Photo credit:@abbotsfordcanucks on IG
Youthful trio leads the charge in Abbotsford Canucks’ November surge, resulting in one NHL call up
By Dave Hall2 months ago
The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Well, the Abbotsford Canucks have stumbled upon a winning formula that appears to show no signs of faltering, embodied by the trio of two sophomores and a rookie forward.
Among various injuries and general day-to-day roster changes, these three players have withstood the line combination blender and have remained intact for the entire month of November.
We, of course, refer to Aatu Räty, Max Sasson, and Linus Karlsson.
The pairing of Sasson and Karlsson has already been a mainstay since opening night. Their complementary styles — Sasson’s speed and Karlsson’s tenacity — mesh seamlessly, creating a bond that simply works.
On the other hand, Räty began the year centring the bottom half of the lineup, focusing on the defensive aspects of the game. Despite playing relatively low minutes, he was seeing a good chunk of faceoffs and grabbing tons of minutes off the penalty kill.
Considering his future outlook as a more projectable middle-six centre, it was a fitting role and one that catered towards shaping strong habits in all three zones.
Of course, with just one point through his first five games, he struggled to build any offensive momentum, and it was evident that the role had hindered his capacity to showcase a more creative brand of hockey.
By the end of October, the team began to experience a revolving door of injuries, most specifically among the top-six wings.
With that, Jeremy Colliton was forced to juggle things up, eventually leading to the audition of Räty slotting next to the already established duo of Sasson and Karlsson.
The result? Well, to put it simply, it just clicked.
Things didn’t jump out on the scoresheet right out of the gate but the trio offered signs that their mix of speed, tenacity, and creativity was going to add some spunk to a dwindled Abbotsford lineup.
Over the next stretch of games, the effort began to result in point production.
The positives gained from the change were most noteworthy for Räty, as the Finnish winger began to showcase a more creative and confident demeanour.
This was simply not on display when he served as a bottom-six role player, for obvious reasons.
Thanks to the work ethic of all three, Räty was seeing more space on the ice and appeared more inclined to attempt quick one-touch plays and utilize his strong hockey IQ to gain offensive opportunities.
As we look today, the trio has collectively racked up an impressive 26 points in just 10 games, with all but three coming from even-strength play.
So, what’s the key to their success?
“They’re building some chemistry; I think they possess a variety of different characteristics,” head coach Jeremy Collition said. “Max [Sasson] is obviously a great skater who moves the puck well and excels in races, opening up the ice. [Linus] Karlsson is strong in battles, protecting the puck effectively and driving to the net.
Meanwhile, [Aatu] Räty is gaining confidence with the puck. He’s starting to use his vision to make plays, but where he has really improved is in advancing the play. Winning battles along the boards, moving the puck forward, protecting it, and maintaining possession. He’s avoiding making a 40% play.”
Karlsson, who’s maintaining a near-point-per-game pace this year, has showcased exceptional consistency since joining the Canucks in 2022-23.
Sporting 64 points across 84 AHL games, he has become an integral part of the team’s top-six and special teams units.
As mentioned by Colliton, his water bug work ethic has played a significant role in his success. His willingness to grind for pucks, both in the corners and in front of the net, has earned him the right to play important minutes and enjoy success.
“I think he’s taken a big step this year,” Colliton told Lindsey Horsting of the Vancouver Canucks. “The first 11 games, it’s noticeable how strong he is on the puck. He’s doing little things that protect the guys he’s on the ice with, protecting the offensive zone, drawing penalties, and taking the puck to the net. To me, he’s really improved.”
His contributions haven’t gone unnoticed, resulting in a surprise call-up on his 24th birthday — a well-deserved opportunity to experience firsthand what the NHL has to offer.
Despite the elevated level of play in the NHL, Karlsson stayed true to his brand and showcased his tenacity and unwavering commitment to battles on the ice. He did not find the scoresheet but looked comfortable slotting next to Sam Lafferty and his former linemate from last season, Nils Höglander.
Following the club’s trade of Anthony Beauvillier, Karlsson was the next man up for Vancouver, as he was once again called up to Vancouver on Wednesday.
In Sasson’s case, he’s carving a commendable rookie season.
His six goals share the fourth spot among all AHL rookies, while his plus-eight sits third among the same field.
Much like Kalrsson, his willingness to win battles for pucks is evident, and the addition of high-end speed is making things difficult for opposing players to defend against.
Of course, he is quick to give props to his newfound linemates.
“Karly [Karlsson] is unbelievable down low; if we can get him the puck down there, he’s probably going to do something special. Rats [Räty] has elite, elite hockey IQ’.”
As for himself, Sasson credits his success to the work he has put into his off-season training.
With a taste of what professional hockey is all about at the tail end of last season, Sasson admits to facing a shock with the physicality shown.
“I worked on bulking up a little bit. I put on some weight, as I thought I got pushed around a little bit at the end of last year. I really tried to improve my speed, and it was a lot of hard work this summer.”
Given his resume with Western Michigan University over the last two years, his success at the AHL level should not come as much of a surprise. He has been touted as a player who brings a pinch of everything to the ice, and it’s showing in a big way in his first looks at the new stage.
Finally, for Räty, although some may have hoped to see him continue playing in the center spot, his recent outburst—five points in three games and 13 over his last 14—should be viewed as a positive development for the young 21-year-old.
Sure, the organization is in need of youthful talent at the centre position. While the ideal scenario is for him to eventually return to his natural role, it’s hard to overlook the significant boost in confidence that could potentially broaden his horizons, transforming him into the offensive producer he was once marked to become as a high-profile prospect.
So, whether it’s from grinding opponents down, as seen here:
Or, finding each other off skilled rushes, much like the clip at the top, things are clicking for the trio down in Abbotsford.
The Canucks find themselves in a solid stretch of hockey and wrap up November sporting a 6-2-0 record, outscoring their opponents 26-15 in the process. While terrific goaltending and improved defensive systems have played their roles, the trio of Aatu Räty, Max Sasson, and Linus Karlsson has been a major catalyst for their recent success.
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