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Blackfish: Beanpot recap, the greatest goalie victory, and a longtime Canucks prospect gets a well-deserved promotion

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
2 months ago
Welcome back to another edition of the Blackfish Prospect report.
This week saw a handful of prospects face off in the always-trilling Beanpot Championship, while we had a goaltender post one of the most epic wins you’ll see in hockey, and a longtime Canuck prospect finally get his spot in the limelight.
We’ll take this time to let you know that we will be running our mid-season top-10 prospect list this week, so make sure to check in to CanucksArmy for that.
Let’s dive into the good stuff, but first, we begin the week with our updated statistics.
AHL
It was a disappointing weekend for the Abbotsford Canucks, who not only lost their opening game of the weekend — the seventh consecutive week they had dropped a series-opening game — but also suffered defeat in the second leg of the weekend.
To add insult to injury, they scored only three goals across both games, which continues to be a lingering soft spot since the calendar turned to 2024.
They have now lost 11 of their past 17 games and have dropped to fifth spot in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference. With 28 games remaining in the season, there is still ample time to turn this ship around, but to say it’s been a challenging stretch would be an understatement.
Of course, it’s important to factor in injuries. Abbotsford has been plagued with fallen bodies all year, especially on the backend, resulting in younger, less experienced players shouldering the bulk of the team’s responsibility.
Speaking of which, we turn our attention to Jett Woo, who recorded his fourth multipoint game on Saturday, grabbing two primary assists. In true Jett Woo form, he also engaged in some fisticuffs as well.
The assists bring his season point total to 16, just five shy of his career highs set last season (21).
Beyond his offensive output, Woo has emerged as a commendable leader on a depleted, and younger defensive corps this season. He continues to provide sound two-way play, along with his trademark physicality.
With Christian Wolanin sidelined long-term due to injury, Woo has shouldered an increased workload, including a more prominent role on the power play and penalty kill, and has been tasked with top-paring minutes on a nightly basis.
The Vancouver Canucks management appear to agree with this assessment, as they rewarded Woo a promotion to the NHL, allowing him to earn an NHL salary for the first time since being drafted six years ago.
While this promotion didn’t lead to his NHL debut, Woo can practice with the team and gain exposure to the NHL environment.
Regardless of whether he sees playing time at the NHL level, Woo’s call-up serves as a positive testament to his stellar performance this season and the leadership qualities he has consistently demonstrated in recent weeks.
One of those assists came from a dish to Aatu Räty, who finally found the back of the net to snap a goal drought that stretched back to January 3rd.
We have been quite vocal about the fact that the young Finn has struggled to produce over the last few weeks, so we will go easy on him this week. After all, there are some positive developments to note.
This weekend saw him promoted to the second line, reuniting with linemates Max Sasson and Linus Karlsson with whom he found lightning in a bottle back in November.
This move lifted him out of the third-line role he had been stuck in for much of the new year.
The goal was a rocket, too, as he leaned into a shot to find the top corner in the final second of the game.
With the goal, Räty matches his AHL career high of eight goals and 27 points, a mark he achieved over 52 games last season split between the Bridgeport Tigers and Abbotsford Canucks.
If you happened to catch my conversation with David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal on the Canucks Conversation podcast, you might recall my perspective on Räty’s NHL potential. Throughout this year, I’ve consistently expressed my doubts about his ability to excel as a centre at the NHL level. While he fares well in faceoffs and displays solid two-way skills, I struggle to visualize him driving a line at the NHL level.
While he may excel in a shutdown role up the middle, I remain skeptical about his potential to blossom into a top-six-producing pivot.
Max Sasson continues to impress, notching a secondary assist over the weekend to bring his season total to 27 points, evenly split between 13 goals and 14 assists.
During a recent radio appearance with Sportsnet’s Halford & Brough, I highlighted Sasson as a name to watch for potential call-up options.
He has showcased consistency across various departments, from scoring goals and providing assists to playing strong two-way hockey and excelling in face-offs. With Sheldon Dries sidelined due to injury, Sasson likely sits as the next-best call-up option, should the Vancouver Canucks encounter any issues with injuries up the middle (heavily knocks on wood).
Filip Johansson and Akito Hirose remain out of the lineup with injuries.
OHL
Josh Bloom led the way among prospects this week, collecting two goals and two assists across three games. He’s now up to 13 points in 17 games since his return back to Saginaw, skating on the Spirits’ top-six and power play unit.
