Canucks Seeing Top Prospect Material In 7th-Round Pick McDonough

The Vancouver Canucks no longer have any blue-chip prospects in their pipeline. 2020 first-round pick Vasily Podkolzin was the last one and he’s only a few games away from shedding the label of “prospect”. That leaves the uncertainty of later-round picks that may or may not make it to the NHL one day. One of those is NCAA breakout star, Aidan McDonough.

Aidan McDonough Vancouver Canucks Prospect Spotlight

McDonough was selected all the way down in the seventh round during the 2019 Draft and is now one of the Canucks’ top prospects. Arguably, top-three behind maybe only Mike DiPietro and Danila Klimovich. That’s either an indictment on the lack of depth in the prospect pool or a huge pat on the back for McDonough.

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I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter as McDonough has grown leaps and bounds since his draft year. His size, NHL-ready shot, and lethal one-timer on the power play are all translatable skills to the next level. His only major weakness is his skating, and that has improved tremendously this season with the help of a skating coach provided by Northeastern University. So, with his NHL debut potentially just around the corner, let’s take a look at his hockey journey so far.

McDonough’s Started His Journey With Thayer Academy & the Cape Cod Whalers

McDonough started his hockey journey at Thayer Academy, a high school known for developing its fair share of NHLers including Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick, Brooks Orpik, Charlie Coyle and former Canuck Adam Gaudette. Splitting his time between the Cape Cod Whalers in AAA, he scored 76 goals and 160 points in 114 games. His best season came in his senior year where he recorded 25 goals and 59 points in 29 games.

Tony Amonte Chicago Blackhawks
Tony Amonte was another Thayer Academy graduate that found success in the NHL (Getty Images North America)

McDonough’s time with the Whalers was also a success as he was over a point-a-game in all but one season. During that time, he was also a teammate of Canucks defenceman Jack Rathbone. In fact, his dad coached him for most of his childhood and teenage years. So, it’s really no surprise that they became best friends.

Actually, his dad coached me from first grade to my senior year of high school, so for 12 years…Me and Jack have been really close our whole life and he was one of the first people to text me after I got drafted.

Jack Rathbone

McDonough finished his Whalers career with 36 goals and 61 points in 59 games. Then after being selected 166th overall by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the 2016 United States Hockey League (USHL) Entry Draft, he moved his game to the USHL for the 2018-19 season.

McDonough’s Dominance in the USHL With Cedar Rapids

McDonough only played one season in the USHL, but boy, was it a good one. In 50 games, he scored 21 goals and 42 points and lit it up in the playoffs with four goals and seven points in six games. He did everything he could to will the RoughRiders to the Conference Finals, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough as they got eliminated in four games by the always-successful Chicago Steel.

Even though McDonough didn’t walk away with a Clark Cup in his only season in the USHL, his performance caught the eyes of the Canucks who ended up drafting him in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft.

McDonough Makes His NCAA Debut With the Northeastern Huskies

Committed to Northeastern University for the 2019-20 season, McDonough made his NCAA debut on Oct. 19, 2019, against College of the Holy Cross. He ended the game pointless with three shots on goal. Then, only four games later, he scored his first NCAA goal against the University of Massachusetts in a 4-2 loss.

Aidan McDonough, NCAA, Northeastern Huskies
Aidan McDonough, Northeastern Huskies (Jim Pierce / Northeastern)

McDonough had tremendous success playing with former Canucks prospect Tyler Madden, who set up almost all of his goals that season. By the end of his freshman year, he had 11 goals and 27 points in 31 games.

McDonough Becomes the Real Deal Without Madden

There were many pundits that believed McDonough would take a step back without his uber-playmaker by his side. Turns out, he didn’t need Madden to score goals as he went on a tear in his sophomore season to the tune of 10 goals and 20 points in 21 games. Half of those goals were scored in a two-game span when he posted his first NCAA hat trick against the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 13, 2021.

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All the goals were scored on the power play using his patented one-timer from the faceoff dot, which he has perfected over the years. His skating also saw an improvement, which was always one of his weaknesses going back to his draft year in 2019.

McDonough Is a Scoring Machine in 2021-22

It didn’t take long for McDonough to start scoring again in 2021-22. In fact, it only took 8:55 into his first game for him to score his first of the year. Then only 28 minutes later to score his second. By the end of the night, he had two goals on six shots and was only eight goals away from matching his career-high set in his freshman year. In his first game, no less.

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The scoring didn’t stop there, as McDonough went on a tear of nine goals in his next 12 games. As of this writing, he has 11 goals in 14 games and is currently tied for second in the NCAA with the University of Denver’s Carter Savoie. The next goal he scores will be a new career-high.

Aidan McDonough, Northeastern Huskies
Aidan McDonough, NCAA, Northeastern Huskies (Jim Pierce / Northeastern)

After scoring six of his ten goals on the power play last season, McDonough only has three this year. That means he has eight goals at even strength, which is an encouraging sign for the future. Being a power-play specialist will only get you so far in the professional leagues. You have to be able to score 5-on-5. It’s great to see him adjusting his game to score more outside of the man advantage. If he can keep up this level of production, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him nominated for the Hobey Baker Award at the end of the season.

McDonough Has a Future in the NHL

At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, McDonough has the size and physical game to compete in the NHL. He also has an accurate wrist shot and lethal one-timer on the power play. Not to mention a work ethic and personality that is infectious to be around. What held him back from being drafted higher than the seventh round was his skating. Something he was acutely aware of coming into his junior season with the Huskies. So, he got a skating coach to help him reach the next level in his development.

Last summer for me was a lot about getting stronger, faster, and being in the weight room and I think I took a step there. Then, this summer I’ve gotten to a point of maintaining and trying to get stronger and faster but I want to be stronger on my edges. I want to be quicker off the block and then also in the corners while being able to protect pucks and use my skating ability…

Aidan McDonough in an interview with Canucks Army

McDonough has the tools to become a very effective bottom-six winger in the NHL. His size and physicality combined with his shot on the power play could even push him into a top-six role if his 5-on-5 offence remains consistent.

All that is left for McDonough is to possibly win a Hobey Baker Award and an NCAA Championship before his college career is over. The Canucks should be on the phone soon to sign him to an entry-level contract (ELC) because if he hits free agency, there will be a glutton of teams vying for his signature. He could also end this season as their top prospect ahead of names like Klimovich, Woo and DiPietro, who were all drafted much higher than him. Not bad for a seventh-round pick, right?

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