Canucks prospects tracker: McDonough makes the call, Karlsson breaks the record

Aidan McDonough decides to return to Northeastern, Linus Karlsson earns the SHL’s rookie goalscoring record and Joni Jurmo gets set for the Finnish Liiga playoffs

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It’s the latest edition of the weekly tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

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Aidan McDonough

He’s accomplished just about all he can at the collegiate level.

But he’s still going back for more.

Aidan McDonough has decided to return to Northeastern for his senior NCAA season, after the Canucks pushed to sign the prospect to an entry-level contract this past weekend.

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McDonough confirmed his decision with Postmedia on Sunday afternoon.

“First off, the Canucks have been awesome throughout this process and have been supportive of me,” McDonough told Patrick Johnston through text message. “I feel it will be best for my development to continue to work on the things I need to work on in order to have more of an impact on my professional career.

“Another year to improve my skating and get physically ready for a professional season. We will also have a very good team next year and compete for championships. My education is also important so being able to graduate is a big deal for myself and my family. The Canucks have been there for me since they drafted me and I hope to play for them one day.”

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McDonough’s Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA playoffs this past week, losing a 2-1 overtime decision to Western Michigan in the first round on Friday.

The 22-year-old, however, came as advertised, scoring the tying goal with under four minutes left in the third period on a spectacular solo effort to send the game into overtime.

On the goal, McDonough made a move to his backhand around a Broncos defenceman, shielded the puck with his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and stuffed in his own rebound.

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The left-shot power forward, taken in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, finished the game with a goal, two shots on net and two blocked shots.

The goal was McDonough’s 25th of the season, far and away his most productive campaign of his collegiate career — as well as his most impactful for the storied NCAA program.

It was McDonough who scored with seconds left in the final period of the final game of the regular season to give his team its first Hockey East title in 38 years.

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And it was McDonough who kept his team in the fight on Friday, scoring another clutch goal to signal to Canucks’ brass that he’s a player to be included in their plans going forward.

“We’re very pleased with the process he’s shown this year,” Abbotsford Canucks GM Ryan Johnson told Postmedia on Friday. “It’s more to me the goals he scores. Like today, they need a goal, they find a way to get it done. And every year he’s improved, his skating has improved immensely. He’s an exciting guy for us for sure.”

Had he signed a contract with the Canucks, McDonough would have been eligible to join his good friend and fellow prospect Jack Rathbone for his first AHL playoff push.

Now that he’s going back to school, the Canucks have until next summer to ink him to a contract before he’d become an unrestricted free agent.

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McDonough hasn’t announced his decision publicly as of yet, but took to Twitter on Friday to congratulate teammate Jordan Harris on his two-year, entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

“He’s earned everything and been an unbelievable leader,” McDonough wrote. “Luck to have been his teammate.”

Harris was taken by the Canadiens in the third round of the 2018 draft, and was named the Hockey East’s best defenceman this season.

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McDonough was Hockey East player of the month in February and finished the regular season in third place in the country in goals scored.

The Massachusetts product wraps up his junior NCAA season with 39 points (25G, 14A) in 38 games while going a plus-13 overall.

He will most likely be the captain of next year’s Huskies team, as he donned the ‘A’ this past campaign.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Linus Karlsson skates to the bench after scoring a goal for Skelleftea AIK in Swedish Hockey League action earlier this season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Linus Karlsson skates to the bench after scoring a goal for Skelleftea AIK in Swedish Hockey League action earlier this season. Photo by Jörgen Bergkvist /Skelleftea AIK

Linus Karlsson

Doggone it, he’s done it.

Linus Karlsson is your new SHL rookie goalscoring record-holder after notching his 25th of the season on Tuesday, topping Canucks star Elias Pettersson’s mark set in 2018.

The big goal came in a 4-3 shootout win for Skellefteå AIK over Luleå HF, as Karlsson took a pass on a two-on-one, deked backhand-to-forehand and deposited the puck into the net to cut the Luleå lead to 2-1.

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Karlsson then scored his 26th of the season midway through the third period to tie the game 3-3.

Skellefteå dropped a 3-1 decision on Thursday to Örebro HK in their final game of the regular season to finish third overall in the SHL. That means they face sixth-place Farjestad in the first round of the SHL playoffs. Game One of the best-of-seven series begins on Friday, April 1 at home in the small mining town in northeastern Sweden.

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Karlsson, a right-shot forward who weighs in at 6-foot-1 and 179-pounds, took the league by storm and hasn’t let up since. There’s no telling what the 22-year-old’s peak is, but with nine points (5G, 4A) in his past five games — including 27 shots on goal over that span — it’s safe to say Karlsson is firing on all cylinders heading into the playoffs.

