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Blackfish: Lekkerimäki and Pettersson make AHL debuts, Abby adds two prospects, an NCAA Frozen Four update, and more

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
1 month ago
Welcome back to the Blackfish Prospect report.
This week was jam-packed with exciting prospect news in Abbotsford, while the rest of the organization’s depth chart was knee-deep in their respective postseason races.
Let’s dive right in.

Abbotsford Canucks

The future is now.
Over the past few weeks, the Canucks’ farm team has suddenly bolstered its roster with a group of promising prospects, quickly building up its young foundation ahead of the playoffs.
It all began on Friday when the organization’s top prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, made his North American debut. Unlike the slow and steady approach taken with Elias Pettersson, Abby wasted no time in inserting him into the lineup after just one practice.
He started the weekend skating alongside Aidan McDonough and John Stevens, filling in for Arshdeep Bains, who got promoted to the big club.
In what seemed like a storybook moment, the 19-year-old appeared to pick up his first AHL point in his debut. In this clip, you’ll see Lekkerimäki (#44) protect the puck along the boards. It eventually made its way to McDonough, which Max Sasson later finished.
Unfortunately, the play was later reviewed, revealing that the puck had touched a defender before reaching Max Sasson, nullifying the assist. But Lekkerimäki was a point-per-game player in the AHL for roughly two hours.
Despite no points and only one shot on net, it was a solid debut weekend. It was not outstanding, but considering he was injected into a new environment with one practice under his belt, it was solid.
Offensively, Lekkerimäki’s debut went as expected. He navigated the challenge of creating space and time. It was evident that he was sticking to a simple game, focusing on his coverage and two-way responsibilities.
Additionally, he saw ice time on the team’s secondary power play unit, where he assumed a role in the bumper position and occasionally shifted to the half wall, as is his habit.
What stood out was that he did not seem out of place physically. While his slight frame is no secret, he protected the puck well and was active on the forecheck.
Saturday’s game saw Lekkerimäki receive a warm welcome to North America in the form of a rough encounter that ended with him being sent over the opposition’s bench.
However, can you see who came to his aid? That’s right. Elias Pettersson. He made his anticipated debut in that game, and his presence was immediately felt.
Although he had a quiet first period with only a few shifts, Pettersson’s game intensified as the match progressed. He found himself at the centre of several physical altercations in the second period.
Honestly, for a solid stretch in the second period, the game felt like the EP26 show.
The noise began after he delivered a significant hit to a Colorado forward in the neutral zone, sparking a skirmish involving everyone on the ice – Pettersson marked as the primary target.
Moreover, Pettersson quickly came to the defence of Lekkerimäki following a hard hit on the latter, showing his willingness to stand up for his fellow countrymen.
This is an element that Canucks fans have been starving for, and it looks like EP26 could very well be the new fan favourite.
Make no mistake about it: Pettersson is a bully on the ice. His sizable 6-foot-4 frame looked right at home among his opposition. As we have talked about in the past, we anticipate this brand of hockey seamlessly adapting to the physical demands of North American hockey.
Just as expected, he was bare on the outside a few times. Pettersson is a fine four-way skater, but getting used to the speed of the skaters at this level is going to take some getting used to.
Overall, it was an encouraging debut, with four penalty minutes and several hits.
However, they weren’t the only two prospects brought in over the weekend.
If you’ve been paying attention to our Blackfish reports, we have been relatively high on Ty Mueller this season. Not necessarily as a kid with a huge NHL upside, but one that certainly brought more than we had previously thought on draft day.
Mueller, who was eliminated from the NCAA Frozen Four Championships the day prior, signed his official ELC (entry-level contract) on Saturday. Followed by an ATO (Amateur Tryout Offer) and will join the Abbotsford Canucks immediately.
It’s unclear when or if he will jump into the lineup, but he’ll likely get a few practices in before he sniffs any ice time. The club has eight games remaining to squeeze him in and are just one point shy of clinching a playoff berth.
While his scoring pace tapered off towards the end of the season, he was considered an essential piece to a Nebraska Omaha team which made it to the first round of the Frozen Four Championships. By season’s end, he finished third on his team with 26 points in 40 games and second in plus/minus (plus-9).
In addition to his point production, Mueller served as Omaha’s top-line centre for most of the season. He was heavily involved in the team’s faceoff circle, ranking sixth in the NCHC Conference with 664 faceoffs and finishing 10th with a win percentage of .550%.
Finally, Sawyer Mynio, who recently wrapped up his stellar draft-plus-one season, was recently called up to join the Abbotsford Canucks over the weekend.
At just 18 years old, he is expected to return to the WHL next season. However, the organization clearly sees value in giving their youngsters a taste of the professional hockey environment, especially during playoff preparations.
With Mynio’s addition, the defensive lineup has become significantly crowded. There are now 13 players vying for playing time on the backend during practice sessions.
Regardless of whether he gets in or not, it’s a fun time to follow the farm right now.
This past weekend was the weekend of Jett Woo.
Quite literally, the snarly defender had his hand in everything in their weekend series versus the Colorado Eagles.
With tensions simmering since October’s Keaton Middleton hit on Vasily Podkolzin, emotions had run high in each of their matches throughout the season.
On Friday, Woo sealed the game in overtime with his sixth goal of the season.
Occupying two offenders behind his own net, Woo managed to win the puck battle to kickstart an odd-man rush the other way. In a split-second decision to remain on the ice, Woo received the pass as the trailer before snapping a short short-side low shot.
Oh, but he wasn’t done there; he was a constant agitator, setting the stage for an intense rematch on Saturday.
Adding two assists to his tally, Woo extended his point streak to six games, displaying his offensive capabilities alongside his physical presence.
Woo had been getting under his opposition, the crowd, and even the announcer’s skin all weekend. At the tail end of the final match, Woo sent himself off with a proper goodbye to the Colorado faithful.
He capped off the weekend with three points, a plus-4 and logged 23 minutes in penalties.
Aatu Räty continued his impressive performance with another two points over the weekend, bringing his total to 11 points in his last five games. He now sits just one point behind Fabian Lysell for third place in U22 points, league-wide.
Meanwhile, Max Sasson extended his point streak and now holds the franchise record for the longest point streak. He has recorded at least one point in eight consecutive games, tallying five goals and 11 points during this impressive run.

