Canucks prospects lit it up this past week, with Kole Lind, Vasili Podkolzin, Aidan McDonough and Jackson Kunz all scoring big goals for their respective clubs

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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:

Kole Lind

Shooters shoot.

But rarely do they score at the clip that Canucks prospect Kole Lind is firing at three games into the AHL season.

The newly minted centre blasted home his third and fourth goals for the Utica Comets in Saturday’s 6-5 shootout win in Binghamton, upping his shooting proficiency to a whopping 40 per cent in the process.

Lind, a 6-foot-1, 179-pound right-shot forward, went to work early against the Devils, rifling home a one-timer from the slot on the power play five minutes into the affair.

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He would score his second power play goal of the game later in the period, finding some open ice at the left faceoff circle and firing in another one-timer, this one set up by Canuck cast off Sven Baertschi.

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Lind, 22, who is undergoing a transition from the wing to centre — something head coach Trent Cull said would take some time — appears to be acclimating to the position, playing his tough brand of hockey while making improvements in the faceoff circle.

He was the only Comets forward to go a minus-2 though, matching up against the Devils’ top line.

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Interestingly enough, Lind is now tied for the AHL lead in goals with four in three games — a mark he needed 21 games to get to last season.

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The Shaunavon, Saskatchewan native, drafted in the second round in 2017, is quickly becoming the prospect to watch in the Canucks’ system not named Vasili Podkolzin. Lind brings a lot to the table — size, smarts with the puck, speed and a big shot — but will need to continue to hone his defensive game if he is to stick in the middle.

Another centre in the stable, Carson Focht, continues to find his game at the professional level. Focht, a 6-foot-1, 181-pounder drafted in the fifth-round in 2019, scored his first professional goal on Saturday, taking a pass in the slot and lifting a backhander past the Devils’ goaltender.

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Prior to the game, coach Cull commented on Focht’s progression, detailing what he sees so far from the 21-year-old.

“He’s got such great tools. His head is up when he’s making his plays, he does good things inside and in high-traffic areas,” Cull said. “I think Carson’s done a great job. We’re going to keep throwing different situations — power play, penalty kill, etc. — at him and there’s going to be times where it works for him and some nights where it doesn’t, but we’ll find the happy medium. I think he’s done a great job.”

Said Focht: “Cully always stresses that we come to the rink and that we’re pros, and that’s something that I take to heart. Try to be a pro, try to be better everyday.”

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Focht finished the game with a goal, four shots on net and a plus-1 rating.

Jett Woo, Focht’s roommate in Utica and teammate last season with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, has also been finding his game at the pro level, going a plus-2 on Saturday night while playing some steady, heavy hockey on the blue-line.

Woo, a 6-foot, 205-pound right-shot defenceman drafted in the second round in 2018, liked to mix it up in junior and has brought his brawn to the AHL, standing up for Lucas Jasek after the Comets’ forward was decked by a questionable hit in the neutral zone late in the first period. The 20-year-old immediately came to Jasek’s defence and roughed up Devils’ forward Cam Darcy in the ensuing scrum.

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Woo, who played the left side on Saturday and has lined up with three different defensive partners in three games, has no points, two penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating so far this season.

Focht, meanwhile, who played on a line with fellow Canucks prospects Will Lockwood and Jonah Gadjovich on Saturday, has one goal and a plus-1 rating through three games.

The Comets next play the Syracuse Crunch at home on Wednesday before going to Rochester the next night to face the Americans.


Russia's Vasily Podkolzin (L) and Sweden's Jesper Sellgren fight for the puck during the Beijer Hockey Games (Euro Hockey Tour) ice hockey match between Sweden and Russia in Malmo on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Anders Bjuro / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP) / Sweden OUT (Photo by ANDERS BJURO/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 0
Russia’s Vasili Podkolzin (L) and Sweden’s Jesper Sellgren fight for the puck during the Beijer Hockey Games (Euro Hockey Tour) ice hockey match between Sweden and Russia in Malmo on February 13, 2021. Photo by ANDERS BJURO /TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Ima

Vasili Podkolzin

Safe to say his scoring woes are behind him.

Podkolzin, who endured some rough stretches offensively earlier this season, continued to produce this past week — this time for Team Russia at the Beijer Hockey Games in Sweden.

The 19-year-old, currently the top prospect in the Canucks’ system, skated on the fourth line for Russia’s first two wins — a 3-2 triumph over Finland on Thursday and a 2-1 shootout win over Sweden on Saturday — before being bumped up to the second line for Sunday’s finale, where he exploded at just the right time in a 7-4 win over the Czech Republic.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound left-shot forward notched a gritty primary assist to help put his team up 4-3 early in the third period, falling to the ice after a check in the neutral zone before getting back up and patiently finding a teammate streaking by, who took care of the rest.

