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Blackfish: Jonathan Lekkerimäki leads the charge, Vilmer Alriksson signs ATO, and a NCAA Frozen Four preview

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
1 month ago
Welcome back to the Blackfish Prospect report.
With playoffs in full swing for many of the Vancouver Canucks Junior players, our list of player updates is dwindling. Luckily, the baby Canucks are providing tons of storylines to cover days of updates.
Let’s dive right into the good stuff!

Abbotsford Canucks

The Abbotsford Canucks entered the weekend sporting a five-game win streak, matching their season-long stretch of success. Unfortunately, they faced the Western Conference titans, the Coachella Valley Firebirds. The baby Canucks were outscored 9-3 over two games, suffering a 2-1 (overtime) and 7–2 losses.
Despite the team’s struggles, there were some bright spots, and none were brighter than their top prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimäki. In a weekend to forget, the 19-year-old stole the spotlight, picking up his first AHL career points.
In Friday’s match, after Lekkerimäki had been buzzing around the ice all game, he found himself in the high slot with the puck on his stick and unleashed a blistering snapshot towards the net, notching his first AHL goal in typical fashion.
The goal lit the roof on fire at the Abbotsford Centre, as fans gave the kid a stand ovation for his efforts.
“Finally I get a goal, so it was a nice feeling,” Lekkerimäki said in his post-game interview.

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If we’re being honest, it was only a matter of time before Lekkerimäki found the back of the net.
Despite registering zero points through his first four matches, he consistently generated scoring chances for himself and his teammates throughout the week. Sometimes, the luck simply doesn’t go your way.
Just minutes after scoring his first career AHL goal, Lekkerimäki came close to notching his second tally of the game.
He picked up his second point (secondary assist) the following evening.
It’s not surprising that Lekkerimäki finally found the scoresheet over the weekend. Paired with Arshdeep Bains, who’s known to squeeze the offence out of his linemates, the duo created early chemistry and combined for several chances throughout the weekend.
While Bains struggled in his recent stint with the Vancouver Canucks, his AHL game is polished, as evidenced by his three points in two games this week.
For Bains, perhaps it was the tape all along?
CanucksArmy’s Tyson Cole will provide a more in-depth analysis of Lekkerimäki’s performance, so we won’t spill the beans about his game. However, just know that he has gotten increasingly stronger with each passing game, winning puck battles, stripping pucks, and generating offence.
Unfortunately, the excitement surrounding Lekkerimäki in Abbotsford may be short-lived. The Swedish national team announced its training camp roster for the World Championships on Monday, and Lekkerimäki was only listed but featured as the post’s highlighted player.
With that, he will return to Stockholm to participate in the 11-day camp, which includes four exhibition games – the tournament commences on May 10th in the Czech Republic.
As players from around the globe face playoff elimination, the World Championship rosters will continue to evolve for the next two months. However, looking at this initial roster, there is a very strong chance that Lekkerimäki will not only make the official roster but stick with the team full-time.
We will soon release a breakdown of Elias Pettersson’s (D-Petey) performance at CanucksArmy. Like Lekkerimäki, we will refrain from revealing too much in this report.
However, this week, he earned his first career point with a quick-minded cross-ice pass to Tristen Nielsen, who buried a heavy one-timer.
Pettersson’s physicality has been a consistent talking point since his arrival. He has fit right in and taken his typical bully-like demeanour from the Swedish circuit to the AHL.
Speaking of Nielsen, he made his presence felt throughout the weekend, delivering numerous impactful hits to set the tone. However, he took things a bit too far on Friday. Nielsen caught a Firebird forward with a nasty hit to the head in the second period, resulting in a five-minute major and an ejection from the game.
Shockingly, Nielsen faced no further disciplinary action and was back in the lineup on Saturday and went dash-three in the game (oops).
As we reported last week, Ty Mueller has signed his entry-level contract (ELC) and an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) in hopes of suiting up as a pro at some point during the current season.
However, his chances of playing anytime soon appear in question as he’s dealing with a broken thumb that he suffered in the final weeks of his NCAA season. He will undergo further evaluation in the coming weeks to assess the extent of his injury. Mueller will likely remain sidelined for the remainder of the season and shift his focus on preparing for his official rookie year.
Of course, all of that could change with a long-winded playoff run.
In addition to adding players like Lekkerimäki, Pettersson, Mueller, Christian Felton, and Sawyer Mynio over the past few weeks, the Canucks continue to bring in young talent to this Abbotsford roster. Following a first-round sweep with the Guelph Storm, the organization announced the signing of Vilmer Alriksson to an amateur tryout contract (ATO).
Standing at an impressive 6-foot-6, Alriksson is a towering winger who had a decent draft-plus-one season despite facing the challenges of transitioning to a new country, league, skill level, and team. He recorded 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) in 67 games during the regular season and added another goal in his first four OHL playoff games.
While his consistency hit a few snags throughout the season, Alriksson emerged as one of Guelph’s key players down the final stretch. We’ve chatted with a source close to the team, who told us that he showed significant improvements in various aspects of his game and was a bright spot in an otherwise challenging end to the season.
Similar to Mynio, it remains to be seen whether Alriksson will dress for a game this season unless his practice game truly demands a look at the professional level. Nonetheless, bringing him over is just another testament to the willingness of this regime to develop these kids and give them the proper tools as they experience the day-to-day routines of being a professional hockey player.
It’s been quite the stretch for Aatu Räty and Max Sasson, both contributing points at an impressive rate in recent weeks.
Räty scored another beautiful goal this week, courtesy of a well-placed cross-ice pass from Chase Wouters. Dropping to one knee, the Finnish forward unleashed a one-timer from distance into the top corner of the net.
While he was held off the scoresheet this past weekend, Räty had been firing at a two-point per-game clip over his last seven games and now sits second on the team with 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists).
Known for his solid two-way play and on-ice awareness, Räty’s ability to score labelled snapshots has been what’s truly stood out in his game recently. He’s shown that if given the space and time, he’s got an underrated release, only adding another valuable weapon to his arsenal.
Sasson came into the weekend boasting the longest active point streak in the AHL, which was unfortunately halted at nine games.
Despite this, the 23-year-old rookie has been consistently impressive – particularly in 5v5 situations, where he continues to lead the Canucks with 13 of his 18 goals coming at even-strength.
Two games weren’t the only losses this weekend…
Jett Woo will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks due to an ankle injury after colliding with an opponent before falling awkwardly on Friday.
Woo’s absence leaves a noticeable void in various aspects of Abbotsford’s game. He has been a key contributor on the power play, penalty kill, and in 5v5 situations for the Canucks this season. His physicality and leadership on the ice are invaluable assets to the team and will be a huge blow to the team’s playoff presence.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old was enjoying a career year, and his 31 points sat 14th highest among AHL defenders. He was also playing well as of late, as he was a point-per-game player over his last nine games before the injury. As an RFA this summer, you’d have to think he’s worth another deal as a potential depth piece and leader for this team going forward.

