Vancouver Canucks’ NCAA prospects set to kick off their season this weekend

Photo credit:@jacob_truscott20 on IG
Dave Hall
6 months ago
Get ready, folks, the rest of the prospect crop is nearly ready to hit the ice.
While Vancouver Canucks fans have already been blessed with European and Junior hockey, the wait is almost over to see the club’s list of collegiate players.
This year, the prospect pool carries a total of eight skaters and two goalies, highlighted by the club’s most recent first-round talent, as well as a strong pro-ready candidate for this upcoming spring.
Despite the overall depth being somewhat depleted over the last few years, the Canucks are building a solid reputation as a hotbed for collegiate players to sign and kickstart their pro careers.
Just last year, drafted prospect Aidan McDonough along with free agents, Akito Hirose, Cole McWard, and Max Sasson all signed deals to move to Vancouver and make their mark on the organization. This is encouraging as it gives us hope that most, if not all, of these players will eventually sign pro deals. down the line – assuming they perform.
Slowly, but surely, the farm is building.
Well, get ready, because this weekend is chalked full of players kickstarting their season, and here is a full list of “who, what, and where” to expect heading in.

Big Ten

Michigan Wolverines
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 4pm 
Let’s kick things off with the Canucks’ sole collegiate captain, Jacob Truscott.
Despite his 2022-23 campaign being cut short due to a wrist/hand injury, the Michigan native elevated his stance among the Vancouver Canucks prospects pool in a big way. Paired alongside New Jersey Devils’ highly touted prospect, Luke Hughes, Truscott displayed growth in almost every facet of his game.
Renowned for his strong two-way play, he was on track to surpass his career-high in point production, falling just one shy of his previous high, despite playing in five fewer games. In addition to his 16 points (4G + 12A), Truscott became a stalwart on the team’s penalty kill and made significant strides in his defensive play, finishing the season with 28 blocks, and a plus-eight rating over 23 games.
As he enters the new year, Truscott is expected to maintain his status as one of the club’s go-to defenders. He’ll be leaned on heavily in Michigan’s top defensive pairing and PK, and although he may see time on the club’s second powerplay unit, Seamus Casey, known for his offensive prowess, is likely to quarterback the top unit.
As a Senior, Truscott faces a pivotal year, and we will be keeping very close tabs on his progress as he is a strong candidate for AHL deployment in the spring.
Despite rumors about his agent’s inclination to steer clients toward free agency, the Canucks have a strong track record with collegiate players and the hope is that we see him in Abbotsford Canucks uniform getting his first taste of pro-level action next spring.


Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 5pm
Matthew Perkins, a newly drafted prospect for the Vancouver Canucks, is gearing up for his Freshman debut at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he will join fellow Canucks’ goaltending prospect, Matthew Thiessen.
The Bulldogs are anticipated to be a middle-of-the-pack squad this year and finished fifth in NCHC pre-season rankings.
While Perkins amassed 15 goals and 44 points in the USHL last season, the Saskatchewan native tailors his game to the two-way side of things. As his track record shows, the hope is that he can chip in for some secondary scoring at the Collegiate level, but he is likely to see more of a middle-six type of role. He displays good speed and a well-oiled motor, hounding pucks and pressuring his opponents.
Perkins being selected in the fourth round was considered a “head-scratcher” in the heat of the moment, so let’s hope he can transition well and change that narrative out of the gate.
Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 4pm
Ty Mueller was drafted over the summer as an overager and a sophomore out of Nebraska-Omaha. Through his two years, he has contributed a combined 38 points in 58 games, with 25 of which stemming from his previous season.
Honestly, not terrible numbers to be taking a flyer on in the draft. One can argue that the fourth round may have been a little high, but as always, we push on.
Mueller is often described as a “jack of all trades,” showcasing versatility without standing out in any particular aspect of the game. Last season, Mueller’s deployment was sporadic, but spent many nights centering the team’s top-line and powerplay units. Now in his Junior year, we expect to see much of the same and are excited to get a closer look at just what this kid can do.

ECAC Hockey

Clarkson Golden Knights
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 3pm
Despite facing a significant preseason setback due to an MLC tear last year, Daimon Gardner, selected in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, managed to put together a commendable season in his third year in the USHL with the Tri-City Storm.
Returning to action in late November, the Ontario native secured the fourth spot in team scoring, putting up 12 goals and 42 points over 46 games – just two shy from the above-mentioned Matthew Perkins. To get a better sense, his 0.91 points-per-game clip was good for 34th leaguewide.
Now committed to Clarkson University, a team ranked fourth in the ECAC preseason poll, Gardner is set to kickstart his freshman NCAA season, likely slotting into a middle-six role. His unique combination of towering size and offensive skill makes him a versatile asset for various situations. Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 205 pounds, he already possesses an imposing frame that should enable a smooth transition to the next level – at least from a physical sense.
Considering the Canucks’ consistent issue with size up front, Gardner could offer intriguing long-term potential as a hidden gem to watch down the road.

