Photo credit:Nick Barden
Blackfish: Vilmer Alriksson makes his presence felt, Jackson Dorrington shines in elevated role and Aatu Räty stays red-hot
By Dave Hall2 months ago
Welcome back to another edition of Blackfish — CanucksArmy’s Vancouver Canucks weekly prospect report.
Many prospects are roughly a quarter of the way through their seasons, and it’s still a little surreal to see how well the pipeline is performing, to be honest.
While some have ever-so-slightly slowed their roll, it has been a tremendous first quarter for a once-dwindled prospect pool all in all.
This week saw a certain Swedish prospect bring some tantalizing highlights, an Abbotsford Canuck forward continue his red-hot production, and an NCAA defender grab a noteworthy accolade.
Before we break it down, here are the updated statistics.
As always, we begin this column in the American Hockey League, where the Abbotsford Canucks came into the weekend sporting a five-game winning streak, which included a personal four-game streak for netminder Artūrs Šilovs.
The issue? They squared off against the Calgary Wranglers, a Division rival, who sit atop the Pacific Division and second league-wide on the backs of stellar goaltending from their tandem of Dustin Wolf and Oscar Dansk.
Šilovs started game one on Friday and played well despite the team losing 3-1. He made 23 saves and gave up just two goals to the red-hot Wranglers, but the team’s offence just wasn’t enough.
Ultimately, he was outdueled by his opponent, Dustin Wolf, who made 41 saves for the win and stretched his impressive record against Abbotsford to a whopping 12-3-0 (this includes last year’s playoff series).
The only goal that got past Wolf came from Linus Karlsson.
Filip Johansson provided the primary assist on the goal, one of two points he would grab over the weekend. In what seems to be a common theme for Johansson, the assist came from a point shot that deflected wide to Karlsson, who fired the puck behind an outstretched Wolf for his third goal of the season.
Johansson’s second point of the weekend happened to be his first career AHL goal, which came from a quick but innocuous snapshot from the right wing that caught goaltender Oscar Dansk by surprise.
The two points give Johansson five total on the season while trucking along primarily on a second pairing alongside veteran blueliner Matt Irwin.
Jumping back to the Karlsson goal, Aatu Räty picked up a secondary assist, adding to his already impressive ledger over the past few weeks.
Sunday’s game sang a wildly different tune as the Canucks strung together a dominant 7-2 victory, which included the below goal from Räty. They also happened to chase Dustin Wolf, who started both games of the back-to-back, scoring sweet revenge with four goals on just 12 shots.
Räty picked up three points over the weekend, including this tremendous effort on the man advantage. After taking the pass on the goal line, Räty made an incredibly smooth in-and-out move to freeze Wolf before ripping the puck top shelf.
This goal epitomizes the incredible swagger that Räty has exuded over the last few weeks. The three points against Calgary gave him five over his last three games and 13 over his last 14.
He has been one of if not the Canucks most consistent producers and is oozing with confidence at the moment. His skating remains a work in progress—and it does need work—but the rest of the tools are getting sharper by the week.
Looking over at Vasily Podkolzin, he had a quiet Friday game and seemed a bit out of sorts. However, in the second leg of the back-to-back, he looked much more engaged, picking up a couple of assists in the lopsided victory.
First, the primary assist on the above goal from Filip Johansson, and then a secondary assist on this one.
This was an encouraging point for Podkolzin, in it, he showed good power and determination getting into the zone before cutting back to shake the defenceman before dropping the puck to the point for a shot attempt. The assist was his first point since returning from injury.
We saw tons of plays like this before his injury, so it was good seeing him slowly getting things back in order.
The goalscorer on Podkolzin’s play was Aidan McDonough, who returned to the lineup after missing some time with an injury.
The deflection goal was his third of the season and one of two points in the game, as he provided the primary assist on the slick Räty goal above.
McDonough has struggled to find his rhythm at the AHL level thus far. Scoring a goal in his first few games back from injury gets the monkey off his back, hopefully leading to more production down the stretch.
Jeremy Collition is doing what he can to help boost those confidence levels, deploying McDonough on the second line with Podkolzin and Jack Studnicka over the weekend.
Jett Woo also picked up a two-point effort on Sunday, collecting the primary assist on McDonough’s deflection goal and the secondary apple on Räty’s power play tally.
With the big club’s recent call-up of Akito Hirso and Cole McWard and the lingering injury to Christian Wolanin, Woo has taken the reigns as the club’s go-to guy. He’s playing in all situations while delivering his usual gritty, two-way playstyle.
