Photo credit:Nick Barden
Blackfish: A midseason look at the Abbottsford Canucks’ forward prospects, Josh Bloom and Joni Jurmo find new homes, and more…
By Dave Hall1 month ago
Welcome back to another edition of the Blackfish Prospect report.
In case you missed last week’s report, be sure to check it out, as I provided insights into each prospect within the Vancouver Canucks system, excluding the Abbotsford Canucks.
We’ll cover their forward group here.
The past week was particularly eventful, with the Abbotsford Canucks participating in three games and both Josh Bloom and Joni Jurmo finding new homes to play out the remainder of their seasons.
Of course, the Swedish trio secured a Silver Medal on home soil at the World Juniors. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out our World Junior recaps on CanucksArmy for insights into every Swedish game and prospect’s performance.
Now, let’s delve into the updates and, as always, kick off with the latest statistics.
We’ll begin in the Ontario Hockey League, as we saw a familiar name double back for his second go-around.
Josh Bloom, who turned pro after a four-year stint split between the Saginaw Spirit and North Bay Battalion, has been loaned back to the Spirit.
The path from the AHL to the ECHL and then back to the OHL is atypical, and while it may not be the most favourable route, both Bloom and the organization believed it was the right time to take a step back and continue his development.
He is just 20-years-old, after all.
Unfortunately, given the lineup dynamics and lack of experience, Bloom never truly received a fair opportunity in Abbotsford.
After limited minutes, Bloom was demoted to the ECHL to fill the gap left by Ty Glover, who had earned his way back to Abbotsford with an impressive 23-point performance over 15 games in Kalamazoo.
Unfortunately, Bloom couldn’t find his stride in the ECHL either, registering just two assists across eight games.
While a lack of production in the AHL is one thing, struggling in the ECHL brings up a whole new package of concerns.
To protect his confidence and offer him a chance to regain his scoring touch, the organization made a strategic move to loan him back to the OHL.
Saginaw will host the Memorial Cup this year, meaning he will get a long run to showcase himself before circling back to the pro level next season.
In his two games with Saginaw, lining up alongside future expected NHL star Michael Misa on the top line, Bloom has yet to record any points.
If you can believe it, we saw another productive week for Hunter Brzustewicz, as he became the first OHL skater to reach the 60-point milestone this season.
With a goal and four assists, he now boasts 62 points and continues to lead the OHL scoring race.
Impressively, his 54 assists also sit atop the entire Canadian Hockey League.
His goal was impressive, intercepting a pass in the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-0 opportunity and executing the give-and-go.
Throughout the year, various Kitchener Rangers have been in the mix for the league’s scoring title.
However, in the past month or so, a new contender has emerged, trailing Brzustewicz by just one point.
Anthony Romani, an undrafted overager playing in North Bay, is currently on a 15-game point streak, amassing 28 points during that impressive stretch.
Scoring titles mean nothing, especially for a defensive prospect, but as we’ve mentioned numerous times throughout the year — it’s a fun accolade to track.
Vilmer Alriksson got back in the scoring column, snapping a 13-game goalless streak for his eighth of the year.
The goal showcases his tremendous reach, protecting the puck before cutting into the middle to snap it home.
He also picked up an assist, putting him up to 23 points over 39 games, good for sixth among the Guelph Storm.
Kirill Kudryavtsev also snapped a streak, closing the book on a six-game pointless skid, collecting an assist off a point shot.
As we head into the final stretches of the season, we find all four Canuck prospects suiting up for a team ranked within the top six of the league.
Spring is shaping up to be an exciting time, with at least one player (Bloom) having already secured a ticket to the Memorial Cup.
For the first time in what feels like the entire season, there’s some positive news for Joni Jurmo.
After struggling to find his place with Ilves, he has been transferred to KooKoo (Liiga).
This transfer sees him playing out the remainder of the season on loan after signing a new contract that kicks in next year, running through the 2024-25 season.
“Jurmo has interesting strengths and talent to develop into an NHL player. Strong skating combined with the dimension brought by size is a combination that enables efficient playing in two directions,” KooKoo’s sports director Jarno Kultanen described in their press release.
Keep in mind, the Canucks still have until this offseason to sign him to an NHL contract, should there be interest.
Jurmo played in two matches with his new club over the weekend, totalling 10:21 and 16:18 of ice time. He notched his first point with his new club with a secondary assist.