Following Karlsson’s record-breaking goal, Pettersson was asked by a Swedish reporter about the Canucks prospect’s achievements this season.

Pettersson said he hasn’t been following too closely, but was nonetheless impressed.

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Pettersson, who accomplished the feat at the age of 19, led his Vaxjo Lakers team to the SHL championship that year and was also named playoff MPV — so Karlsson still has a ways to go to match that.

Like McDonough, Karlsson is high up in the Canucks’ prospects pecking order and told the prospects tracker last month he hopes to sign with the team when his season is over.

“My goal is to sign with Vancouver and I hope so,” he reiterated on Wednesday.

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Karlsson’s exceptional season was felt leaguewide. He finished second-overall in goals scored (26) and power play goals (13). He also tied for third in game-winning goals (6).

The Eksjö product finishes the season with 46 points and a plus-10 rating in 52 games.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga this season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga this season. Photo by Mikko Kankainen /Jukurit

Joni Jurmo

Back in the regular rotation, just in time for the playoffs.

Whatever was the cause for Joni Jurmo to be dressed as the seventh defenceman for the better part of the last month, the hulking 19-year-old was back on Mikkelin Jukurit’s third pairing this past week as the team wrapped up a second-place finish in the Finnish Liiga regular season.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound left-shot D-man, taken by the Canucks in the third round of the 2020 draft, has averaged around 12 minutes a game in his past three games and skated for 12:22 in Tuesday’s 6-2 win over Lukko. He also went a plus-2 in the affair with two shots on goal.

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Jurmo had a resurgent second season in Finland’s top-tier league after struggling as an 18-year-old last year on an inept JYP side. He was traded to a contender in the off-season and hasn’t looked back, featuring throughout the Jukurit lineup over the campaign and averaging around 14 minutes of ice time over 50 games.

He scored twice, had eight assists and, most importantly, was defensively responsible, with a plus-10 rating overall.

Jurmo has all the tools to be a prospect worth watching. He’s a great skater, is confident with the puck on his stick and his defensive play no longer weighs the rest of his multi-faceted game down.

Jukurit face KooKoo Kouvola on Monday to kick off their best-of-seven quarterfinal series at home in Mikkelin.

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(This section is to be updated after the conclusion of Monday’s game).

Jett Woo (foreground) skates during Canucks’ rookie camp at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.
Jett Woo (foreground) skates during Canucks’ rookie camp at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Jett Woo

While we haven’t seen enough of Jett Woo this season, we heard a lot from the Abbotsford Canucks defenceman in an all-encompassing interview on Sportsnet 650 on Friday.

Woo, who returned to the Canucks’ lineup a couple weeks ago after being injured for close to two months, joined Bik Nizzar and Randip Janda on The People’s Show to talk about everything from where his game is at to what makes the perfect defensive partner for him.

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The 21-year-old right-shot D-man said he’s now focused on staying healthy and getting his reps in at practice.

“The biggest thing for me … is being able to play, and being able to play healthy,” Woo said.

Woo credited the Canucks coaching staff with helping him get his game back through competitive practises, but wants to hit that next level to be a call-up consideration.

“The first thing I’ve got to worry about is how I am in the D-zone. I’m not going to be one of those high-end, point per game in the NHL players. I’ll be one of those tough, nitty-gritty (defencemen) … move the puck, make smart plays in the D-zone, good first pass, join the rush.”

Woo also expounded on the style of partner he prefers to play with. Last season’s pairing with dynamic D-man Jack Rathbone was a revelation, with Woo providing a stay-at-home presence in his first professional season, allowing Rathbone (2017, Rd. 4) to join the rush and get involved offensively.

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Working with Rathbone was a lot of fun last year, he said, as they had chemistry on and off the ice. This year, he’s been paired with several blueliners. Woo’s partners for the Canucks’ two games this past week were Alex Kannok Leipert for Thursday’s 4-1 win at the San Jose Barracuda, then Guillaume Brisebois for Friday’s 3-1 loss at the Stockton Heat.

Woo went a combined plus-2 with one shot on goal in the pair of games.

The Manitoba product has two goals, five assists, a plus-2 rating and 16 penalty minutes in 29 games this season.

The Abbotsford Canucks are in fifth-place in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division with a 30-20-4-1 record.

Elsewhere: Defensive prospect Jacob Truscott (2021, Rd. 5) is going to the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament after his top-ranked Michigan Wolverines defeated Quinnipiac 7-4 on Sunday. Truscott, 19, is a good skater and passer, and had two goals, 15 assists and a plus-28 rating in 38 games this season.

— with files from Patrick Johnston

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