Photo credit:Nick Barden
Blackfish: World Junior invites, Hugo Gabrielson’s goalscoring, Sawyer Mynio’s 4 point game, and more
By Dave Hall2 months ago
Welcome back to another week of the Blackfish Prospect report.
As we approach the holiday season, the hockey landscape is settling down. Many collegiate teams have concluded their games for the next few weeks, and the European circuit will follow suit shortly.
Aside from the usual highlights, this week’s notable news revolves around World Junior camp invites, with one particular case standing out. We also saw an unexpected goal scorer emerge from the Allsvenskan while another defender padded his stat sheet over in the WHL.
Let’s check on our updated statistics.
The Abbotsford Canucks entered the weekend with a strong 8-2-0 record over their last 10 matches, sitting comfortably in second place within the Pacific Division. On the opposite end, the Coachella Valley Firebirds came in sporting an impressive 8-1-0 away record.
Things did not work out for the Canucks in their first match against the Firebirds, as they dropped a lopsided 8-3 defeat on Halloween night.
Well, this past weekend’s series was no different, with the Canucks dropping both matches.
The team continued to rotate goaltenders, with Artūrs Šilovs starting the first game and Nikita Tolopilo getting the second leg. Both put in strong performances, making 32 and 31 saves, respectively. However, despite their efforts, the Canucks suffered 4–2 defeats in both games.
On both occasions, the team in front of the goaltenders struggled to play convincingly, leading to long stints of sustained pressure from the Firebirds.
Quite honestly, without the goalies’ steady play, the outcomes from each could have been worse. The Canucks have enjoyed strong play over the last two months, and this weekend was far from indicative of their actual ability.
Tristen Nielsen stood out as the player of the weekend for the Abbotsford Canucks, showcasing his typical pest-like brand of hockey and providing a spark for the team on the physical side and the scoresheet.
He recorded a goal and added two assists during the weekend.
He was essentially ready to shoot the second he hit the ice here, winding up and firing home his sixth goal of the season to tie Friday’s game at two apiece. Christian Wolanin put the puck on a tee for him, while Aatu Räty grabbed the secondary assist.
Nielsen also added a nice assist from the corner, delivering a cross-ice feed to Sheldon Dries for the redirect, putting him just one point shy of a point-per-game pace on the season.
Some folks in our comments section have questioned why Nielsen is not part of discussions for a call-up to Vancouver.
Admittedly, it’s a valid point.
However, in the grand scheme of things, while his style of play brings energy and his game oozes promise as a bottom-six energy player, Vancouver simply has too many options ahead of him on the shortlist. Vasily Podkolzin, Jack Studnicka, Sheldon Dries, Arshdeep Bains…you get the picture.
This weekend, Nielsen was on the ice for six of Coachella’s eight goals scored, which surely drew notice from Abbotsford and, by extension, Vancouver’s coaching staff.
Nevertheless, with Nielsen’s dynamic mix of skill and never-quit motor, a future where he earns a chance to make an appearance on an NHL ice surface certainly feels within the realm of possibility.
Speaking of NHL futures, Aatu Räty was moved back to the wing over the weekend. Of course, we saw shifts where he would draw back into the face-off dot, but he was primarily used on the left side for both matches.
While everyone wants to see him thrive up the middle, it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. He contributed with two assists over the weekend and continues to lead the team in 5v5 points with 13 total. Across all situations, Räty has 15 points.
One notable play involved Räty showcasing effective leg work in the corner to beat the puck, before setting up the pass leading to a Linus Karlsson goal, who had just been sent back down to the AHL after a brief stint with Vancouver.
While Räty is no slouch in the face-off circle and plays very well defensively, we wonder if his skating will hold back his ability to translate his game to the next level.
Make no mistake: Räty’s skating improved over the summer. However, there is still some work to be done. His patchy stride issues show toward the end of shifts after he’s lost a bit of steam. Hopefully, his skating can take additional steps as the season progresses. Additionally, as Räty accrues more minutes in tough matchups in the top six, he’ll further understand the energy/physicality needed to be a successful top-line center in the AHL and, eventually, the NHL.
It’s been a revolving door for the Abbotsford Canucks’ injury list. This past week saw the likes of Danila Klimovich, Max Sasson, Akito Hirose, Jett Woo, and Cole McWard miss matches.
Alright, folks, get ready.
We will wrap this week’s AHL section with a prospect that we have received tons of questions about.
After signing with the team in October, we finally got our first taste of Dmitri Zlodeev.
Firstly, it turns out that we have been wrong about the spelling this entire time, as it is “Dmitri Zlodeev” moving forward.
He did not see much ice time throughout the weekend, but there was enough to get a solid glimpse of what he has to offer.
The first thing that popped with his game was his motor and overall effort on the ice. His skating is clunky, but his defensive instincts are noticeable. Ultimately, he did not contribute much in the offensive zone, but that was to be expected considering his situation as a fourth-line forward making his debut against a top Division rival.
In his first game in months, Zlodeev was battling a new North American playing style and a much smaller ice surface while playing for a new team/country with a dramatically higher skill level than the Russian MHL and VHL.
