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Blackfish: Lekkerimäki lights the lamp, two exciting promotions, and a couple Swedes on the verge of elimination

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
1 month ago
Welcome back to another edition of the Blackfish Prospect report.
It’s mid-February, and we are officially in “playoff-clinching” territory. On Monday, Kirill Kudryatsev and his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds were the first among Canucks prospects to officially clinch a spot in the big dance, and we anticipate many more to follow in the next week or so.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a couple of Swedish prospects – highly-anticipated ones – that find themselves outside the playoff table and very much on the verge of being eliminated and making their way overseas.
Additionally, this week was a big one for a couple of Abbotsford Canucks prospects who each received well-deserved promotions to the big club.
We are a little slower in the highlight department this week, but there’s no shortage of important notes, so let’s dive right In.
But first, the statistics.


AHL

This week’s big news revolved around Jett Woo’s and Arshdeep Bains’ promotions.
First up was Jett Woo, who received his long-awaited call-up after six years post-draft.
With multiple Vancouver defenders out of the lineup due to injury and suspension, Woo was brought in as a contingency measure.
Although he didn’t see any NHL minutes, he was awarded the opportunity to be around the group at the highest level while earning a few days of NHL salary.
Woo has been performing admirably in Abbotsford, tallying five goals and 17 points — just four short of his career-high set last season — while handling top pair minutes and power play time.
With Christian Wolanin sidelined long-term, Woo has stepped up to fill the gap effectively. After taking in two games from the press box, he returned to Abbotsford for their lone game of the week, where he contributed with an assist.
In a swapped transaction, the Vancouver Canucks sent Jett Woo back to Abbotsford in return for Arshdeep Bains. For the local Surrey native, it represented his first call-up just one and a half years into his pro career.
As an AHL sophomore, he has been a driving force in various statistical categories in Abbotsford and even earned the All-Star MVP in his ASG debut.
Whether it’s assists, points, 5v5 points, power play points, or 5v5 goal differential, Bains has been at the forefront all season.
He has yet to slot into Vancouver’s roster, but it looks like he will slot into the lineup to make his NHL debut on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche. It’s a nice reward for an undrafted kid who’s working his butt off on the farm.
As a team, Abbotsford only took part in one low-scoring affair all week. So, rather than provide any updates, we encourage you to check out The Farmies, written by Cody Severtson.

OHL

Josh Bloom had an exceptional week for the Saginaw Spirit, tallying four goals and an assist to bring his season total to 18 points over 20 games.
As a 20-year-old player with professional experience, there were high expectations for Bloom’s production to go gangbusters in his return to the Ontario Hockey League. While his numbers could be better, it’s important to recognize that it’s not as simple as “I’m going back to junior to dominate the scoresheet.” There’s still a transition.
Professional hockey is full of structure, much more than junior hockey, which takes some time to get used to.
For the first half of his season, he would have been hyper-focused on ingraining habits and a certain playing style, so to jump back into a junior environment may take some time to recognize the different systems, new teammates, new strategies, and a different role, it can take time.
Bloom’s recent surge in production is certainly encouraging. Hopefully, he can maintain this level of performance as the season progresses, as the Saginaw Spirit gear up for their Memorial Cup push in the final stretch of the season.
Kirill Kudryavtsev, who posted one assist throughout the week, became the first prospect to clinch a playoff spot among this group of OHL’ers officially. With the helper, he hit the 40-point mark of his season this week, sitting fifth on his team in scoring and 10th among all defencemen. He also sits ninth among all defenders with a plus-24 on the season–a major jump from the minus-15 that he posted last season.
After several weeks of receiving bottom-six minutes, Vilmer Alriksson endured his first healthy scratch of the season. This benching lasted only one game but served as a reminder that ice time isn’t simply given; it must be earned.
During the recent stretch of games, Alriksson’s effort levels and production have declined, and he simply hasn’t been playing up to expectations. He has managed just four points in the calendar year and just hasn’t been playing up to snuff.
Are we concerned? Absolutely not.
This is a huge transition for the young Swede. Before he made the jump across the pond, he was used to a 45-game schedule in a much less condensed time frame. He’s navigating the ropes and bumps were/are very much expected.
A few of Guelph’s top producers are graduating from junior hockey this summer, paving the way for Vilmer to jump up and take on a heavier role in 2024-25.
If we’re having this conversation this time next year, well, that’s a different story.