We are definitely starting to come around to the idea of giving him an audition with the big club, should injuries continue to rise in Vancouver. But that may be tough to accomplish given Woo’s contract status, as he is now waiver-eligible. It’d be difficult to risk losing him on waivers over a cup of coffee with Vancouver. At this point, the only logical way for him to catch a sniff is for a long-term injury to occur—which, of course, we hope is never the case—or by knocking down the door for a permanent NHL roster spot.
Of course, that is all on the back burner right now, as he left Sunday’s match early after taking a vicious cross-check in the second period. As a result, Alex Gallant, of the Wranglers, was handed a match penalty and a four-game suspension from the league for the hit.
Currently, there are no updates on Woo’s health, but we hope he can return to the lineup on Friday against the visiting Laval.
Tristen Nielsen collected his first goal since returning to the lineup last weekend.
Finally, Nikita Tolopilo posted a second consecutive strong win, giving him four on the season. He made 29 saves in the effort and managed to crawl his save percentage back above the .900 mark (.907).
Strong goaltending continues to be a significant factor in the Abbotsford Canucks’ recent stretch of success.
The injuries keep piling up, as Arshdeep Bains missed both games this past weekend after taking a hit and leaving early in the previous weekend’s match. Though, it does not appear to be anything long-term.
In the “tweener” section, we have Ty Glover.
The 23-year-old, part of the Jack Rathbone deal, continues to plug along as a “probably too good for the ECHL” threat.
He picked up another four points over the week and now sits with five goals and 11 points through eight games at the ECHL level.
Despite not showing any statistical proof, Glover looked at home in a bottom-six role for the Canucks during his short five-game stint. Playing time is king, so it may not benefit him to alternate time between the press box and sheltered minutes at the AHL level. However, his production in the ECHL may be worthy of a longer look in Abbotsford.
He skates well, has a heavy shot, and is no stranger to throwing his weight around.
As has been the case every single week, thus far, Hunter Brzustewicz leads the charge in our OHL section. This week, it was to the tune of four secondary assists and nine shots on net over four games.
Since they were all of the secondary variety, and nothing extremely noteworthy, we won’t be posting any clips. However, he’s now officially hit the 40-point mark in just 24 games, putting him leaps above any other defenders in the entire Canadian Hockey League.
It took him 68 games to achieve 57 points in his rookie season (last year) and is now just 17 points shy of that mark.
There have been a lot of questions geared toward him being included on Team USA for this year’s World Junior Championship, and rightfully so.
As it stands, it’s clear that his statistical output has put him on the radar to etch a spot on the final roster.
In the past, however, the US Program has shied away from choosing prospects who have decided to take their talents to the CHL. It seems a bit spiteful, but based on prior history, is certainly a possibility and with some strong names already in the mix for their right side, Brzustewicz may not be as much of a “lock” as some may think.
Hopefully, his numbers are simply too hard to look past. However, don’t be shocked to see him get snubbed come decision time.
Vilmer Alriksson had a big week, notching assists in each of his three games, which was highlighted by some big-league moments on Saturday.
First, the young Swede dropped the gloves with another 6-foot-5 mammoth, Roman Schmidt, for his first career fight. It ended in a draw, but it was a great effort from both sides, and we love to see him use his body to spark up his team.
Shortly following his exit from the penalty box, he went to work. Grabbing the puck in his end, he skated down the ice, showcasing his strong reach to protect the puck. From there, he exhibited some slick vision, one-handing the puck around the last defender for one of the slickest helpers you’ll see.
Alriksson possesses some intriguing qualities, and the fact that he’s willing to go toe-to-toe just makes him all that more intriguing. With 14 points, he’s shown he can provide offence, skates well, and always finishes checks with a non-stop motor.
Kirill Kudryavtsev continued his strong stretch of hockey, grabbing two more assists and 11 shots over a three-game stretch this week.
He’s firing at a 1.14 pace over his last seven games and his 19 assists currently share the fourth spot among OHL defenders.
Just one week removed from mentioning that Northeastern was going through a disastrous stretch of hockey, they burst on the scene and dropped nine goals in a single game.
That’s the Blackfish report bump, at its finest.
Jackson Dorrington, a 2022 sixth-round pick, was elevated to the team’s top pairing over the weekend and made an immediate impact. He contributed three points and was a plus-seven over two games.
He scored this beautiful goal, making a few defenders look foolish with two slick toe-drags to find his second goal of the season.
