Each Vancouver Canucks forward prospect’s top development priority for the 2023-24 season
By Faber21 days ago
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Development is just as important as drafting when it comes to prospects in the pipeline.
Drafting players obviously plays a huge part in your prospect pool but you can find value in development and making sure that each player is in a position to not only be successful but be able to work on their weaknesses with the right coaching. It’s likely a big reason why someone like Danila Klimovich was brought over to the AHL so early. It’s also likely why the Vancouver Canucks have heavily invested in their development team.
Ryan Johnson has watched over the department for the last six seasons and he has a lot of staff to work with now compared to when he was promoted to the Director of Player Development in 2017. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson, Mike Komisarek, and Marko Torenius are a few names who play key roles in the Canucks’ development of their prospects.
We follow the prospects closely and have some thoughts on what each player needs to improve on. These are all very talented hockey players but there’s always work to do when you play a sport as a profession.
Today, we’re looking at the forward group and discussing one thing that said prospect should look to work on during the 2023-24 season.
So, let’s not waste any more words, and instead, dive right in on this topic and kick things off with the forwards.
Arshdeep Bains, 22, LW, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
Building off of a strong rookie season in pro hockey, Arshdeep Bains will need to improve on his lower-body strength and if he can gain a step, the NHL is just around the corner. Bains should also focus on becoming the best penalty killer possible as that could be a ticket to the NHL for the local kid.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, 19, RW, Örebro (SHL)
You could name a few things here after his 2022-23 year but we will go with adding power and confidence. After a shaky season as an 18-year-old, Jonathan Lekkerimäki will need to continue to add muscle and be tougher on the puck or in board battles. He cannot continue to be pushed off the puck in Sweden and hope to be able to come to North America and have success.
We’ve seen Lekkerimäki look strong in his SHL preseason games but the regular season is going to crank up to 100 real quick. He will need to continue going to the dangerous parts of the ice in search of offence and use his good positioning to find loose pucks around the crease or create easy tap-ins for his teammates with his quick decision-making in the offensive zone.
There’s a ton of potential here but development is just so so so so so so so key for Lekkerimäki.
Aatu Räty, 20, C, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
The youngster has a longer road of development now that there is no pressure to move him into the NHL quickly. Teddy Blueger and Pius Suter will cover the gap while Aatu Räty looks to find some consistent offence at the AHL level.
We want to see Räty get ahead of the play in the AHL this season as he likely gets top-six minutes. He needs to find that level of confidence but also in control of his positioning in all three zones.
The biggest thing is that he needs to remain a centre. We can see why Räty might be a better winger but the Canucks need to continue to develop him as a centre.
Tristen Nielsen, 23, C, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
Now in his third AHL season, Tristen Nielsen just needs to stay on his grind and keep that hunger alive and well. We don’t have much else to say. He’s just got to continue to be a DAWG and he will get his chance in the NHL.
Vilmer Alriksson, 18, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
With the move to the OHL, Vilmer Alriksson should be in a good spot to get a lot of ice time at five-on-five and on both special teams units. From the tape we’ve watched, Alriksson has a good release on his shot but it is very inconsistent. He can absolutely rip wrist shots when he gets all his size and strength behind a shot but his quick release needs some work. The OHL is a great spot for him to develop his offensive game while also possibly getting time on the penalty kill.
We’d love to see Alriksson be a staple on the penalty kill for Guelph this season, it’s something he did at times in Sweden last season.
Max Sasson, 22, C, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
After impressing with his play at the end of the 2022-23 season, Max Sasson could be the top-line centre for Abbotsford next season and he will need to improve his pace to become an NHLer. It’s likely been a big offseason for Sasson as it was his first summer of preparation for pro hockey.
He’s got a good base level of skill and an above-average level of anticipation and hockey smarts. Let’s see him get comfortable in the AHL and produce consistently all season long — adding a step or some power in his lower body will be huge.
Lucas Forsell, 19, RW, Färjestad (SHL)
There were times last season when Lucas Forsell was the most dangerous scorer in the SHL and we just want to see him have a higher level of consistency in 2022-23.
