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Canucks Prospect Rewind: Aidan McDonough turned pro and will now be a big part of Abbotsford’s offence
By Faber8 months ago
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Graduation day is always a good one, and today is probably the last time we will refer to Aidan McDonough as a prospect.
We aren’t looking at McDonough as a prospect anymore after being an overaged draft pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and then following that up with a four-year career at Northeastern University. McDonough will turn 24 years old just a couple of months into the 2023-24 hockey season and it’s time to look at him as a pro instead of a prospect.
McDonough began the year as Northeastern’s captain and ended up having a very productive season in his fourth year of college hockey. He finished the NCAA season with 20 goals and 18 assists in 34 games with the Huskies and was the captain for Northeastern.
He continued his college scoring dominance as he closed out his four-year NCAA career with a total of 66 goals and was a point per game player over his 124 NCAA games. McDonough worked to improve on his skating and play away from the puck all in preparation for making the jump to pro hockey. His Huskies didn’t have a great run in the NCAA playoffs and that meant that McDonough was able to sign his entry-level contract with the Canucks and join the NHL club.
There were worries throughout the season on if McDonough was going to sign with the Canucks or wait a few months and become a free agent so that he could sign with whichever organization he wanted. We never had to travel down that road and the Canucks announced they had signed McDonough to a two-year ELC on March 13th. The nature of the two-year entry-level contract at the time it was signed means that McDonough’s 2023-24 season will become a contract year.
McDonough ended up getting into six games with the Canucks and scored one goal throughout those outings.
It was one of the highlights of the season — watching McDonough celebrate with his childhood best friend Jack Rathbone on the goal.
McDonough didn’t get into as many games as we were hoping for. And in the games he did get in with the Canucks, he was used in a fourth-line role.
We wanted to see McDonough get a run with J.T. Miller or Elias Pettersson and be looked at in a top-six role. Last season’s end of the year presented the opportunity for that scenario to happen but veterans were given the opportunity instead of the 23-year-old McDonough.
He certainly didn’t look out of place in the NHL. His size showed well and his skating looked adequate. We just didn’t get to see too much of the offensive potential and that may be due to some of the lineup decisions made late in the season.
Now, we look towards next season and all we can think about when it comes to McDonough is that he will be one heck of a scorer for the AHL team.
We’ve seen McDonough in NHL games and more importantly, head coach Rick Tocchet has seen McDonough in NHL games. There are less questions to ask about McDonough’s NHL future after a six-game stint but there are still a ton of questions left unanswered.
The biggest question we have is about McDonough’s biggest strength. For those of us who have followed McDonough since he was drafted, we all know that he is a power play specialist. He can be used form the right half-wall or the bumper position and has an accurate shot that consistently beat some of the top NCAA goalies. We didn’t see McDonough get any real power play shifts in his six NHL games and that’s too bad.
Now, we will have to see McDonough work his way up from the AHL and our expectation is that he will be a very prominent piece of the AHL team’s man-advantage unit.
If he is able to rip up the AHL, McDonough could be back in the NHL before Christmas. If he is just average, it may be a full season spent down on the farm. There will likely be some call-ups needed throughout the season but don’t believe that McDonough is seriously in the mix to win an NHL job out of training camp. It would take a huge summer to put himself in the conversation with Phil Di Giuseppe, Nils Höglander, Vasily Podkolzin, Dakota Joshua, Sheldon Dries, Jack Studnicka, and even Arshdeep Bains and Linus Karlsson for a bottom-six role at the NHL level.
McDonough will need to rip up the AHL early and often to get back to the NHL in a hurry and we believe this may be a longer road that many hope for when it comes to McDonough becoming a consistent NHL player.
Predictions for the 2023-24 season
61 games played, 27 goals, 25 assists in AHL.
Four games played in NHL.
Four games played in NHL.
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