It’s the latest edition of the prospects tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest profile prospects:
The invites weren’t lost in the mail after all.
After backup goaltender Nikita Tolopilo found his groove early in the season, the Arty Party is back on in the Abbotsford crease.
And how Arturs Silovs reclaimed the blue paint is even more cause for celebration.
Consider the last three games played for the lanky Latvian: a 23-save shutout in a 2-0 win over the Henderson Silver Knights last Saturday; a 19-for-20 save performance in a 2-1 win over the Bakersfield Condors Thursday and a 20-save shutout on Saturday night in the Fraser Valley to send the Oilers’ farmhands home to the so-called armpit of California empty-handed.
This is the form that led to Silovs winning AHL goalie of the month in February as well as being named the IIHF tournament MVP after backstopped an underdog Latvian side to its first-ever bronze medal at the World Championships in May.
“Yeah, he’s starting to get rolling,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton post game on Saturday. “Confidence — and that’s part of the reason we’ve come back to him — to give him a chance to get some momentum. He’s paid us back for that.
“I think Tolo has played well, but he’s still figuring his way out in the league. So it’s important to have Arty dialed in.”
To have Silovs find his game comes at an important time for Vancouver’s AHL affiliate. Injuries up front to Vasily Podkolzin and Chase Wouters have put goal scoring at a premium, meaning the team has had to be good defensively — and especially in net — to churn out its current three-game winning streak.
Some continuity on the blue-line has helped as well, Silovs said after Thursday’s win.
“It’s much easier … easier to manage the puck, to get out of the zone and make simpler plays.”
Silovs, drafted in the sixth-round of the 2019 NHL entry draft, said he’s trusting himself again after a shaky start to the season.
“Just understanding that I have no problem stopping the puck. So just to trust myself and trust my work I do every single day.”
Silovs’ numbers are starting to look like last year, when his stock shot up the Canucks’ prospects pecking order. His save percentage is now at .905 (.909 last season) while his goals-against-average is at 2.66 (2.44 last season). And despite some early struggles, Silovs has a sparkling 6-1-1 record this campaign.
The Abbotsford Canucks are currently in first place in the Pacific Division with an 8-4-1 record — although they’ve played three more games than the 8-1-1 Calgary Wranglers.
The dangles. The wheels.
The deadly finish.
Put Jonathan Lekkerimaki up against his peers like we saw at the Five Nations tournament this past weekend and his star goes supernova.
Playing for Sweden at a warm-up tourney for next month’s World Juniors, the sharpshooting 19-year-old scored on a sensational solo effort against Slovakia on Saturday and tallied four points (1G, 3A) in three games as Sweden took home the title on Finnish soil.
Playing with former Djurgarden teammate Noah Ostlund, Lekkerimaki looked fast and dangerous throughout, wheeling and dealing and making things happen for his linemates.
Ostlund, taken by the Buffalo Sabres one pick after Lekkerimaki at No. 16 overall in 2022, finished the tournament with one goal and four assists.
Lekkerimaki will get his third crack at making an impact at the upcoming World Juniors, which start on Boxing Day and will be held on home turf for the Swedes.
The Canucks prospect hasn’t been very good at the showcase event, tallying just one goal and six assists in 14 games over the last two tournaments. But this time, the 5-foot-11, 172-pound right-shot winger is feeling his game and firing on all cylinders.
Lekkerimaki has eight goals in 13 SHL games this season (good for second in the league) and three assists.
He’s being used as a Swiss Army knife lately.
That’s fine with the versatile Finnish forward.
With injuries up front, Aatu Raty has been bumped up the Abbotsford lineup and moved over to the wing from his usual centre ice position.
It’s working out well for the 20-year-old.
Raty has three points (2G, 1A) in his last three games and his line with centre Max Sasson and winger Linus Karlsson have been the recent catalysts behind the Canucks’ offence.
Raty, acquired in the Bo Horvat trade, will get some extra attention this week with the former Canucks captain making his much-anticipated return to Vancouver on Wednesday — and it couldn’t come at a better time with the 2021 second rounder finding his offensive touch.
Raty, whose skating, passing and vision are already professional grade, had been “excellent” earlier in the season with linemates John Stevens and the now-injured Chase Wouters, Colliton told Abbotsford Canucks play-by-play man Brandon Astle during Thursday’s broadcast.
“Losing a few guys, the best way to build the lineup was to move (Raty) up,” said Colliton. “That’s a good sign for him, to show that he’s got versatility, he can play different roles for us.”
The move to wing gives the organization options should Raty be considered for a call-up to Vancouver at some point this season. He can play both centre and wing and plays a complete 200-foot game.
Safe to say, however, that forward Arshdeep Bains, who is tied for second in league scoring with 17 points (3G, 14A) in 13 games, and centre Nils Aman (7G, 7A in 13 games) also deserve a look, should an opportunity arise.
And then there’s Vasily Podkolzin, who is skating with the team again after being concussed in a scary incident at the Abbotsford Centre on Oct. 25. Podkolzin had five goals and two assists in six games before he was injured.
Raty has three goals, five assists and a plus-6 rating in 13 games this season.
Consider it the breakout game of his young collegiate career.
Elevated to the second defensive pairing, 2023 first-rounder Tom Willander notched a pair of assists on two beautiful breakout passes and went a plus-2 in a 6-1 win for No. 9 Boston University over UMass-Lowell on Saturday night in NCAA play.
The 18-year-old’s first assist came on a long stretch pass to the opposition’s blue-line, where the BU forward flipped the puck to the slot to open scoring eight minutes into the game.
Willander, a 6-foot-1, 179-pound right-shot defenceman, tallied his second assist midway through the third period, with the smooth-skating Stockholm product making a move behind his net, shedding an onrushing forward and zipping a clean feed to a teammate in stride at centre ice to start the scoring sequence.
The night before, Willander almost had another assist with his point shot tipped off the post and out of the UMass-Lowell crease. BU won that game 3-2.
Willander, a college freshman playing his first season in North America, now has one goal, three assists and a plus-9 rating in nine games this season.
Elsewhere: Right-shot defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz (Rd. 3, 2023) had five points, all assists, in his last three games. Brzustewicz, 18, is second in OHL scoring with 32 points (5G, 27A) in 19 games with the Kitchener Rangers while also going an impressive plus-12.
And left-shot defenceman Kirill Kudryavtsev (Rd. 7, 2022) had two assists over the weekend for the Soo Greyhounds. Kudryavtsev, 19, has 16 points (3G, 13A) and a plus-6 rating in 19 games, good for ninth-best in the league.