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Max Sasson gaining recognition as a potential Vancouver Canucks call-up option

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Photo credit:Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Dave Hall
20 days ago
When discussing Vancouver Canucks prospects, there is a select group of names that immediately come to mind.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Elias Pettersson, Tom Willander, Arshdeep Bains, and Aatu Räty are just a few of the typical suspects who populate the team’s depth chart conversations.
Yet, whenever asked, this team’s regime often mentions one additional name — perhaps a more under-the-radar name.
“Willander, Lekkerimäki, Pettersson, Räty, (Max) Sasson, Bains, (Vasily) Podkolzin, those are the guys of the future here, and we feel strongly about those young players,” Patrik Allvin said during his post-trade deadline media conference.
Despite flying under the radar for much of his career, Max Sasson is quietly making waves within the Canucks’ prospect pool and has quickly placed his name as one of the club’s more trusted up-and-comers.
Heck, even Jim Rutherford has highlighted him in various interviews over the year.
The Michigan native has never been a high-end point producer but has made a young career out of being a consistent and hard-working centrepiece to any of his teams’ forward groups.
After collecting 64 points in 75 games in his two years at Western Michigan University, Sasson was brought in as an undrafted free agent last season, and much of the allure to bring him aboard can be directly attested to his strong work ethic and coachability.
Upon his arrival in late March, Sasson was immediately handed a role at a pivotal time and wrapped up the team’s final seven regular season games. From there, he would play a role in the team’s inaugural playoff series, leading to a massive step in his development.
Now in his official rookie season, the 23-year-old is building off of that experience and has solidified himself as a key cog to this team’s top-six forward group. Similar to the reputation that Bains has carved out for himself, Sasson possesses the ability to elevate those around him.
When a player is struggling, head coach Jeremy Colliton is often quick to pair them with the devoted centerman in hopes of providing a quick spark.
Whether it’s scoring goals, providing energy, or contributing to the penalty kill, Sasson is someone you can rely on to give his all on every shift and make life just a little easier for those sharing the ice.
Just ask Linus Karlsson and Aatu Räty, who enjoyed an extremely lucrative stint as a trio midway through the season.

The numbers

Sasson’s work ethic and ability to play swift, hard-nosed hockey will likely be the drivers that ultimately earn him his first call-up — whenever that should be. Yet, his offensive numbers are nothing to scoff at, especially at even strength.
At the time of this writing, Sasson sits fifth among Abbotsford skaters with 35 points across 46 games, split between 16 goals and 19 assists. He also ranks 11th among AHL rookies in points per game (0.76) among full-timers.
Of those 35 points, 24 have come at 5v5, placing him second on the team in that regard, trailing Arshdeep Bains by five points.
Sasson has proven to be a monster two-way contributor at even strength as he leads the team in 5v5 goal differential with a plus-16 rating.
Graphs courtesy of Cody Severtson of CanucksArmy.
It’s important to note that Sasson has achieved these numbers despite facing off against the opposition’s top brass night in and night out.
He’s consistently playing matchup roles, thriving in all three zones of the ice surface.
While his numbers are by no means earth-shattering, the consistency at which he’s been able to produce as a pro has been a bright spot for a team that struggles with consistency.
Since November, Sasson has only endured one instance where he went without points in consecutive games. As of today, he is on a personal six-game point streak, notching seven points during this period, which stands as the longest of his professional career.
With six game-winning goals already this season, which places him third league-wide, Sasson requires just one more to surpass the franchise record for most game-winning goals in a single season.

The next centre call-up option?

It’s no secret what Rick Tocchet values: hard work, consistency, and sound habits.
Well, Sasson’s point production and brand of hockey check all of those boxes, and most of his point contributions can be linked to his sustained work ethic. On most nights, Sasson has made a habit of easing the burden for his teammates, often grinding out pucks to sniff out scoring opportunities. He consistently leads the forecheck and isn’t afraid to battle along the boards to regain possession.
It’s this willingness to battle in the dirty areas that makes him such a potent scoring threat in the AHL — and a linemate’s dream.
 
And boy, when he breaks through on the transition, he can keep up with the best of them.
“He’s pretty explosive,” Jeremy Colliton told Canucks.com insider Chris Faber.
“He’s able to get separation, win races, create transition chances. He’s got really good instincts and hockey sense to take advantage of those situations that his skating puts him in. Last year, he was just trying to survive. It’s hard. Your habits and your details have to be so good to survive and he did well. Now it’s a new season. He’s doing more offensively, being a difference-maker for us, but not losing the details away from the puck and managing the game. That’s part of his evolution.”
On top of his ability to bottom-six hockey, he’s a true centreman through and through.
His strength in the faceoff circle and his commitment to responsible, two-way hockey have made him a valuable asset to the Abbotsford team. While sticking to that brand of hockey can sometimes diminish a young skater’s production, Sasson seems to have found a comfortable balance.
At the end of the day, Vancouver is on the verge of their first playoff run in nearly a decade. With that, it feels unlikely that Sasson gets his moment anytime this year without a significant need up the middle. Even then, a player such as Sheldon Dries, who has 122 NHL games of experience, may be given the benefit in a pinch.
Nevertheless, with several contracts set to expire this summer, Sasson will likely receive serious consideration during training camp for a roster spot.
With a mix of speed, determination and skill, his game wreaks of “Tocchet-type” hockey. Canucks fans shouldn’t be surprised to see his name either on the roster next year or considered a top promotion candidate.
For now, he will be called upon to be a key member of the baby Canucks’ second playoff push in as many seasons as he continues to grind for his opportunity at the professional ranks.

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