Welcome to the first Vancouver Canucks Prospects 3 Up, 3 Down, where I will take a look at three positives and three negatives in the world of Canucks prospects. This will be a regular column released on the second Tuesday of every month.
The 2022-23 season has begun in earnest and as always, some prospects are struggling while others are thriving. Fortunately, in the case of the Canucks, there are a lot who fall into the latter category rather than the former. Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Plus One: McDonough On Fire to Start Senior Year
To say Aidan McDonough has started the 2022-23 season on a tear would be a massive understatement. Only 10 games into his senior year at Northeastern, the former 2019 seventh-round pick already has two four-point games, seven games where he has registered at least three shots on goal, and has been blanked on the scoreboard only twice. He is currently on a three-game point streak (3G, 4A), and his 15 points have him tied for seventh in the nation. He also recently buried his 100th point in the NCAA – in only his 100th game. If you didn’t know any better, you would think he was a first-round pick, not someone who was 22 picks away from being undrafted.
On pace to shatter his career high of 39 points in 38 games set in 2021-22, McDonough seems to be determined to lead the Huskies to the national championship that eluded them last season. Now sporting the “C” on his jersey, he definitely has the team around him to do it as the Huskies boast 12 draft picks on their roster, including the goaltender of the year Devon Levi who is also off to a great start with a 1.53 goals-against average and .950 save percentage in nine appearances. Armed with a lethal one-timer on the power play that always seems to find the back of the net (four times already this season), McDonough could have a chance at a Hobey Baker Award nomination this season if all goes according to plan.
Minus One: Canucks Trade Myrenberg & DiPietro
Even though the Canucks got 23-year-old Jack Studnicka in return, it still hurts that they had to trade arguably their best right-hand defence prospect, Jonathan Myrenberg to get the deal done. While he wasn’t a blue chipper, he had intriguing size and mobility, along with a seemingly NHL-caliber shot. They also had to give up Mike DiPietro, who of course requested a trade but should have fetched a second-round pick rather than be part of a package for someone who has struggled to gain a foothold in the NHL.
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Yes, Studnicka might turn into a serviceable NHL player with the Canucks, but I don’t think it was worth further emptying the shelf of right-handed defence prospects – which wasn’t full, to begin with – in order to get him. Trades should strengthen areas of weakness, not continue to add to them. Now, they are left with Jett Woo and Filip Johansson as their top options. Not horrible, but not good either.
Plus Two: Lockhart Tied For Second in OHL Scoring
Look out Connor Bedard, another Connor is on your tail, and it’s Canucks sixth-round pick, Connor Lockhart. What!? Yes, Lockhart is actually only seven points back of Bedard when it comes to points in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Hard to believe, but the 19-year-old has re-discovered the offensive prowess that he displayed in 2018-19 when he put up 30 goals and 79 points with the Kanata Lasers’ U18 AAA team.
With seven goals and 24 points in 15 games, Lockhart is already halfway to the 23 goals and 48 points he put up with the Erie Otters in 64 games last season. On a stronger team in Peterborough this season, the newly-minted alternate captain leads the team in points and already has seven multi-point efforts under his belt. He also hasn’t gone more than two games without registering a point and only one without a shot on goal. Finally, the opposition has been able to blank him on the scoreboard only three times in 15 games. No wonder he is tied for second in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in scoring behind Ty Voit. Like I said before, look out Bedard, another Connor is in town.
Minus Two: Lekkerimaki Off to a Slow Start
From late-round picks performing above their pedigree to a blue-chip first-rounder still finding his way, Jonathan Lekkerimaki has not started his draft-plus-one season on the right foot. However, not all of it was under his control as he was still feeling the aftereffects of a bout of mononucleosis in March. Even though that was months ago, mono can take a long time to fully recover from, so maybe the panic button should be packed away for the time being.
Nevertheless, as of this writing on Nov. 7, Lekkerimaki only has one goal and five points in 15 games, which is disappointing considering he had 20 goals and 35 points in 26 games last season in the J20 Nationell. He also has now gone 11 games without a goal. For a prospect known for his exploits in the goal column, that’s a troubling trend early on. However, the bright side is, it’s still early and he has plenty of time to turn things around. Hopefully sooner rather than later, as Team Sweden is likely watching his progress closely to see if he will be worthy to join them for the 2023 World Juniors in December.
Plus Three: Lockwood Already Four Goals Away From a New Career High
And now back to the late-round picks turning heads early this season. Joining McDonough and Lockhart in that club is former Michigan Wolverine Will Lockwood who is scorching hot to start his third go-around in the American Hockey League (AHL). He already has five goals, and all of them have been scored in the last four games.
The speedy right winger who forechecks like a madman and hits like a Mack truck (despite being 5-foot-11) appeared to be on the fast track to the NHL after last season’s 13-game stint but was sent down to the AHL after training camp. Well, it appears he took that personally and has been one of Abbotsford’s top players early on. In fact, he’s only four goals away from his career-high of nine (set in 2021-22) and he’s only played eight games so far.
Minus Three: Silovs Becomes Goaltender of the Future, But is Struggling
Now that DiPietro is part of the Bruins organization, Arturs Silovs has become the Canucks’ clear goaltender of the future. Selected 156th overall in the 2019 Draft, he has been steadily inching his way up the depth chart recently, finally usurping DiPietro as the top goaltending prospect at the end of last season. The 21-year-old Latvian was selected under the advisement of goaltending coach Ian Clark, who has developed elite netminders like Roberto Luongo, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jacob Markstrom, and Thatcher Demko. So, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that DiPietro (who is 6-foot compared to Silovs, who is 6-foot-4) was traded to remove an obstacle for him.
Unfortunately, Silovs has struggled so far this season to further establish himself as the heir apparent to Demko. Like his counterpart in the NHL, he is off to a slow start and is sporting an ugly 3.14 GAA and .873 SV% in six appearances. If Abbotsford hopes to improve on their quick playoff exit from last year, he has to turn things around and return to the goaltender that dominated the 2022 World Championship and posted a 1.22 GAA and .952 SV%. If not, they will have to score their way out of trouble all season long; which usually isn’t sustainable, especially once the playoffs come around.
That does it for the first Canucks Prospects 3 Up, 3 Down of the 2022-23 season. We will be back next month to showcase another set of ups and downs as we continue to cover all things prospect-related across Canucks Nation.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.