logo

Blackfish: Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s strong showing at the Five-Nations tournament, Tom Willander’s scoring drought, and more

alt
Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
5 months ago
Welcome back to another Blackfish Prospect report.
After an eventful first few weeks of the year, things have finally started to settle down.
This week, in particular, was not only quiet in terms of the schedule but also on the scoresheet.
The week’s main focus was Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s performance with Team Sweden at the Five-Nations Tournament. Additionally, we saw Hunter Brzustewicz continue his dominant season in the OHL, Max Sasson and his new linemates striking again in the AHL, and Tom Willander breaking a lengthy scoring drought with a multi-point night against UMass-Lowell in the NCAA.
Before we get to the updates, let’s look at our updated statistics for the prospect pool.

AHL

After a hectic week that saw the Abbotsford Canucks play five games over seven nights, their schedule has settled down. Looking ahead, they have only four more games left in their November schedule, which saw them play just eight games total.
Last weekend, it was back-to-back matches against the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate, with recently sent-down netminder Jack Campbell suiting up for the Bakersfield Condors.
This week’s standout performer was Max Sasson, who delivered an impressive three-point game on Saturday, contributing two goals and one assist.
Since forming a line with Aatu Räty and Linus Karlsson, the trio has built quite the string of chemistry, accumulating a total of 12 points over the last three games. Räty has moved to the left wing while Sasson plays center. Sasson’s fast and dynamic playing style has progressed well in the AHL circuit, offering some intriguing “role player” upside. The less “skating dependant” role of left-wing has allowed Räty to flex his offensive capabilities, recording two goals and two assists, a
Should Vancouver need a centre, Sheldon Dries will likely get the call-up nod. However, we’ve liked the 23-year-old Sasson’s development progress thus far and wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him earn a cup of coffee with the NHL club.
Both of Sasson’s goals against Bakersfield resulted from similar plays, with Sasson disrupting passing lanes and utilizing his speed to capitalize on the breakaway.
Here are both of those goals.
As discussed in last week’s update, Räty continues to stand out in his elevated role in the top six and on the secondary power play unit.
He has been playing with a noticeable jump, confidence, and poise, showing through his playmaking creativity and overall production.
When Abbotsford’s forward group returns to full health, we initially expected Räty to return to his role as the club’s 3C. However, given the newfound chemistry between this Räty-Sasson-Karlsson trio, we wonder if the club would prefer to keep the band together and see what more they can accomplish.
Here’s a look at Räty’s goal over the weekend, initiated by Max Sasson from the corner.
Arshdeep Bains has experienced a slight dip in production since his seven-game point streak was snapped last week. Nevertheless, he remains just one point behind the league leader, Adam Gaudette, in AHL points, boasting three goals and 17 points over 13 games played.
He did provide a tremendous assist over the weekend, which sums up his game to a tee. He fought for possession and turned on the after-burners off a faceoff draw before delivering a perfect cross-crease pass to Sheldon Dries for a goal.
Danila Klimovich returned to the lineup this week after missing nine straight games due to a shoulder injury.
Slotting into the third line alongside Ty Glover and Nils Åman, Klimovich played decent, considering his layoff. Klimovich showed off his tenacity as a forechecker and generated some of the club’s best scoring opportunities.
With his cheeky no-look, between-the-legs pass to Nils Åman, Klim notched his first point of the year, a primary assist.
Yes, we know what you are all thinking, “that’s a pretty lucky first point of the year.” But let’s go easy on Jack Campbell. It was a tough week for him.
Speaking of goaltending, Arturs Silovs had an outstanding week, extending to a three-game run of impressive play.
Starting in both games against Bakersfield, Silovs conceded just a single goal on 44 shots faced. This remarkable stretch included his second shutout in three games, propelling him to a co-lead in AHL wins (six) and shutouts (two) for the season.
That’s Arty Party’s on consecutive Saturdays, folks.
Following an uninspired start, Silovs appears to have crawled back to his 2022-23 form and has returned his save percentage to above-0.900 (.905), with his 6-1-1 record.
The faith has been restored.
With a quiet schedule for the foreseeable future, Silovs will likely split games with Nikita Tolopilo through November and December to ensure that neither goes too long without a start.
However, don’t be shocked to see Silovs take back the reins if he keeps posting shutouts!
Filip Johansson nabbed his second assist of the year. Like his first of the season, this assist came from a point shot, leading to a rebound opportunity for Dries, then Marc Gatcomb for the goal.
Finally, we will conclude our AHL section with some positive news.
Vasily Podkolzin was seen skating in a non-contact uniform this week in Abbotsford. It’s a positive step in his progression to return from concussion protocol, but the timeline for his recovery is still unknown.
Considering how his injury was sustained, the more time needed to be 100% sure he has fully recovered, the better.

