Canucks prospect Vilmer “Ricky Bobby” Alriksson fitting in nicely with the Guelph Storm
Photo credit:X/Vancouver Canucks
By Dave Hall1 month ago
No, you won’t find him at Talladega Speedway, but you can catch him at the Sleeman’s Center in Guelph, Ontario.
Yes, we’re talking about Vilmer Alriksson, or, as he’s been dubbed by the Guelph Storm faithful, “Ricky Bobby”.
Drafted 107th overall by the Vancouver Canucks this summer, the 6’6 forward is quickly etching his name as a prospect you should have bookmarked, if you haven’t already.
The 18-year-old Swede is considered somewhat of a long-term project. However, if his recent play is any indication, he’s on track to become a rare asset for the Canucks’ organizational depth down the road.
Looking back, shortly following the NHL draft and his inaugural rookie camp, Alriksson’s rights were taken by the Guelph Storm 37th overall in the CHL import draft.
It’s worth noting that the Storms’ co-owner and team president just happens to be former Canucks assistant coach, and 15-year NHL veteran, Scott Walker.
Coincidence or not, this isn’t the first time that Walker and the Storm have picked a player with a similar profile.
By that, we mean a tall, lanky, but projectable forward.
Alexei Toropchenko, currently with the St. Louis Blues, was drafted by the Storm in 2017 and shares a comparable physical build with Alriksson. He spent two years with the team before making the jump to the pro ranks.
No two development paths are alike, so take that as you will, but it’s interesting to note that they have successfully managed and developed a near-carbon copy in recent years.
Back to Ricky.
After attending Vancouver Canucks training camp, it was decided that remaining in Canada — as opposed to returning to Sweden — to jump-start his North American career early was the best path for his development.
The Canucks realized his lacklustre numbers would bring doubters to the forefront.
“You might say the numbers aren’t there, but we’re projecting them to get better, and the numbers will get better,” Canucks director of amateur scouting Todd Harvey said during this summer’s draft in Nashville.
Well, credit where credit is due — those points appear to be right on track early on.
Through 11 games in Guelph, he’s co-leading the team with five goals — four of which have come on the power play — and two assists, with points in all games but four.
This puts him on pace for 31 goals and 43 points this season, which would be a significant boost from a 21-point (12G + 9A) career high at the J20 level just one season ago.
A heavy portion of his early success, mainly on the man advantage, is a testament to his imposing net-front presence.
Carrying such a large frame, Alriksson makes life a living hell for defenders to protect the net, or goalies to get sights on the puck. Ultimately, his ability to outmuscle and utilize his wingspan is a huge asset, especially among junior-level opposition.
When he’s not wreaking havoc at the net, he also brings the ability to run the half-wall.
One of his best attributes is his shot, so when the special teams pressure runs stale, he can switch things up and provide offence through a different avenue.
Much of his draft tape featured him scoring from this half-wall shot, and it’s a skill set he’s utilized already this year.
Looking forward, though, we do believe that his ability to work the netfront will become his true staple and success towards becoming an eventual pro-level player. He’s towering and possesses solid hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks — it’s a match made in heaven.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.
Capitalizing on the power play is great and all, but how’s he doing at even-strength?
His even-strength game is a work in progress, and the point production hasn’t necessarily been noteworthy. Yet, there are intriguing aspects of his play that bode well for his development.
First and foremost, his size stands out.
While he may not deliver bone-crushing hits, he’s consistently finishing checks, making sure his presence is felt on the ice. Tenacity was an area of his game considered lacking in the past, so his efforts certainly reflect his commitment to improving his game.
His skating also fits right in at the OHL level. He’s not only keeping pace, but leading rushes in many cases. Now, his stride is not all that graceful, but given his size, he is certainly making do.
His puck handling in small spaces could use some fine-tuning, but his long reach and adept hands help him execute creative maneuvers around defenders off the rush.
One of his more notable plays this season came at five-on-five, where he utilized his long reach to control the puck and show off his creativity.
Despite the sliding defender, he’s able to deliver a soft backhand saucer pass with very little time and space for his first (of two) assists on the year.
We don’t care who it is. That is a tricky pass to execute.
These confident plays and his points, thus far, are intriguing, but we do understand there is still a long way to go in his development — but that is expected.
As we mentioned, he is a project prospect, and right now, progress is the key and what should be focused on.
Being proactive and adjusting his game to the smaller ice surface at an early age is a testament to his dedication to improving his craft, and marinating in the OHL is an important step in building the foundation of his skills for a potential future professional career.
While his offensive output might not be overwhelming — particularly at even strength — we have been impressed by what he has brought to the table, and anticipate his production to follow as he continues to develop.
For now, we continue to track his progress as he builds towards a hopeful career within a budding prospect pool.
Keep doing your thing, Ricky Bobby.
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