It’s been a quiet start to the new year for Vilmer Alriksson, who recently snapped an eight-game goal drought by finding the back of the net on the power play.
It’s not just Vilmer who’s struggling, but the Guelph Storm as a whole, and have now dropped six straight games and nine of their past 11.
Throughout this challenging stretch, Alriksson has been deployed in various roles at even strength, ranging from the top-line to fourth-line duties. Additionally, he has been a contributor to the team’s secondary power play unit, often stationed in front of the net to utilize his towering 6-foot-6 frame to create havoc.
It was precisely that frame which led to Alriksson capitalizing on his recent goal. Positioned in the paint, he battled for position before outmuscling his opponents to bury his 10th goal of the season, six of which have come on the power play.
While it may not have been a show-stopping season for Alriksson, he has still managed to maintain a respectable scoring rate, averaging half a point per game with 25 points on the season. As a project winger, all we hope is that he continues to adapt to the nuances of North American hockey and maximize his physical presence on the ice. The Storm will have several top players graduating from the team next year, paving the way for increased responsibility in 2023-24.
Kirill Kudryavtsev picked up a single assist over a three-game stretch this week, bringing him to 38 points over 51, putting him right on track to match his 50-point campaign that he posted last season.
NCAA
This week was highlighted by the historic Beanpot Championship, an annual event featuring the top four Boston region universities.
The Canucks had representation from each of the four teams: Tom Willander and Aiden Celebrini (Boston University), Jack Malone (Boston College), Jackson Dorrington (Northeastern), and Aku Koskenvuo (Harvard).
The action began with the semifinals last week, where BU defeated BC, and Northeastern beat Harvard, setting up a BU vs. Northeastern championship game on Monday.
The final was a hard-fought, back-and-forth match, with Tom Willander making a significant contribution with an assist and a plus-two rating.
Displaying his typical defensive relentlessness, Willander forced a turnover at his blue line with an active stick before Devin Kaplan capitalized on the opportunity to score a funky, but crucial goal.
He was eventually credited with an assist on the stick swing.
Willander finished the week with two assists and a plus-five rating over three games, two of which were Beanpot matches. He now sits fifth among NCAA defenders with a plus-18 on the season.
In my hit with Canucks Conversation (posted above), I touched on Willanders second half. While he continues to display strong defensive elements, it’s hard to ignore his production in his freshman year, or, lack thereof, so make sure to check that out.
Aiden Celebrini, playing on BU’s third pairing, did not register any points and maintained an even rating for the week.
Despite their efforts, BU ultimately fell to Northeastern in the late stages of overtime.
Jackson Dorrington, who also did not record any points, patrolled Northeastern’s second defensive pairing and helped secure the school’s ninth Beanpot Championship and second in back-to-back seasons.
Jack Malone continued his strong season with another two-goal performance on Friday, marking his third multi-goal game of the campaign. With these goals, he’s now just two points shy of matching his career highs from last season, boasting nine goals and 15 points in 27 games.
Following the disappointment of falling short in last Monday’s Beanpot semifinal, Malone returned to his original role, skating alongside Cutter Gauthier on the wing. Although he didn’t register any points in the subsequent game, he contributed with a solid plus-two rating, helping BC secure third place in the four-team tournament.
On the goaltending front, Aku Koskenvuo didn’t feature in the Beanpot tournament but started in the weekend game, making 26 saves in a 5-5 draw. He currently holds a 3-5-3 record for the season and has been in good form, going 3-1-1 over his last five starts.
Ty Mueller added another assist to his season tally over the weekend, bringing his total to 23 points in 28 games and placing him 12th in NCHC scoring.
In addition to his offensive and two-way skills, Mueller’s proficiency in the face-off circle is worth mentioning. He ranks third in the conference for the most face-offs taken, with a total of 515, and holds the 10th highest face-off winning percentage at .548, with the third most wins.
SHL/Allsvenskan
The SHL was on break this week, resulting in no games for either Jonathan Lekkerimäki or Lucas Forsell.
However, there’s an update on Forsell’s contractual situation over in Sweden and he recently inked a three-year extension with Färjestad BK in Sweden.
The extension aligns with our expectations that Forsell would continue his development overseas before potentially transitioning to North America in due time.
Typically, European contracts include a release clause allowing the player to terminate the contract to cross the pond and join their NHL-affiliated clubs. Therefore, this extension shouldn’t impede his ability to join Abbotsford in the coming years if he decides to make the move.