NCAA

After a strong start, with three points in his first three NCAA games, Tom Willander’s production has fallen quiet. However, as we have been preaching over the last few instalments, he’s excelling in other areas, so the lack of points hasn’t been too major a concern.
This weekend, he did his best to change that narrative by grabbing two assists on Saturday, which snapped a five-game pointless drought.
Both helpers stemmed from terrific outlet passes, showcasing his ability to read the play, keep his head up, and make quick, precise passes.
One.
And two.
It’s a positive sign for his confidence, especially considering the numerous opportunities he has been getting in recent games. The monkey is off his back, and these assists came as a welcome relief.
Okay, we are now convinced that Ty Mueller has been keeping up to date on his Blackfish reports, as he has been on fire since we mentioned that we were intrigued with his game despite not scoring any goals.
Well, he’s now scored goals in three straight games, picking up three more points over the week and registering his first multi-point game of the season. He’s up to seven points (3G + 4A) in eight games.
Mueller remains a significant part of Nebraska-Omaha’s top six, and things are finally starting to click in his junior year.
His goals included this rocket from the top of the circles.
Jack Malone posted another point this week, finishing off a pretty tic-tac-toe play on the man advantage. He’s up to six points (4G + 2A) on the year.
Jackson Kunz managed to pick up an assist over the weekend despite being used as the extra forward.
Running as the 13th forward has become a common occurrence for Kunz so far. While we had hoped to see more from him this season, he hasn’t done much to earn a bigger role under the University of North Dakota’s coaching staff.
Kunz’ weekend assist came from a pass below the goal line here.
Despite a 29-save performance, it was a second straight shootout loss for Aku Koskenvuo in his second start for Harvard. He is yet to secure a win this season, but in two starts, he has looked good, sporting a solid 0.919 save percentage.

OHL

Kirill Kudryavtsev had a productive weekend, notching two assists after going pointless through a two-game stretch last week. The first assist came on Friday in the dying seconds of the third period, as he took a point shot that was deflected in the net, securing the victory for the Soo Greyhounds.
On Sunday, he took on fellow Canucks prospect Hunter Brzustewicz and the OHL-leading Kitchener Rangers.
For the second straight game, Kudryavtsev delivered late, finding a seam for a cross-ice pass to pick up his 16th point of the season. Brzustewicz and the Rangers got the last laugh, defeating the Greyhounds 5-3.
The 19-year-old continues to deploy on the Greyhounds’ top special team units and is trucking along at a .84-point per-game pace. We will focus our attention on him and bring some clips to highlight for next week’s edition.
On the other side, Brzustewicz put up a typical performance, contributing two secondary helpers, both on the man-advantage. He put up five assists over the week and continues to dominate the OHL stat sheet.
He trails his teammate, Carson Rehkopf, by one point for the OHL scoring lead and is up to 32 points (5G + 27A) through 19 games.
We’ll keep things short, as we’ll be highlighting his tremendous transitional game in our next Prospect Film Room. Look out for that sometime this week!
Just to showcase some of his tremendous edgework, here is a quick highlight of him breaking ankles in the O.
Vilmer Alriksson picked up his first points in nearly two weeks, notching two assists on the power play.
The first helper showcases how big he is compared to his U20 competition. After swiping at the puck, he stands pat, tying up the defender to allow his teammate to clean things up.
Yeah, he’s a big boy.
His second helper was a little more glamorous. As the tweet mentions, “Ricky” does most of the dirty work, using his large frame to protect the puck before threading a pass to the slot.