These points mark his first time hitting the scoresheet since his opening game, where he scored his first collegiate goal.
Their opponents, Rensselaer University, are in just as much of a funk as Northeastern, so it’s not a huge shock to see one of them burst out. However, it’s a nice touch to see the Canuck prospect flourish in an elevated role.
His contributions did not go unnoticed, as he was named Hockey East Defender of the Week.
Jacob Truscott picked up his second goal of the year, but it wasn’t quite on the same level as Dorrington’s…
After taking a shot, the St. Cloud University defender attempted to clear the puck, and it appeared to have hit his own teammate before jumping up into the air and somehow finding the back of the net.
They don’t get much quirkier than that, folks.
We did not see any Tom Willander points this week, but we did get to see this incredible play from him and his Boston University linemates.
Caution: this clip may invoke motion sickness.
Jack Malone secured another assist over the weekend, bringing his season total to eight points (four goals and four assists) in 14 games. Starting last weekend, he began a stint as Boston College’s third-line center, and it seems that role continued through this week.
Jackson Kunz picked up his first goal of the year, going for a promising skate, and banging in his own rebound.
Finally, Aku Koskenvuo grabbed another start, and once again, couldn’t catch a break.
Despite giving up six goals in yet another one-goal loss, he made 43 saves and was one of the game’s best players, as his Harvard Crimson were outshot 49-22.
Obviously, allowing six goals isn’t ideal, and failing to grab a win over three starts does not bode well for his brand. Yet, overall, he has looked decent between the pipes and should continue getting split starts.
After missing a few games, Elias Pettersson returned to his Västerås lineup and assumed his third-pairing role. Although, it was a tough return, going pointless and a minus-three over a three-game stretch.
Regardless, it’s encouraging to see him back, as this once again opens the door for him to solidify a spot on Team Sweden’s defensive corps next month.
Hugo Gabrielson picked up two more points over the week, which included his second goal of the season.
Suddenly, he finds himself on a three-game point streak.
It’s been relatively quiet for Jonathan Lekkerimäki since his return from a strong showing at the Five-Nations tournament. In fact, it’s been a subpar stretch, as a whole, for Örebro, scoring just four goals across three games.
This week, however, Lekkerimäki finally got himself back on the scoresheet with a secondary assist. Using his patented one-timer on the power play, he created a scramble in front of the net, snapping a three-game SHL pointless streak.
The shot was one of his six on the week.
The 19-year-old has only a few more games before his team hits a break, and he joins Team Sweden to take part in this year’s World Junior Championships. While the team has yet to be officially announced, there should be no reason for him not only to be a participant but a key factor in their top-six success.
Lucas Forsell showcased his usual tricks in the Champions League, eventually getting credit for what he does best – crashing and banging.
Planting himself in the crease, Forsell ended up deflecting a shot off his skate for his third goal and fifth point in the CHL tournament.
This tally would kickstart a six-goal performance for Farjestad, catapulting the squad to a berth in the quarter-finals, which is set to take place on December 5th, 2023.
For those who are not familiar with the CHL, and have been a little confused over the past few installments, here is a brief outline.
Similar to soccer’s FA Cup, the Champions Hockey League is composed of 24 teams from 11 European leagues.
Throughout the season, their respective leagues will take a break from league action, as their represented teams compete in a season-long tournament.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s Orebro was also involved in the tournament but has since been eliminated.
Playing in four games over the week, Sawyer Mynio added another two points to his stat sheet, which included his third goal and 11th point of the year. He was also extremely active, unleashing a whopping 18 shots on net and six penalty minutes.
His goal was a doozy.
He also contributed an impressive assist, doing most of the work himself with the dump and chase.
In his draft plus-one year, Mynio continues to log significant minutes on both of the Seattle Thunderbirds’ top special teams units, as well as their first pairing.
While it’s still a little early to be putting a finger on his future NHL upside, there’s certainly an intriguing profile to have him develop into a top-flight AHL defenceman, at the very least. He is proving to be a notable prospect worth keeping close tabs on.
Ty Young backstopped the Cougars in one match this week, making 21 saves in a 6-4 Prince George victory. He shares the third spot in WHL wins with 10, and sports a 3.19 goals against average and 0.882 save percentage across 15 starts.
That will do it for another week of prospect updates. See you next week!
Unleash the Darkness with the Nation Gear Blackout Collection! Embrace the bold and gear up with ALL NEW STYLES of our exclusive line only available for a LIMITED TIME. Don’t miss out on grabbing your fav team’s gear in the baddest styles before they’re gone!
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