As a seventh-round pick, Forsell didn’t draw the highest expectations but as a top-10 prospect in the system, our expectations are now higher for the 19-year-old. He should be getting top-six and power play time next year with Färjestad. He will need to find consistency in his scoring and we’d like to see his playmaking skill come back a bit more this season.
Originally, when he was drafted, we thought his playmaking was his best skill along with his high-rev motor. Since then, his scoring touch has become his most intriguing trait but we would like to see more consistency in his scoring with some added playmaking skill.
Yeah, we are raising expectations on Forsell because he’s earned that with his strong play as a teenager.
Ty Mueller, 20, C/W, University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
We haven’t watched enough of Ty Mueller to give a full breakdown of his improvements that we’d like to see but he had good hands at Canucks development camp and as a third-year NCAA player, we’d like to see more offence after he put up 12 goals and 13 assists in 34 NCAA games last season. If he gets closer to a point per game, it will look better on the scouting staff.
Dmitri Zlodeyev, 21, C, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
His aggressiveness is what we like but it’s time to see some offence from Dmitri Zlodeyev this season. He should be an everyday player for his KHL club this year and will need to begin to produce soon if there’s a chance he can cut it at the pro hockey level in North America.
Jack Malone, 22, RW, Boston College (NCAA)
Jack Malone’s offence took a hit last season as he saw his point totals drop in the NCAA. We need to see him be more than a half-point-per-game player next season. His defensive game isn’t elite and he will need to lean more to the offensive side of things to earn an NHL contract with the Canucks.
Matthew Perkins, 19, C, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Matt Perkins is making the jump from the USHL to the NCAA and we know that is a tough jump for players — especially centres.
We don’t have the highest expectations for Perkins this season, so we are just going to hope for a smooth transition to the NCAA as he plays his freshman season.
Josh Bloom, 20, LW, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
We just mentioned the jump from USHL to NCAA with Perkins but Josh Bloom has an even tougher jump from the OHL to the AHL.
Bloom has completely revamped his offseason training as he makes the jump to being a pro and we want to see him work on getting used to the pace of pro hockey. One thing we really liked form Bloom in the OHL was his ability to direct the pace of play. This is going to be difficult to do as a pure rookie in the AHL but if he can begin to find that ability to control the pace, that would be huge.
Getting penalty kill experience would be huge too. That’s development, folks.
Jackson Kunz, 21, RW, University of North Dakota (NCAA)
We just need to see Jackson Kunz score some goals. He is heading into his third NCAA season and has eight goals and three assists in 55 NCAA games.
He’s just got to start scoring.
Danila Klimovich, 20, RW, Abbotsford Canucks (AHL)
After taking a huge step defensively last season, Danila Klimovich has to have earned more trust from his coaches.
This is a very interesting year of development for Klimovich as there has been so much time put into improving his defensive play in his first two AHL seasons.
In our eyes, it’s time to let the tiger out of the cage. The Abbotsford Canucks should feed Klimovich power play time in the same way to how I feed on Lully’s hot dogs at the Abbotsford Centre. He has shown enough to let his skill begin to shine instead of his priorly needed improvements. You need to continue to see him be defensively reliable and there may be some period where head coach Jeremy Colliton sits him to teach a lesson but Klimovich has more than enough skill to be a top-six winger and major power play contributor this season.
After developing his defence for the past two seasons, it’s time to let him explode offensively and the Canucks should develop him in a top-of-the-lineup role.
Daimon Gardner, 19, C, Clarkson University (NCAA)
Sticking at centre is a huge development need here for Daimon Gardner as he makes the jump to the NCAA. He’s got great size at 6’4″ and has a strong pace to match it.
We want to see him play a full season with Clarkson before deciding where he needs to go with his development. This kid has a lot of raw talent and should end up working his way up the Clarkson lineup next season. We just want to enjoy the ride and be able to show some highlights.
So, I guess we want to see him develop some offence and just fit in with the NCAA pace.
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