Perhaps a change of scenery can breathe new life into his season.
Lucas Forsell didn’t see any additional minutes, skating on the fourth line in both weekly matches, but he did manage to find the goal column.
In typical Forsell fashion, he fought and clawed his way to the net front, cleaning up the garbage for his second goal of the SHL regular season, snapping a 19-game skid.
After 15 relatively quiet NCAA games, Daimon Gardner got on the board, scoring his first collegiate goal as a freshman with Clarkson University.
We’re still hoping for more from the 19-year-old, but it’s encouraging to see him get the first one off of his chest.
Who knows, perhaps the floodgates have opened.
The quest for Aku Koskenvuo’s first victory in the 2023-24 season continues after another substantial loss, conceding seven goals on just 31 shots.
His current record stands at 0-4-2 with a 3.98 goals-against average and a save percentage of .891 for the season.
If you caught last week’s installment, we alluded to Ty Young’s struggles to stay consistent this year.
Well, once again, we may have delivered a Blackfish bump, as Young had a strong stretch, building off of his previous week.
He found himself on a three-game winning streak, stopping 106 out of 110 shots. In those three games, he was awarded the first (x2) and second stars, respectively.
He backed that up with a loss over the weekend but had a strong outing nonetheless, allowing just three goals on 35 shots.
Those are some nice bounceback numbers, if I say so myself.
Sawyer Mynio picked up an assist over two games this week.
We covered the World Juniors quite extensively here at CanucksArmy, so we direct you to the website for all of your updates.
It was a strong tournament for all three prospects, especially for Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who took home the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honours.
Much like last week, we’ll reflect on the first half of the season and share some thoughts on each prospect suiting up in Abbotsford.
Let’s start with last year’s big trade piece.
Considering the expectations that accompanied his entry into the organization, there is no doubt that Aatu Räty faces added pressure to succeed.
While he has not exceeded them, he has met these expectations well and has been consistently getting better as the season progresses, emerging as a key contributor to the Abbotsford Canucks’ success.
One aspect of his game that we’ve admired is his versatility.
Similar to Pius Suter’s impact in Vancouver, Räty has seamlessly adjusted to various roles within the lineup, transitioning back and forth from a bottom-six role player to a top-line playmaker, while switching between center and wing.
On top of that, he’s been a factor on both special team units and has adapted to every demand thrown at him from Head Coach Jeremy Colliton.
While there is an obvious theme across the Vancouver fan base to see his development progress as a reliable center, the bulk of his success has come from playing on the wing.
Despite being proficient in the faceoff circle, we do question whether playing up the middle is a viable pathway for him.
One of the major factors influencing this is his skating ability, which, do not get it twisted, has come a long way. However, it continues to show an awkward stand-up style which makes it quite inefficient.
His skating shouldn’t impede his transition to the next level, but it does prompt considerations about his viability as an NHL center.
Secondly, he has not been a huge play-driver, and while he is putting points on the board, he’s utilizing his linemates much more than he is creating.
Across 31 games, the multi-use forward has contributed 14 assists and 22 points, with only four of those assists being primary.
Räty has made commendable progress in many aspects, but there is no need to rush his development, with all the additional options that they have in Abbotsford.
While Aatu Räty has yet to impress as a play driver, the opposite can be said about Max Sasson.
His future NHL upside may not extend beyond a 3rd or 4th center, but the 23-year-old has displayed an intriguing skill set.
His energy and relentless work ethic are what truly sticks out in his game.
He is a strong skater, possesses a good shot, and is unafraid to engage in physical battles, whether in the corners or at the netfront.
Above all else, he appears to carry the ability to elevate the play of those around him and feels like the go-to option for Colliton to turn to when others require a production boost.
His 18 points place him sixth on the team, and he leads the Canucks in even-strength goals with eight. Additionally, six out of his eight assists have been primary, while 17 of his 18 points have come at even strength — he’s a plus-12 on the year, outscoring opponents 23-12, leading the team in this aspect.
At this point, he may very well be Vancouver’s top two call-up options up the middle.
Speaking of call-up options, at some point, Arshdeep Bains‘ persistent efforts have to award him a cup of coffee, right?
The Surrey native remains a ‘feel-good’ story, transitioning from an undrafted prospect to becoming one of Abbotford’s more formidable producers in his second year after a stellar rookie season.