SHL/Allsvenskan

Production-wise, it had been a slow return from an MVP-worthy performance at the World Juniors for Jonathan Lekkerimäki to the tune of nine goalless games.
Don’t get it twisted; it was a terrible stretch for his entire team, as a whole, as they could not put together ANY goal production. During that stretch, the team had scored only nine goals across those nine games, suffering four shutout losses along the way.
At this point, if Lekkerimäki isn’t posting points, no one is.
Lately, however, he’s picked things up and extended a three-game goal-scoring streak, which included the first multi-goal game of his SHL career.
The first goal showcased the many facets of his game that have seen vast improvements over his terrific bounce-back campaign — his edgework, hockey IQ, confidence, and, of course, his booming shot.
Minutes later, following a Hail Mary flip pass, Lekkerimäki delivered an absolute lethal snapshot, beating Rögle netminder Christoffer Rifalk cleanly above the shoulder for his second goal of the period.
He now leads his team in goals (12) and sits second in points (23). He has the most goals by any U24 skater and shares a spot at seventh league-wide.
For those who think he only contributes to the man advantage, we thought we’d mention that nine of his 14 goals have been at 5v5. So, that narrative can be put to bed.
Elias Pettersson had a challenging week, recording a minus-3 rating over two games while playing on Västerås’ third pair.
Unfortunately, his club suffered two crucial losses, which have pushed them well outside of playoff contention. With just seven games remaining in their schedule, their final game is scheduled for March 8th.
In theory, we could be less than a month away from Pettersson patrolling the blueline Abbotsford.

NCAA

We’ll kick-start our NCAA section with some unfortunate news. Despite initial reports that talks had progressed between Jacob Truscott and the Canucks, it appears that things have cooled off.
It has now been reported that the club will not be signing their 2020 fifth-round pick to an entry-level deal this spring. This effectively means that the 21-year-old will now be free to explore available options around the league.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, perhaps this opens up the possibility of offering his rights to an interested party. As a defensive-minded, penalty-killing specialist, his skill set could be a valuable asset to a club’s depth chart.
The Michigan Wolverines captain has two goals and 11 points while leading his team in blocked shots (39).
While it’s never easy saying goodbye to perfectly good prospects, we can only assume that the development and close timeline of Elias Pettersson, Kirill Kudryavtsev, and Sawyer Mynio, who is eligible to turn pro next spring, made the blow just a little easier to withstand.
Of course, there’s also Jackson Dorrington–who skates a similar profile to Truscott–and long-term prospect Hugo Gabrielson making up the remainder of their left-side depth chart.
Given the talent, perhaps the two parties felt that his path to NHL games was a challenging road, and so now, we hope that the Canucks can recoup an asset–is San Jose looking for young defenders?
For the first time since returning to the Boston University Terriers from his World Junior stint, Tom Willander was dropped back down to the third pairing to skate alongside his fellow Canuck prospect, Aiden Celebrini. Unfortunately, the arrangement didn’t last long.
In just their second shift together, the duo conceded a fairly questionable goal, prompting Jay Pandolfo–BU’s head coach– to toss his pairings Through a blender.
Willander responded swiftly.
As has been the case all year long, with Lane Hutson taking up the majority of the team’s power play opportunity, he found himself on the ice for the last 30 seconds of a power play. Stationed at the blueline, he received a pass from the half wall and unleashed a quick wrist shot to score his fourth goal of the season.
He’s up to 16 points on the year and is the Terriers’ second-highest-scoring defender behind Hutson. Additionally, he continues to excel in the plus/minus department and sits seventh among all NCAA defenders with a plus-17 rating.
Matthew Perkins has had a much more respectable second half in his freshman year at Minnesota-Duluth and picked up a goal this weekend. He is now up to 13 points across 27 games.
No, these numbers are nowhere near earth-shattering, but seven of those have come in his last 10 games, so it’s progress. He’s still very much a ‘let’s see what you can do next year’ type of prospect, but we like the spike nonetheless.
Speaking of ‘show us what you got next year,’ Daimon Gardner picked up an assist this week, giving him six points (one goal, five assists).
Jack Malone also picked up two more assists this week.

