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Blackfish: One thing for each Canucks prospect to improve on this summer

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Photo credit:Nick Barden
Dave Hall
2 days ago
Welcome back to the Blackfish prospect report.
Aside from the NHL Draft and Development Camp, it’s been relatively quiet on the prospect front. If you missed our coverage of both events, be sure to check it out on CanucksArmy.
 
Today, we’ll quickly review each prospect and highlight at least one key area we hope they will focus on improving in the coming year. Speed round, let’s go!

Abbotsford Canucks

We may be in the dog days of July, but the Abbotsford Canucks did announce their opening weekend schedule. The first games of the 2024-25 campaign at the Abbotsford Centre will be on October 25 and 26th. The full schedule has yet to be released, but we should know more in the next couple of weeks. This team will look quite different from their team last year, and that includes behind the bench, where Manny Malhotra will now occupy.
As for the players, let’s check in on a few things we are hoping for from some of their youngsters.
For the organization’s crown jewel prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, hitting the weights will be essential. He added tons of pizzazz to his SHL game last season and even showed moments of cutting into the middle of the ice. While he didn’t look out of place at the AHL level, adding strength will help him consistently compete in corners and puck battles on a nightly basis. The offence is there; now it’s time to round out the remaining tools.
Aatu Räty made significant strides during the 2023-24 campaign and even improved his skating. With that said, there’s still tons of room for improvement, and we would like to see more drive from the 21-year-old Finn. Adding strength to his legs to be a more dominant player on the puck would go a long way. Realistically, everything has to do with the feet, as the rest offer strong potential.
Arshdeep Bains had a strong AHL season but struggled at the NHL level. With firsthand experience of what it takes to stand out at the NHL level, we expect him to bulk up and enhance his power game to compete for a spot in the fall. We like his game, so it’s all cliché stuff for Bains — power and speed.
Speaking of speed, we have no concerns with Max Sasson in that department. He also plays an impressive two-way game. We’d like to see him get stronger and improve his face-off ability to elevate his play further. Both skills are at a good level, but we firmly believe he could play a fourth-line centre role as early as October. Bolstering those areas would make him a tough cut out of training camp.
At 24, Tristen Nielsen is hardly a prospect and, realistically, may have realized his potential. Despite his age, we believe his tenacity and crafty hands offer NHL call-up potential for a crash-and-bang role. At this point, it’s just a matter of playing his game and waiting for that opportunity.
Josh Bloom plays with tenacity and heart, and even though it didn’t work out in the AHL last season, he was certainly noticeable on the ice. He’s a waterbug. The issue was that his size did not match his work ethic, and he was unable to flex the offensive muscles that he had showcased at the Junior level. All of it’s there; it’s just a matter of finding his game at the next level. We believe adding weight while working on using his compete to drive the net will drastically up his potential to produce in Abby.
After three years at Nebraska-Omaha, Ty Mueller transitions to the pro level with Abbotsford. As is typically the case with newer recruits, he needs to focus on physical development to handle the demands of professional play. Adding power to his established two-way game will be key to not only snagging but also keeping a spot in Abby.
Danila Klimovich faced setbacks in nearly every department last season and needs to rebuild his confidence. At times, it almost felt like he was missing his drive to be on the ice. Working on getting that fire back and boosting his confidence will be critical to a much-needed bounce-back year. Perhaps Manny Malhotra will give him the boost needed to regain form. At the very least, get the kid back on the powerplay, please.
Ty Glover possesses size, speed, and a good shot. Now, it’s just a matter of putting it all together consistently at the AHL level.
The Canucks lost Nikita Zadorov this summer, but Elias Pettersson is a homegrown talent worth keeping an eye on. He’s big, and he’s nasty to play against. We love the snarl, and we like the skating. So adding some more offence to his game, particularly shot selection and velocity, will go a long way in his transition to North American hockey. He only played in eight games, but physicality was a non-issue.
Jett Woo continues to improve year-to-year, and with yet another one-year “show me” deal with the Canucks, we expect much of the same. Woo already plays a hard-nosed style of hockey that focuses on the defensive side of the puck. But he’s even added some offensive flair to his professional resume. With that said, we’d love to see him work on his shot from the point. As a go-to penalty killer and known minute muncher, adding some juice to his point shot could add some new elements to his potential of finally throwing on a Vancouver Canuck sweater.
We are happy with steady-eddy Cole McWard and believe he could slide in as a competent 6-7 defender for Vancouver as early as October. His two-way game is solid, but, much like Woo, improving his offensive game would do wonders for his eventual upside. At this stage, it’s probably safe to say that he’s no more than a solid two-way defender with little offensive upside. But hey, we can always dream.
Simply put, we need to see more of Akito Hirose next year. After a leg injury that forced him out of much of the season, he appeared to have lost a step and generally did not stick out for the right reasons last season. As always with an undersized defender, strengthening his frame is always the name of the game.
As for the goaltenders, our ask is simple: Games.
For Arturs Silovs, we want as many games — preferably NHL — as possible. As for Nikita Tolopilo, we just want as many AHL games as possible.

