plateau with two goals and eight assists.
We finish this report with a quick update on Ty Young, who went 1-1-0 on the week.
He began the week getting pulled, allowing three goals on just 14 shots. He backed that up with a solid 28-save performance in a 6-3 victory, bringing his overall record to 11-5-0.
Young is in a tough spot right now.
Despite grabbing victories, primarily thanks to a heavy-hitting offensive team, he is struggling to string together consistent performances consecutively.
While his 11 wins sit fourth league-wide, his 3.29 goals-against average and .880 save percentage are nowhere near the top of the page.
Meanwhile, his rookie counterpart, Joshua Ravensbergen, finds himself on an incredible run, leading the league in both save percentage (.944) and goals-against (1.63) and shutouts (5) with a 10-2-0 record.
Prince George continues to hand Young starts, but if he cannot bring it all together soon, he’s likely to start seeing fewer starts as the year progresses.
Thanks for checking in for another week of the Blackfish report.
We hope to bring you much more positive news on the World Junior front next week and announce three Swedish prospects to follow come the holiday season.
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