Hockey East

Boston College Eagles
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 4pm
After a three-year stint at Cornell, Jack Malone has transferred to the high-flying Boston College Eagles for his senior year. Boston is currently ranked sixth in the nation, setting the stage for an exciting season for the Canucks’ 2019 sixth-round pick.
However, there’s a slight catch. 
BC has added a few highly-touted stars such as Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and Gabe Perrault, all of whom were selected in the first round of this year’s draft, to accompany coveted NCAA performer, Cutter Gauthier. This influx of talent has already crowded the top-six roster, which certainly doesn’t offer any guarantees that we catch Malone in any of the team’s significant situations.
As a result, Malone is likely to find himself on the outside looking in for top powerplay opportunities or significant top-six minutes. Nevertheless, don’t underestimate Malone’s sneaky hands and in-tight offensive prowess, which should contribute to some strong backdoor flair for an already potent offense.
Unsigned, we should know what his fate within the organization looks like by season’s end.
Northeastern Huskies
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 4pm
For the first time in four years, Canucks fans won’t be treated to weekly Aidan McDonough one-timer highlights at Northeastern University. Instead, our attention shifts to the blue line, where Jackson Dorrington is set to enter his sophomore year.
It’s considered a “transition year” for the Huskies, and Dorrington is expected to take on a more prominent role, which is promising. He played in all 35 games last season, mostly in a second-to-third-pairing role, and managed just six assists, leaving tons of room for potential growth.
With a sturdy frame and an aggressive playing style, his contributions to the penalty kill will be crucial this year. This development should be music to the ears of Canucks fans, given the team’s recent struggles in that department over the past few seasons. Not only that, but his ability to play on the right side, despite being a left shot, is certainly an enticing addition to his toolkit.
Looks for Dorrington to push for a Team USA roster spot at the upcoming World Junior Championships during the holiday season.
Boston University Terriers
Season Opener: Saturday, October 7, 4pm
Aiden Celebrini, the Vancouver Canucks’ recent (2023) sixth-round pick, is preparing for his NCAA debut with the Boston University Terriers. Notably, he will be sharing the ice with his brother, Macklin, as well as fellow Canucks top prospect Tom Willander.
While Celebrini is likely to assume a less prominent role than Willander on the right side of the defense, he will still play a valuable part as he settles into a bottom-pairing position with a championship-worthy team. The opportunity to develop within a high-caliber team like the Terriers and contribute to their success is a significant trade-off.
He is coming off of a strong AJHL campaign, which saw him record five goals and 21 points over 47 games for the Brooks Bandits, and played a pivotal role in them capturing both an AJHL championship and the prestigious Centennial Cup, as the top Junior A team in Canada.
We love that he brings a winning pedigree, and the hope is that he takes it all in as a freshman, and is able to climb his way up the line-up come next season.
Finally, we cap things off with the creme of the crop, and the prospect that everyone is looking forward to getting their eyes on, Tom Willander.
Arguably the Vancouver Canucks A-1 prospect, and uncontested top right-shot defender, the stakes are high for Willander to perform. His development is already off to a swimming start, we think, following his decision to acclimate his game to smaller ice surface and make the move over to the NCAA circuit.
This is great news, as we have seen the “Too Good for J20, no minutes in the SHL” song and dance many times before – hello, Elias Pettersson (D-Petey).
There is a strong chance that he pairs up alongside Montreal Canadiens stand out, Lane Hutson, on the top-pairing. This is a fun development, as Hutson plays a high-flying offensive game, much like Quinn Hughes. Given Willander’s pedigree, it will be encouraging to see how he matches with such playing styles to make notes for the future. While there is no guarantee he sees immediate top-pairing minutes, expect a top-four role no matter what.
Unfortunately, due to him throwing on gear to officially hit the stat sheet in the SHL, – without actually hitting the ice- the 18-year-old will be forced to miss this weekend’s opener. Instead, he will take the ice on Friday, October 13th against New Hampshire.
We will leave it at that, for now, but rest assured that you see ample Willander clips and breakdowns over the year, so stay tuned.

The remaining crop

Jackson Kunz and his North Dakota Fighting Hawks are set to begin their season the following week, with their season opener happening Friday, October 13th.
Canucks 2020 fourth-rounder is gearing up for his Junior year, and we are eager to see more from him.
Kunz had an impressive track record, boasting 40 goals and 69 points during his time at Shattuck St. Mary’s High School, followed by 43 points over 53 games in the USHL. With such promising numbers, there were high hopes that Kunz would transition to the NCAA and become a solid offensive contributor for the Fighting Hawks.
Regrettably, he hasn’t quite found his footing at the collegiate level, tallying just eight goals and 11 points in 55 games thus far. As an unsigned prospect, we’ll be closely monitoring his performance, hoping to see a turnaround.
However, based on his first few years, it’s only natural to wonder about his future within the organization.
Finally, Aku Koskenvuo and his Harvard Crimson are not scheduled to play until Friday, October 27th.
Unfortunately, we did not get much of him last year, only suiting up for two NCAA games. In those two, he gave up seven goals and posted a combined .875 save percentage.
He did earn a spot in last year’s World Junior Championship, which is certainly encouraging, although he did struggle there as well, allowing nine goals in just two games. 
There is a positive.
With Harvard 2022-23 starting netminder (Mitchell Gibson) officially turning pro, the door is open for Koskenvuo to battle for a starting position. The job won’t be easy, as his counterpart (Derek Mullahy ) is fresh off of an impressive 5-0-0 slate from last season, but the opportunity to start more games, at the very least, is certainly there.
The College circuit is gaining traction as one of the more entertaining leagues in the hockey world. This year, Canucks fans have a plethora of options to enjoy and we at CanucksArmy will certainly be delivering non-stop content throughout the year.
Be sure to check back for Tuesday’s Blackfish installment, where we dive into each of their performances.
Sit back and enjoy the slate!
Get your tickets for the CanucksArmy Kick-Off Party when we will all get together at Greta Bar YVR to watch the Canucks take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, October 14th! 

Check out these posts...