After missing four games due to undisclosed reasons, Elias Pettersson made his return to Västerås’ lineup.
It’s evident that he was ailing from an injury, as they eased him into the lineup, initially slotting in as the extra defenseman with 7:09 of ice time.
Of course, he worked his way up to third-pairing roles over the next two matches, averaging around 17 minutes of ice time per game. Pettersson failed to register any points but currently sits with 11 points, maintaining a scoring rate of 0.44 points per game, which ranks second among Allsvenskan U20 defenders.
With nine games remaining in Västerås’ 2023-24 schedule and the team recently dropping out of playoff contention, we are getting excitingly close to him potentially making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to join the Abbotsford Canucks. And oh boy, could they use him right about now.
After a productive stretch in mid-December where he tallied points in six consecutive games, Hugo Gabrielson’s production has gone dormant.
Despite the dry spell, he did manage to break through with a goal and two assists in a single game this past week, bolstering his career-best season total of 14 points through 39 games.
Gabrielson’s offensive prowess is unmistakably centred around his powerful shot from the blue line. While he remains a bit of a long-shot prospect, he continues to showcase flashes of his offensive potential, adding value to his team with his scoring touch and overall defensive reliability.
WHL
For the first time in several Blackfish reports, Sawyer Mynio failed to register any points in three games this week and ended with a disappointing minus-three rating. Mynio currently sits with a minus-nine rating this year, which is a long way away from the plus-50 he posted just one year ago.
However, let me put that into some context.
Seattle has zero full-timers on the positive end of this department, and only one defender boasts a better plus/minus than Mynio, sitting at a minus-five. As a collective, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ remaining four defenders are a minus-96 on the year. So, while his career-best 38 points is impressive, it’s important to note that he’s doing his part in the defensive end as well–well, sort of.
Despite not getting the start on Saturday, Ty Young was called upon to relieve Joshua Ravensbergen after he allowed five goals on 20 shots through 40 minutes of play.
Entering the third period, Young posted what could be the greatest victory of all time.
Trailing by two goals in the final frame, the Prince George Cougars rallied, scoring five unanswered goals and dominating the period.
Despite allowing one very late goal, Young made two crucial saves, en route to his 17th goal of the season. That’s right, with a two-save effort, his team’s heroic comeback gave him the win to send him home with a 17-11-0 record.
I will end this week’s report by answering a question from last week’s comment section:
Rusty Bee asks:

1) Has McWard overtaken Woo as the top RHD in Abby who is closer to the NHL?
He has not. It’s been primarily Jett Woo who has taken on the top-pair/top power play deployment, at least since Christian Wolanin and Filip Johansson have been out of the picture. Cole McWard is an obvious second and has also taken over the power play, patrolling the team’s second unit.
In terms of NHL upside, I think it’s rather close and they both bring their specific elements to the table.
Jett Woo brings a much more physical game and has stepped up as a leader for this Abbotsford club. While he doesn’t have a booming shot, he has underrated hands and plays a decent, and mean two-way game.
McWard, however, is a more responsible and mistake-free player in my eyes. While he doesn’t have the snarl that Woo brings, he’s a sound defender and carries a booming shot, to boot.
I firmly believe that both can contribute as serviceable 6-7 defenders, with McWard getting the slight edge as an everyday NHL defender for now.
2) objectively who is the better RHD prospect with the highest floor? HunterBrz or Sawyer Mynio?
Sawyer Mynio is a left-shot defender, so I will disregard that part of the question. However, so far, we really like Mynio’s floor.
He has shown a remarkable uptick in the offensive department this season, surprising many, and demonstrating a powerful one-timer that has elevated his game as a threat for the Thunderbirds.
However, it’s his defensive abilities, particularly in shutdown situations and on the penalty kill, that caught the eye of NHL scouts. The offensive game has simply been the cherry on top. Even if he doesn’t reach top-four defenceman status, his ability to excel in a bottom-pairing role should secure him a spot on an NHL roster.
On the other hand, Hunter Brzustewicz is undoubtedly a promising and skilled prospect but also comes with the risk of potentially fizzling out as an AHL point-producing defender. If he’s not getting the proper looks on a top-4/PP unit, his skillset becomes far less attractive among an NHL defensive corps.
In terms of floor, Mynio, in my book, has the advantage due to his defensive reliability and penalty-killing prowess. However, Brzustewicz boasts a higher ceiling with his offensive potential.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please make sure to get them in the comments, and I will do my best to answer any that I can each week.
See you next week.

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