Cody Severtson provided some good clips of Zlodeev’s shifts in his installment of The Farmies, so make sure to check that out!
Ty Glover continued to impress in the ECHL, racking up another 10 points last week (four games), including a hat-trick and a four-point night. He’s now put up four consecutive multipoint games.
With a 1.53 points per game clip, leading the entire league (above five games played), Glover’s toolkit has likely shown enough to earn a permanent spot in the American League, in my humble opinion. Although seeing NHL time might be considered a long shot, Glover’s skills, including a powerful shot and strong skating, make him an intriguing piece for the Abbotsford Canucks faithful.
Despite not hitting the scoresheet, Glover played well in his five-game AHL stint and looked at home in a bottom-six role. Given Abbotsford’s list of injuries, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher to see him plugging away in the ECHL.
It wouldn’t be a proper Blackfish report without a few Hunter Brzustewicz production updates.
As mentioned in the previous installment, the U.S.-born defenceman was not selected for this year’s World Junior team, despite impressive and downright absurd point totals.
The snubbing has led to a valid debate about Brzustewicz’s ability and whether his strong season is a credit to his skill or simply a product of a high-flying Kitchener Rangers squad that leads the OHL in goals.
Make no mistakes about it: Kitchener is a wagon.
They are scoring at will this year and have not let up in the slightest. They hold all three of the league’s top scorers, equating to some gimme-points for Brzustewicz along the way.
With that said, Brzutewicz is an extremely sound defender and plays in every situation imaginable. He may not carry any elite qualities, and there are reasonable concerns about his pace. Still, he displays one of the best IQs in the OHL, compensating for the “great at many things, but not elite at any one” aspect of his skillset.
Aside from the politics surrounding his early departure from the US Development Program, there is simply no justification to leave him off of the invite list.
In the context of looking at names that were invited over Brzustewicz, on the right side, specifically, we have Aram Minnetian and Eric Pohlkamp.
Minnetian, a recent Dallas Stars fourth-round draft pick, is in the midst of his Freshman year at Boston College. Through 16 games, the 5-foot-11 defender has put up one goal and four points while skating in a third-pairing role for the Eagles.
Eric Pohlkamp, meanwhile, is a recent fifth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks who has four goals and five assists, with a minus-8 through 16 games as a Freshman with Bemidji State University.
Both players physically profile similar to Brzustewicz, but have not been as effective in their respective roles. Again, while he may not have made the official roster, it’s astonishing to see him left off the invite list entirely.
He scored another five points this past week, including a goal and three primary assists.
In his first game post-USA snubbing, he posted two assists, which included this pretty one, which showcases his strong vision, spinning at the line and finding his teammate with the cross-ice feed.
In his next game, he posted another two points, which included this goal from the slot.
In overtime, he showcased a strong defensive effort, forcing a turnover and collecting his 50th point of the year.
He currently sits at 51 points in 31 games, which is just six shy of his 2022–23 totals despite over 30 fewer games.
If there was one positive of him being left out, it is that he’s likely to play with a giant chip on his shoulder throughout the second half of his D+1 campaign.
Over in Sault St. Marie, we have Kirill Kudryavtsev, who dropped three assists this week.
That included this heads-up assist, where he found his defensive partner, Andrew Gibson, at the net front for a tip-in.
He’s now up to 25 points in 30 games, but one thing that we have been incredibly impressed with in his game is his constant active stick.
As mentioned in the below tweet, Kudrayavtsev is not the most fleet of foot. To make up for it, he constantly maintains a clean gap and breaks up tons of plays with an active stick.
Their skating is not comparable, but Kudrayavtsev shares a similar active stick to Tom Willander, an aspect of his game that is on display every single game.
Over in Guelph, Vilmer Alriksson put up just a single assist, with 12 shots on net over four games.
We have liked the Swede’s ability to produce at 5v5 lately, which was lacking in the early stages of the season. He’s now up to 19 points, with 11 coming at even strength. His production is still not great, but his concerning 5v5 production has rebounded decently.
It’s been a quiet stretch for our Finnish prospects recently, with little noteworthy activity to report. Viktor Persson remains sidelined for the Pelicans due to a concussion, and there hasn’t been much information regarding his status.
Joni Jurmo, on the other hand, is facing some challenges with inconsistent play, leading to reduced ice time for Ilves. Over the past few weeks, he has found himself relegated to the role of an extra defender and has seen limited action, seeing just three minutes of action over the week.
This week brought the eagerly awaited news as Team Sweden announced its official 2024 World Junior Championship roster. As expected, the roster was highlighted by Canuck prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki.
This will mark the 19-year-old’s third and final run at the tournament. This time, he’s entering with a strong sense of confidence.
Expected to play a significant role in the team’s lineup, Lekkerimäki is anticipated to be one of the premier producers for Sweden throughout the tournament.
In his last game before the break to join the Swedish National team, he put a bow on the first half of his SHL campaign with a goal and an assist.
Finishing the first half of the season with 10 goals and 16 points, he sits 10th in goal scoring and continues to lead the way among the U24 circuit.