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Podkolzin then scored the back-breaker to put his team up 5-3, picking off a deflected pass at the opposition’s blue-line before powering his way to the net and deking the goalie into submission.

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Podkolzin, who was named an assistant captain for the tournament, showed his leadership skills throughout. He stood up for teammates at times while pulling others out of scrums with his team set to go on the power play, as he did against Sweden when Elias Pettersson’s older brother Emil — who had a good tournament — took an ill-advised penalty in a tight contest.

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Podkolzin even saw some time playing centre, a new wrinkle from coach Igor Larionov that is sure to intrigue those Canucks fans who see his strong 200-foot game as possibly working in the middle of the ice.

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Podkolzin’s production on this stop of the European Hockey Tour comes on the heels of a good run of play for SKA St. Petersburg, where he had five points in seven games for the KHL club.

Podkolzin now heads back to Russia, where SKA have six regular season games left before the start of the KHL playoffs.

The 2019 first-round pick has five goals, six assists and a plus-5 rating in 33 games this season.


BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - FEBRUARY 10: Aidan McDonough #25 of the Northeastern Huskies celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of the 2020 Beanpot Tournament Championship game between the Northeastern Huskies and the Boston University Terriers at TD Garden on February 10, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775463141
Power forward Aidan McDonough is having a strong sophomore season with the Northeastern Huskies. Photo by Maddie Meyer /Getty Images

Aidan McDonough

Who says he can’t score without Tyler Madden as his centre?

McDonough, who lost his prolific linemate and, sadly enough, former Canucks prospect to the Los Angeles Kings this season, had been slumping of late, going goalless in five NCAA games.

That all changed on Friday night, when the Canucks’ 2019 seventh-rounder unleashed three power play howitzers for No. 18-ranked Northeastern in a 6-2 win over New Hampshire.

McDonough, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound left-shot power forward, scored all three in similar fashion, finding space well below the faceoff dot and ripping one-timers in, one after the other.

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The 21-year-old nearly scored on another hot shot, but was robbed by the New Hampshire keeper. He had four shots in total and was the first Huskies player to score three power play goals in one game since Cody Ferriero did it at Harvard in December, 2012.

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McDonough wasn’t done there, scoring two more goals and assisting on another in Saturday’s 5-4 win over the same team. McDonough’s second goal was the game-winner, scored with just under four minutes left in the third period.

After the game, head coach Jim Madigan said he’s pleased with the play of his leadership group, which includes the sophomore Canucks prospect.

“Aidan McDonough, offensively, was excellent,” said Madigan. “He had the five goals this weekend but it was (his play) around the net. He had a lot of good chances and he scores big goals. Our leadership really stepped up here over the weekend.”

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McDonough’s five power play goals leaves him tied for sixth in the NCAA, despite playing fewer games than the competition due to the Huskies missing games because of COVID-19 exposures.

The Milton, Massachusetts native, drafted way back in the seventh round in 2019, now has eight goals, six assists and a minus-1 rating in 15 games this season.


Canucks prospect Jackson Kunz.
Canucks prospect Jackson Kunz. Photo by Twitter

Jackson Kunz

He had fallen slightly off the radar, but Kunz is rolling again with four goals in his last three games for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.

The stout 6-foot-3, 214-pound power forward scored in each of the Gamblers’ two wins this past week — a 4-3 shootout win on Thursday against the Muskegon Lumberjacks as well as a 4-0 win on Friday against the same team.

Kunz’s goal on Friday came with seconds left in the second period, with the 18-year-old making a dash to the crease and stuffing the puck into the net to make the score 3-0.

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Kunz, from Grand Forks, North Dakota, was the second youngest play ever to commit to N.D.’s program when he signed a letter of intent at 14 years old. He’s one season away from realizing his childhood dream to suit up for the Fighting Hawks, where Canucks star Brock Boeser and former Canuck Troy Stecher made names for themselves winning national championships.

Kunz has 13 goals this season, good for eighth overall in the USHL. He’s also fifth overall in the plus/minus department with a plus-19 rating.

The 2020 fourth-rounder has 22 points in 25 games this season in what is the top junior league in the United States.

Elsewhere: Defensive prospect Jacob Truscott (2020, Rd. 5) was back on the ice with the Michigan Wolverines this past week after the team missed three games due to COVID-19 exposures. The 18-year-old went a combined plus-1 in a weekend split against the Wisconsin Badgers. He has one goal, three assists and a plus-10 rating in 17 games this NCAA season.

Meanwhile, Joni Jurmo (2020, Rd. 3) skated as the seventh defenceman for JYP of the Finnish Liiga on Saturday, playing for 4:34 while getting a shot on net in a 3-2 loss to HPK.

mraptis@postmedia.com

twitter.com/mike_raptis

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