NCAA

Daimon Gardner (Clarkson University) has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, signalling his intention to explore transferring to another college or university.
Gardner’s freshman year at Clarkson wasn’t particularly noteworthy, tallying just one goal and six points in 29 games. However, his imposing 6-foot-4 stature still holds promise, and we anticipate that he may become a more prominent name in our Blackfish report next season, especially if he lands at a higher-profile school.
By our next Blackfish update, we’ll have the 2024 Frozen Four NCAA Championship winners, and the Canucks have four potential candidates across three teams.
The semifinal games are scheduled for Thursday, April 11th, with the winners advancing to the finals on Saturday, April 13th.
Semifinal game (s):
Thursday at 2:00 p.m. PST: Boston University (Tom Willander and Aiden Celebrini) vs. Denver.
Thursday at 5:30 p.m. PST: Boston College (Jack Malone) vs. Michigan (Jacob Truscott).
National Championship Game:
Saturday: The semifinal winners will face off at 3:00 p.m. PST.

CHL

For the remainder of our season, we will be combining our WHL and OHL coverage.
Both Kirill Kudryavtsev and Josh Bloom have advanced past their respective opening rounds and will now face each other in a best-of-seven series in the second round.
Bloom enters the series with a 16-game point streak, during which he has tallied a whopping 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists). In the playoffs, he has recorded seven points in four games. Meanwhile, Kudryavtsev sits second among OHL defencemen in points-per-game, with five points in four games during the opening round.
As Saginaw will receive an automatic berth into the Memorial Cup as hosts, we’ll be rooting for the Soo in hopes of extending Kirill’s season.
With the Prince George Cougars manhandling their opening series versus the Spokane Chiefs, they gave Ty Young the start in the fourth and series-clinching game. He stopped 30 of 32 shots in the match but has unfortunately lost the starting job as the team’s go-to netminder in the playoffs.
That’s all for this week, folks!
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