WHL

Sawyer Mynio picked up another one-timer rocket over the weekend.
The 2023 third-rounder continues to impress with his offensive output, notching his 12th goal and 40th point of the season, which ranks him second on the Seattle Thunderbirds roster.
His 12 goals also place him in a tie for seventh among WHL defenders
Despite Mynio’s individual success, the Thunderbirds find themselves at the bottom of their division, squashing any hopes for a playoff push. With only 15 games remaining in the 2023-24 regular season, their focus is now on finishing the season strong and, for Mynio, soaking up the remaining time in his incredible draft plus-one season.
Ty Young grabbed a single start in the week, stopping 28 of 29 shots to suffer a 2-1 shutout loss.

Blackfish comment section questions

Remember, folks, I am always willing to answer any questions from the comment section.
Question
What prospects do you see showing up to help boost Abbotsford’s playoff hopes?
Well, as we mentioned in the report, Elias Pettersson is quite close to being eliminated from playoff contention.
Patrik Allvin has already hinted at the 19-year-old making the jump as soon as his year is over, so, unless they have changed their minds in recent weeks, we should see him sometime mid-to-late March. Abottsford has eight scheduled games in April, so this would allow him to get a good chunk of playing time and help out a very banged-up blueline in hopes of making the postseason.
We are still unsure of Christian Wolanin/Akito Hirose’s timelines, but there is a very legitimate reality where Pettersson not only joins but gets tossed into a top-four role.
Allvin was a little more unclear on his plans for Lekkerimäki. During his interviews, it feels like it’s more likely that he will make his debut next season. However, with his team on the outside of the playoff table, it would be a HUGE benefit to bring him over and test the waters in the AHL. The baby Canucks could use some firepower, and it would certainly benefit the player to get a taste of North American hockey in the gut-check time of a playoff push.
This one feels 50/50, but boy, would this be big.
In theory, Kirill Kudryavtsev could sign and join the team. However, given the fact that they have locked in a playoff berth, the Soo Greyhounds will be playing into April, if not further. I wouldn’t expect the Canucks to bring him up and toss him into playoff games, assuming there are any to play.
That leaves a few NCAA potentials.
Realistically, I expect Tom Willander, Jackson Dorrington, Aku Koskenvuo, Matthew Perkins, Daimon Garnder and Aiden Celebrini all to return to school next season.
Jack Malone (senior) and Jackson Kunz (junior) could both sign deals this spring. While both bring a few intriguing qualities, I am not sure if I see the Canucks handing out a contract spot for either player.
Malone, who has 17 points in 29 games, is on the verge of breaking a career high, but he has also been playing on a very potent Boston College team and has yet to take his skill set to the next level. Kunz, however, brings a very interesting 6-foot-3 build but has struggled to put it all together at the College level.
If the Canucks were to hand out a contract, I would lean Jack Malone, but that is a big if.
Finally, we have Ty Mueller. Now, if you have been following me here at CanucksArmy, you know that I have liked the kid from Nebraksa-Omaha University. He’s having a career year with 23 points, and I do believe that he has the means to carve out, at the very least, a solid AHL position. I am not convinced that it is this season, however.
Although he was a double-overager at the time, he was just drafted last summer, and I could see the two sides agreeing on a return for his senior year. He’s worth keeping an eye on, however.
That’s all, folks! See you next week.

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