Europe

For the second consecutive week, we’ll label this section “Europe,” as most teams were off on break due to several tournaments taking place.
The most notable occurred in the U20 circuit, where both Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson represented Sweden at the Five-Nations tournament.
We’ve got highlights!
Sweden brought over 22 skaters, so they rotated players in and out of the lineup throughout the weekend, leading to both prospects being held out of game one.
Once he drew into the lineup, Lekkerimäki exceeded expectations, contributing points in all three games.
He kicked his weekend off on Friday and came out the gate strong. He dished a couple of assists and netted a spectacular goal off the rush, splitting the defence and finishing the sequence with his trademark shot.
In his second assist (the third clip of the package below), Lekkerimäki nearly roofed the puck short-side but settled for the assist after his linemate cleaned up the rebound.
While we love the shot, we love the speed he displays ahead of the goal sequence and the overall confidence on display to execute the move.
Despite being the clear primary passer on the first play above, Lekkerimäki was not officially credited for an assist on the tournament’s stat sheet.
We will still credit him with the three points, but officially, it was only two.
In game two, Lekkerimäki skated alongside Noah Östlund and Otto Stenberg, a trio with a strong history of playing together.
Although they didn’t directly contribute to goals as a unit, they were dangerous all game, creating numerous scoring opportunities. Czech goaltender Michael Schnattinger played a stellar game, making several key saves and earning hero status despite Sweden’s 2-1 victory.
Additionally, Lekkerimäki found the scoresheet with a secondary assist from a missed shot on a dangerous 5-on-3 power play opportunity.
Below are a few of Lekkerimäki’s Fiven-Nations highlights.
The first highlight shows Lekkerimäki dish a quick feed cross-crease to Stenberg, only to be robbed by the goaltender.
Although a bit grainy, clip two shows him ring a quick snapshot off the crossbar.
Clips three and four show him getting prime chances only to be stymied by the red-hot goaltender.
Sunday featured a big showdown between the two tournament powerhouses, Sweden and Finland.
Lekkerimäki grabbed another primary assist in that game, bringing him to four points—five by proper “hockey point counting” standards—over the three-game stretch.
On Sunday, Lekkerimäki likely played his best game of the weekend despite only recording a single point. He was engaged all game and used his body effectively to hound for pucks on the forecheck. Of course, he was an offensive threat all game, but the little details were an added bonus.
Here are those highlights.
This weekend should act as a good precursor to what we can expect from Lekkerimäki next month when Sweden hosts this year’s World Junior Championship. He is primed to be a massive element of Team Sweden’s success, and we hope he can parlay his tremendous SHL start (second in SHL goalscoring) to dominate his U20 competitors.
Elias Pettersson played one game for Team Sweden during the Five-Nations tournament and posted a plus-2 rating. However, he fell awkwardly during one sequence and did not return, remaining unavailable for the rest of the weekend.
There are no updates on the nature of his injury or a timeline for his return. Further information will be provided as it becomes available. If he is healthy, his next potential game to suit up is on Wednesday, which is Vastaras’ next scheduled game.

WHL

Sawyer Mynio’s Seattle Thunderbirds had a home-and-home series against the Victoria Royals over the weekend, playing in Victoria on Friday and at home in Seattle on Saturday.
Their Saturday game was delayed as both teams were stuck at the border.
See, even hockey players go through custom issues!
Once the game got underway, Mynio contributed with two assists. He has six points (1 goal + 5 assists) in nine games this season.
Mynio continues to log solid minutes as an all-situational defender for the T-Birds.
Thanks for checking in with another instalment of the Blackfish Prospect report. See you next week, folks.

Check out these posts...