OHL

Josh Bloom has been a force to be reckoned with over the last few months in the OHL and has taken that to the playoffs. He has scored three goals and five points in the first three games of the postseason.
His stellar play has been instrumental in helping the Saginaw Spirit take a commanding 3-0 lead in their opening-round series.
Bloom is currently riding a 15-game point streak, amassing an impressive 26 points during this remarkable stretch of games.
In the playoff series featuring Kirill Kudryavtsev and Vilmer Alriksson, the Soo Greyhounds have hopped out to a commanding 3-0 lead.
Kudryavtsev has been a driving performer for his team so far, contributing a crucial goal and three assists in the series. His goal came late in the third period of game three, where he went roof to even the game. They ultimately secured the victory.
It’s way too early, but his four points have him sharing the lead among OHL defenders in points.
On the other side, Vilmer Alriksson notched his first goal of the series and his OHL career in game three.
Alriksson gained entry before having his initial shot blocked by Kirill Kudryavtsev. Sticking with it, the towering Swede pounded on his own rebound and went top corner for his first OHL playoff goal.
Despite facing a challenging series deficit, Alriksson has been a valuable asset for Guelph, logging top six minutes and contributing to penalty-killing efforts.

NCAA

In the college hockey world, we’ve entered the most exciting time of the year, the Frozen Four. The Vancouver Canucks had six of their prospects participating in the tournament, all representing some of the nation’s top-ranked teams.
Unfortunately, Jackson Kunz of North Dakota and Ty Mueller of Omaha were eliminated in their opening games, despite both players managing to score goals.
However, the other four prospects not only won their initial two games but also secured spots in the final four, scheduled for April 11th.
Tom Willander worked his two-way muscles with three assists in the victories, further adding to his already impressive plus/minus rating. He now stands at plus-30 for the season, ranking him fifth among all NCAA skaters.
Jack Malone continued his standout season with another goal and two assists across two games, including the overtime-clinching goal that propelled his team to the Frozen Four.
Although expected to explore other opportunities before the season concludes, Jacob Truscott contributed an assist and will face off against Malone’s Boston College team in the Frozen Four matchup.

WHL

Finally, we have Ty Young, who is unfortunately riding the bench in his playoff series. For what it’s worth, his Prince George Cougars lead their series 2-0.
Thanks for tuning in. As always, please feel free to drop a comment with any questions you may have!
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