Blackfish: Hunter Brzustewicz puts up 6 points in 2 OHL games, Jonathan Lekkerimäki keeps scoring goals, and more
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Faber1 month ago
Welcome back to another Blackfish Prospects Report here at CanucksArmy.
It’s time to dive into the week that was for the Vancouver Canucks’ prospects.
We had another awesome week for the Canucks’ prospects. There are a ton of goals, assists, hits, and other highlights to share with you in today’s column.
First and foremost, I want to thank Dave Hall for filling in last week. He did an incredible job and has been an excellent addition to us here at CA with his commitment to watching prospects. The guy is putting out more prospect clips on Twitter than I am some weeks! That just means I’ve got to step my game up and bring it this week. Be sure to follow Dave on Twitter though, he’s been excellent with the prospect updates and you’ll see a bunch of his clips in these Blackfish articles over the coming months.
I’ve been working the phones a bit in Europe and have some updates on prospects while also doing an interview with OHL stud, Hunter Brzustewicz. We will include the YouTube video of the Brzustewicz interview as the kid has been on fire over the past week — more on him in the OHL section but let’s look at how the prospects are looking with our big ol’ stats board.
We will start with some news.
The Abbotsford Canucks signed Dmitri Zlodeyev on Sunday afternoon. Zlodeyev earned a one-year AHL contract that could see him loaned down to the ECHL with Kalamazoo as there is currently a lot of depth at centre in Abbotsford. Zlodeyev is excellent in the faceoff dot and plays a gritty style that could fit in on a fourth line down the road but with Chase Wouters, John Stevens and Aatu Räty currently patrolling the fourth line, there’s just not room for Zlodeyev to get any ice time — that’s how deep this Abbotsford Canucks team is.
Obviously, injuries and call-ups will open up spots in the AHL lineup but for now and the foreseeable future, Zlodeyev will just be a practice guy alongside fellow youngsters Josh Bloom, and Karel Plasek. We don’t see an ECHL stint in the near future but it could come at some point in November if everyone remains healthy and Jack Studnicka returns from his emergency call-up.
Now for the hockey that was played.
As you can see from the stats, some AHL prospects had excellent opening weekends.
We will begin with the two four-point fellas. Arshdeep Bains and Tristen Nielsen.
Bains was named the first star of the night for the AHL on Friday night as he totalled up four points with a goal and three primary assists.
I want to highlight two of Bains’ points from the night because they showcase the improvements he has made to his skating. When Ryan Johnson spoke about Bains at the end of the 2022-23 season, he said that Bains had a lot to gain from having a big summer where he worked on strengthening his lower body. It’s clear that Bains went Michael Jordan mode and took that personally.
You can see Bains flying down the right wing on this assist before he set up Nils Åman for an easy tap-in at the crease.
The pace he is going at is making his jersey blow like he was in a windstorm. The kid has clearly added a step and he looked excellent over the AHL’s opening weekend.
Here’s a look at the goal that he scored, where Bains once again flashes his new and improved speed.
A lot of the reaction to this goal was folks saying that they were getting ‘J.T. Miller’ vibes on this goal. And yeah, I can’t really argue against that.
Bains was the best Abbotsford Canuck over the weekend and he drove play on his line that saw Åman and Danila Klimovich round out the trio.
While we have his name here, we will say that Klimovich wasn’t great over the weekend. He took a pair of penalties over the two games and didn’t seem to find the right parts of the ice to be effective in creating offence. We will say that his forechecking was solid and that he played a physical style that we like to see. It just felt like he wasn’t on the same page as Åman and Bains throughout the two games played. Klimovich was without a point over the weekend and he will look to get some offence going when Abbotsford returns home to host the Calgary Wranglers this weekend.
Let’s now get to Nielsen, who scored his second-career AHL hat trick on Saturday in a 4-3 win over the Laval Rocket.
Nielsen continues to do what he does best and just be an absolute DAWG on the puck. He’s frustrating to play against because he simply outworks everyone on the ice. Nielsen was throwing the body around over the weekend and forced so many turnovers in the game. His goals were all in tight around the crease and skating on a line with Sheldon Dries and Vasily Podkolzin is a great spot for Nielsen’s future.
We may see the 23-year-old kid in the NHL at some point this season with his ability to play on both special teams’ units and play all three forward positions. It would sure be a great story and an excellent job by the Canucks’ scouting staff to identify this undrafted free agent out of the WHL.
I guess Podkolzin is a prospect again, right?