Recently, Lekkerimäki had an impressive showing in the Five Nations tournament, where he competed against fellow U20 players and produced four—should have been five—points in three games. While that tournament didn’t feature heavyweights like Canada or the United States, it served as an excellent precursor to what we can expect from him over the holidays.
Team Sweden is coming in with an experienced roster and is considered one of the favourites to win a medal on home soil.
With three prospects from the Canucks pipeline on Sweden’s roster, this team is a must-watch for fans. The preliminary schedule for Sweden’s games is provided in Standard Pacific time:
December 26–10:30 am, Sweden vs. Latvia
December 28–10:30 am, Germany vs. Sweden
December 29–10:30 am, Canada vs. Sweden
December 31–5:00 am, Sweden vs. Finland
Elias Pettersson will also suit up for Team Sweden, and he is set to play in his second and final go-around at the World Juniors.
The 19-year-old has moved around this season but has found a comfortable home in the Allsvenskan league, playing (on loan) with Västerås.
His production has cooled off as of late, but he sports a goal and seven assists through 16 games and has been enjoying evenly dispersed third-pairing minutes—the team rolls all three units quite evenly.
Team Sweden has brought some heavy firepower, so Pettersson is likely to play the hard minutes and, more importantly, lead the team’s penalty kill.
Interestingly, Sweden is bringing only one other left-handed option—Pettersson being one of them—so this should bode well for his chances as a featured player for Team Sweden.
Don’t look now, but Hugo Gabrielsson is on a bit of a tear right now.
After just two points over his first 15 matches, the 21-year-old has seemingly shot himself out of a cannon and is currently on a five-game point streak, including three straight games with goals.
Here is his first goal of the week, a heavy slapshot ripped from the point.
And goal two, where he found the puck in the slot before snapping his fourth of the year.
Suddenly, with seven points on the year, he’s already eclipsed his previous career high of six points in 15 fewer games played.
Admittedly, not much was seen from his game in the early stages of the year, which led to a focus on other prospects. However, given the recent outburst, perhaps it’s wise we take a closer look to see what has changed.
While we do not anticipate Gabrielsson being a major player in the long-term vision, there’s always room for a prospect to prove the masses wrong. He and Elias Pettersson will square off later this week, offering a good excuse for closer inspection.
It was a slow week at the Collegiate level. In fact, with many teams going on break, this section will be quiet over the next few weeks.
The big news of the week was Tom Willander being named to Team Sweden’s World Junior squad, along with the names mentioned above.
Given the competition from notable players like Axel Sandin Pelikka, who is having an outstanding year as an rookie SHL defenseman, Willander may not see top-unit minutes or first-unit power-play opportunities. However, his elite skating and impeccable defensive game make him a strong candidate for an increased role as the tournament progresses.
Ty Mueller continued his strong play, scoring another goal over the weekend.
He showcased his typical tenacity by picking the defender’s pocket before finding a spot in the short-side top corner. The 19-year-old leads Nebraska-Omaha Univeristy with 12 points (six goals and six assists) and is currently on pace to finish somewhere along his previous year’s total of 25 points.
Jackson Kunz picked up his second goal of the year over the weekend, deflecting a shot as a net-front presence.
At the beginning of the year, we expressed hope to see more from the 21-year-old, and although he has primarily played in a fourth-line role, he is now just one point shy of matching his career-high of six point.
It’s not much, but he has shown more production-wise, at least.
Matthew Perkins, who is in his freshman year with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, picked up his sixth point, contributing with a secondary assist off a face-off win.
After a strong few weeks running Northeastern’s top units, Jackson Dorrington missed this weekend’s action following a hit in his previous game. The team has been quiet about the extent of the injury, but as his team is not scheduled to play for a few weeks, it is hoped that he will be back before then.
It was a potent week for the Canucks’ recent third-round pick, Sawyer Mynio.
He collected two goals and three assists over the week, including a career-high four-point match.
All five came on the man advantage.
As a third-year WHL’er, he’s now on pace for 51 points, which would shatter his previous season-high of 31 (2022-23).
So, aside from experience, what’s changed? Well, the opportunity is a major factor. He’s slotting in on the Seattle Thunderbirds’ top pairing at 5v5 and running the top power play and penalty-killing units.
Profiled as a proficient two-way defender, it’s encouraging to see him thrive in his draft plus-one season and offers yet another positive story from this recent draft class.
We have talked about Ty Young, and how he appears to be losing the starting job to 17-year-old, Joshua Ravensbergen, who now rocks a 11-2-0 record with six shutouts and a 1.69 goals against for the Prince George Cougars.
Well, Ravensbergen finally cracked, allowing three goals on 11 shots, allowing Young to swoop in for relief over the weekend. Unfortunately, Young gave up two goals on 10 shots himself en route to his sixth loss of the season.
The Canuck prospect is now 11-6-0 on the year and will likely continue to get sporadic starts. By all accounts, the starter’s net may have been lost for the time being, and rightfully so.
That’s a wrap on another week. As always, thanks for tuning in, and check back next week for more prospect updates!
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