There’s much to admire about his game—he possesses speed, a strong work ethic, a willingness to contribute in any situation, and doesn’t shy away from his defensive responsibilities.
To find any constructive criticism might be his occasional tendency to |do too much| and attempt flashy plays with spins and heroics.
Additionally, he could benefit from shooting the puck more, as he tends to lean toward a pass-first mentality, despite having showcased the ability to score some remarkable goals.
We saw that shot in Sunday’s match, as he delivered this incredibly patient rocket to the top corner.
He has just 39 shots on target, which is on par with names such as Marc Gatcomb, John Stevens, Filip Johansson, Christian Wolanin, and Cole McWard.
A player with his skillset should be well above this list.
Overall, his offensive gifts, along with his ability to kill penalties and play a two-way game make him the perfect “Tocchet type” and at this point, fully deserves a look at the NHL level.
Keeping with the theme of “Tocchet types,” Tristen Nielsen is the gift that keeps on giving and is heating up at the AHL level.
He’s currently sitting sixth on the team with 16 points and is a point-per-game player over his last seven games.
Points are fantastic, but it’s his overall grit and work ethic that truly stands out.
This kid never quits, and whether his team is up, or down five goals, he is tracking his opponents and throwing out his body.
His 5-foot-10 stature may be a slight hindrance toward his overall NHL upside, but the way he plays, it probably shouldn’t be.
Given the names above him on the depth chart, he’s not likely to receive a call-up anytime soon, but if he can continue this into next season, it’s going to be difficult to look past him.
As Faber would say, he’s got that DAWG in him.
Danila Klimovich has that in him as well, but following an impressive 29-point performance last year, this season has taken a much different turn, marked by injuries and inconsistent play.
With only seven games in the lineup, it’s been challenging for him to establish a rhythm, and his returns to the lineup have often resulted in scrambled play.
Most of Klimovich’s absences have been attributed to injuries, but there have also been instances of healthy scratches mixed in and given his lack of game, we will refrain from digging too deep.
Similar to Klimovich, Dmitri Zlodeev has had limited usage this season, missing the first 19 games of the Abbotsford schedule.
Based on the limited glimpses we’ve seen, he possesses a solid skill set, though not overly impactful.
One notable aspect is his choppy skating stride, but he compensates with good speed and a relentless work ethic on the ice.
Zlodeev even displayed some offensive flair, netting his first AHL career goal with a well-placed shot to the top corner off of an offensive zone turnover.
Much like Klimovich, we won’t dig too deep, considering his limited usage.
Aidan McDonough was a prolific goalscorer in college, showcasing an elite-level shot. However, his transition to the professional ranks has been anything but smooth.
His skating, a significant concern heading into his pro career, has continued to be a challenge, preventing him from fully capitalizing on his lethal release. The skills are there, he just needs to find a way to generate and utilize them.
While glimpses of his potent shot emerge occasionally, overall, his performances have often left observers wanting more.
The 24-year-old forward has accumulated just seven points in 24 games and for now, a call-up to the NHL doesn’t appear imminent at this point.
Closing out the forward group, we have Ty Glover.
The appeal isn’t necessarily rooted in the expectation of significant NHL potential, but rather in recognizing the value he could bring to the organization. While there might be a limited bottom-line NHL potential in his game, there are several positive aspects to appreciate.
Glover is a sizable player who doesn’t shy away from using his frame, yet he can also skate well and carries a quick release–a rare combination that certainly does not grow on trees.
After a strong stint in the ECHL stands out, with 23 points in 13 games he recently earned his second stint with Abbotsford, and he has contributed three points in nine games this time around.
Used throughout the lineup, Glover may not generate immediate excitement in terms of Vancouver, but he certainly brings a significant amount of grit to the Abbotsford lineup.
We will close it out there for the week and will cover the backend and goaltending in next week’s edition.
Over this next week, the schedule opens back up as many of the NCAA players will be back, as well as our prospects overseas.
Thanks for tuning in for another week, and see you next Tuesday.
Recent articles from Dave Hall
- Blackfish: Lekkerimäki lights the lamp, two exciting promotions, and a couple Swedes on the verge of elimination
- 2024 midterm Vancouver Canucks prospect rankings: Honourable mentions outside of the top-10
- Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Conor Garland stays hot, Nils Höglander jumps up, and Noah Juulsen remains steady