Well, just in case that’s what we are going with. Here are his two goals from Friday night.
And goal number two from Friday…
Podkolzin was excellent this weekend. He was playing exactly how you want to see him play.
Let the kid build this self-confidence up and get back to the NHL with a whole new outlook. Podkolzin leads the Abbotsford Canucks in shots on net after one weekend. He has seven shots on net through two games.
We will spend a bit of time talking about an Abbotsford goaltender now and no it’s not Arturs Silovs, instead, it’s Nikita Tolopilo.
Tolopilo made his AHL debut on Saturday afternoon and was excellent in between the pipes. He stopped 41 of the 44 shots he faced and there were a lot of tough saves as the Canucks were shorthanded nine times in the game.
There’s clearly a lot of talent with this 6’6″ kid and we’re excited to see how Tolopilo can develop as the year goes along.
Okay, I’ve spent like 1000 words on the AHL Canucks already… I’ll close out with some quick hits.
Aidan McDonough scored his first career AHL goal after a horrendous breakout attempt from the Rocket gave him more time and space than a trip to Mars.
Max Sasson and Linus Karlsson combined for a goal after a bad giveaway.
Jett Woo impressed in his opening weekend. He was far and away the best right-shot defenceman for the Abbotsford Canucks over their two games and the other two right-shot defencemen were Filip Johansson and Cole McWard. Woo barely made any mistakes, was very strong offensively in Friday’s game and looks like he’s added some strength with how he pushed guys around in the corner. It was just one weekend but Woo looks like he could legitimately be a solid call-up option for the Vancouver Canucks this season and he might even look better than Noah Juulsen right now.
Woo has still not played in an NHL game but it’s coming…
Alright, no more AHL talk. That was a lot.
We will begin with Hugo Gabrielson, who had two games last week and was pushed into an elevated role during his game on Wednesday — playing 23:51 in a 5-2 loss. We didn’t have time to watch Gabrielson this week but will check in next week if he continues to see elevated ice time with Västerviks.
The Allsvenskan defenceman that we did watch closely was Elias Pettersson (D-Petey). He had two Allsvenskan games and had an assist in each of those games, giving him four assists in four games with Västerås. D-Petey averaged 20:53 over his two games and had four shots on net.
Here’s a look at his two assists.
D-Petey had a slower week in terms of possession metrics. We tracked him at a 37.7% Corsi and a 41.9% control of expected goals at five-on-five.
Here’s a montage of 11 zone exits from the past two games so you can get the feeling of how D-Petey is with the puck on his stick in the defensive zone.
The added ice time is giving him a chance to work on things like breaking the puck out and doing it at the Allsvenskan level is certainly more challenging than it was in the J20 league. Pettersson has taken a bit of a step back this season but he’s looking good in the second-tier Swedish pro league and if he continues to gel, he will be back in the SHL at some point this season.
Viktor Persson is out with what the team is calling an undisclosed injury. This explains why he has not been in the lineup for the Pelicans at all this season. I was told by a Finnish source that he believes it is a concussion.
Joni Jurmo played in two games last week and saw very different ice times in those games. He played 11:46 on Friday and held a 58% Corsi and a 71% control of expected goals. Then on Saturday, he played 18:03 and was even better in his possession metrics, holding a 70% Corsi and a 79 xGF%.
Let’s see if he can build on a strong week and put up some offence that we can showcase in next week’s Blackfish.
We’ve got a bunch to get to once again.
The NCAA season is in full swing and that means there are 10 Canucks prospects in college hockey action.
Well, actually nine because goaltender Aku Koskenvuo didn’t play in Harvard’s closed exhibition game on Saturday. Harvard officially begins their season on October 27th and we will have to wait to see if Koskenvuo can beat out third-year goaltender Derek Mullahy for the starter’s gig. Harvard will play
20-year-old me Dartmouth to open the season. Our source out there said that it’s Mullahy’s spot to lose right now and that he is the expected starter for the beginning of Harvard’s season.
Yeah, we’ve got a Harvard source.
Let’s get to some quick hits before tackling the big story.
Ty Mueller had three assists over his two games this weekend. He was the first-line centre for Omaha and showed well in their opening weekend. It was a solid two wins for Omaha and these games against Niagara meant a lot to their team because Niagara was the school that eliminated Omaha last season.
Jacob Truscott picked up a pair of assists in Michigan’s 6-3 loss on Saturday. Truscott was held without a point in their big 7-2 win but did notch five shots on net through the two games.