OHL

If you can believe it, Vilmer Alriksson has added even more weight and now stands at a whopping 235 lbs. While there were signs of it last season, we’d still like him to use that incredible weight to his advantage. For such a powerful frame, he doesn’t always use it like a power forward. If he can add that power game to his repertoire consistently, things could get very interesting for this fourth-round prospect.
It’s tough to put a precise thought on where Kirill Kudryavtsev will suit up next season. There’s not a ton of room in Abby, so it looks like it may be ECHL or OHL, and we get the sense that a return for his fourth and final year in the Soo is probable. In that case, we want to see him take over games as a junior veteran. Offensive numbers aren’t the be-all-end-all, especially with defenders, but we’d love for him to stand out as an OHL star on the backend and command games before making his official transition.
Riley Patterson showed promise at Development Camp with his soft hands and high offensive instincts. With an upright stance, improving his skating will be crucial for making the next jump. However, at just 18, he has plenty of time to develop, and we love the high work rate that will only benefit from fleeter feet. We anticipate a big sophomore season in Barrie.
The same sentiment goes for Anthony Romani, who showed clear offensive skills at Development Camp. It’s pretty evident what fetched him 58 goals and 111 points last season. However, he needs to work on his feet. Enhancing his edgework and overall speed will add some very interesting elements to an already established offensive game. We’d also love to see more compete in his game.
Basile Sansonnens is young and raw but has defensive potential. Improving his all-around game and puck-moving abilities will be areas worth monitoring over the next few seasons. He’ll get plenty of opportunities in Rimouski to sharpen his skills.

WHL

Sawyer Mynio has all the tools you look for in a two-way defender but needs to refine his reads and timing. Reducing unnecessary plays and toning down his aggressive defending — which can catch him in tough spots — would be good places to start. He’ll have a chance to turn pro next spring, so the 2024-25 campaign will be big for him as he takes the reigns of the Seattle Thunderbird backend.
Parker Alcos shows intriguing potential at just 17 years old — skating, in particular. Focusing on filling out his 6’3 frame will be a key focus over the next few years. If he can add some weight to his already tall frame, there is strong intrigue from a smooth-skating right-shot defender.
We continue our push for goaltender games. However, that may be a tall ask for Ty Young, who lost the starting job to a younger and star-studded netminder in Joshua Ravensbergen. He can’t work on this himself, but perhaps we will ask for a trade to see him get more games in his fourth and final WHL season.

NCAA

Tom Willander has elite individual skills but needs to bring everything together consistently on North American ice. Improving decision-making with the puck and playing with a controlled pace are elements that we hope to see improved for next season. Obviously, we’d love to see a bit more offensive pop to his game, and that all starts with stronger transitions and decisions. All eyes will be on him as he takes the reigns of his BU backend.
Lower down on that backend, we have Aiden Celebrini, who struggled to stay relevant in BU’s lineup last year. Already a fine defensive player, he’ll need to round out his entire game to seek a higher role.
Jackson Dorrington is a big-bodied, defensive-minded defender. We saw some added offensive numbers, but we would love to see a more two-way game and developed skating ability.
Matthew Perkins had a decent freshman year at Minnesota Duluth, but we’d like to see more. We saw some tenacity at Development Camp, and we’d like to see more of that in his sophomore year. The tools are there, but there’s still tons of work to be done.
Jackson Kunz is a big body who enjoys planting himself at the netfront, which is great. Adding some additional elements to his offensive toolkit would be beneficial. However, that may be a tall task at this point.
Daimon Gardner has a 6’4, 200 lbs frame — use it. With a year of NCAA hockey under his belt, the hope is that he can use that experience to gain the necessary drive to make it as a power forward. He has some soft skills, but it’s his power game that’s going to be the deciding factor in his transitioning. Here’s hoping we see more of that next season.
Surpsie, we just want more games for Aku Koskenvuo. He showed some significant promise on a less-than-stellar Harvard squad last year, and we just want to see him grow on those numbers and get more starts. Could he turn pro after this season? It’s certainly a possibility.

Sweden

Melvin Fernström is a few years away from crossing the pond. In the meantime, he needs to focus on filling out physically and improving his skating. The offensive mind and tools are compelling, but it’s just a matter of being able to withstand the North American game.
Lucas Forsell needs more opportunities in the SHL — with a bullet. We love his work ethic and offensive tools. It’s just a matter of being able to showcase them consistently. Playing on a powerhouse Farjastad team, ice time was nearly impossible for a 20-year-old last year, but we certainly hope to see more of him in 2024-25.
Hugo Gabrielson is probably a long shot to make the trip across the pond, so we’d like to see him just take that next step and change our minds.
Look out for further Blackfish reports throughout the summer! As always, feel free to leave a comment for players or topics of interest.
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