And assist number two.
Jack Malone scored his first goal for Boston College after transferring from Cornell.
Malone picked up an assist in last week’s NCAA opening weekend and now has a goal and an assist through two games with the Eagles.
Daimon Gardner picked up a pair of assists over his two games this weekend.
I watched most of the second game on the weekend but had to swap over to the Boston University game to watch Tom Willander and Aiden Celebrini. Gardner looks like he has some poise with the puck and he generates a lot of power on his shot.
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to where he is playing in the lineup. The bad news it that Gardner was drafted as a centre but is currently playing left wing for the Clarkson Golden Knights. The good news is that he is playing in the top-six.
Jackson Dorrington had a quiet weekend but he is playing in Northeastern’s top-four. This is good news for the physical defenceman.
Forwards Jackson Kunz and Matt Perkins picked up assists over the weekend.
Now for the Boston University boys.
Let’s start with Aiden Celebrini, who picked up the first NCAA point of his career when he led a rush and found fellow Canucks; prospect Tom Willander for what was a snipeshow from the 2023 first-round pick.
Celebrini and Willander picked up assists to give each of them two points in this game.
Willander looks very good in the NCAA. He moves extremely well and shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting to this level of hockey after playing all of last season in the J20 Swedish league. What we loved most about this game was the fact that Willander was paired up with Lane Hutson in the third period. For those who don’t know Hutson, he was the leading scorer of all defencemen last season in the NCAA and is an uber-talented d-man who plays with similar skills to Quinn Hughes.
We doubt that Hutson will ever be as good as Hughes but right now, Hutson is an excellent NCAA defenceman and if Willander plays alongside Hutson, it will help the young Swede learn how to be the secondary puck-mover on a pairing. Willander has always been the driver of his pairing and we want to see how he adjusts to and can compliment playing with an offensive dynamo like Hutson as it helps Willander develop into being able to play with Hughes one day.
Celebrini did a good job eating up shorthanded minutes as well. He was quietly very good and it was nice to see him notch two point in Saturday’s game.
There’s going to be some excitement to come from the two BU players and we are here for the ride.
It was a quieter week for Kirill Kudryavtsev, as he only picked up one assist over his two games this past week. Kudryavtsev now has one goal and six assists in eight OHL games.
Vilmer Alriksson had an assist in a 2-1 win on Saturday and was held without a point in Friday night’s game.
Hunter Brzustewicz. That’s the tweet.
This 18-year-old, right-shot defenceman is on a tear in the OHL this season.
He had a massive weekend, picking up two goals and four assists for six points in two games.
This kid is doing the most right now and he is being rewarded for his efforts as he sits third in OHL scoring and is number one in points from a defenceman.
We got a chance to interview Brzustewicz on Monday’s episode of Canucks Conversation.
I’ll include the interview.
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We will keep a close eye on this kid as the season goes on. He’s exceeding our high expectations that we had for him in the early stages of the OHL season.
Yeah, we’ve got more good news.
Lucas Forsell scored in Champions League play this past week and was moved up to the third line for the CHL game. Forsell played 16:09 in the game and saw time on the power play.
He was back on the fourth line for his two SHL games, where played 12:08 and 12:41.
It was another good week for Jonathan Lekkerimäki. He picked up a goal and added two assists in the three games that he played in.
Lekkerimäki impressed us this week with his defensive play and how he was playing bigger than he is on the boards. We really liked the work he did on that second assist to gain possession of the puck before working his way into some open ice at the top of the zone and then firing an accurate shot that was tipped.
The kid continues to stay hot and is now up to five goals and two assists in 10 SHL games.
Sawyer Mynio is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
Ty Young is now 5-2-0 on the season and had one hell of a game on Wednesday when he stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced in a huge 2-1 win for his Prince George Cougars.
I’m not a goalie guy but Young looks like he’s pretty damn quick from side-to-side and you can see him playing with a lot of confidence from how he is challenging shooters. All good stuff to see from the late-round pick. We will continue to follow his season as he is on a powerhouse Cougars team that is currently ranked seventh in the latest CHL power rankings.
This wraps up another Blackfish Prospects Report here at CanucksArmy.
We are now in full swing with the prospects and have so much to talk about every week here in the Blackfish report. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, less of, or want to have included in upcoming Blackfish articles, let me know in the comments. This article is for all of you, so I want to make it the best product possible for you all.
See you all next week and let’s hope that we can continue to ride this hell of a wave.
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