It’s time for another edition of the Vancouver Canucks prospects report. Highlights include William Lockwood’s first professional goal in the American Hockey League (AHL), Vasily Podkolzin’s continued offensive production for Team Russia, and Toni Utunen’s surprising luck around the net. We also check in with Carson Focht, who potted his first goal since Feb 13, and Jonah Gadjovich who buried his 12th goal in 16 games.
That and a whole lot more as we continue to recap and analyze the top performances of prospects throughout the Canucks pipeline.
Utica Comets Update
The Utica Comets continued their season last week with four more games against their division rivals. For the seventh and eighth time this season already, they locked horns with the Syracuse Crunch and for the second and third time, they were blown out. With Jack Rathbone and Kole Lind in the NHL with the Canucks right now, they are missing their top-line center and arguably their best defenceman. So it’s no wonder why they struggled against a strong team like the Crunch.
Fortunately, they did come away with two victories over the Binghamton Devils and Rochester Americans. Sandwiched between the two blowouts, they shut out the Devils 3-0 and exploded offensively with a 7-5 win over the Americans.
With the results of this past week, the Comets’ record stands at 10-7-1, which is good for fourth in the division and two points up on the Americans.
Lockwood Scores First Professional Goal
It took Lockwood 15 games, but he finally has his first professional goal. Despite not scoring for almost half the season, the hardworking Michigan native was doing all the little things right. He was forechecking hard, using his speed to drive the defence back, and physically engaging his opponents every chance he got. It was just a matter of time before the puck starting going in for him.
Now Lockwood has not only his first goal in the AHL but his first three. The flood gates seemed to open, as he also notched his first two-goal game only one night later against the Americans. The goose egg in the goal column has now been broken, giving him three goals and seven points in 18 games so far this season.
Focht Joins the Fun With His First Goal in 13 Games
After going 13 games without a goal and three games without a point, Focht broke out of his slump in a big way on Friday against the Americans with his second two-point game of the season. His goal came on a power play in the second period when he ripped a quick wrist shot from the right circle past Americans’ goaltender Billy Christopoulos.
Hopefully, this game lights a spark under the former 2019 fifth-round pick because his points have been few and far between this season. Having said that, the chances have been there for the Saskatchewan native, as he sits fourth in total shots with 38, just behind top scorers Sven Baertschi, Sam Anas, and Jonah Gadjovich. So, maybe I shouldn’t be criticizing him too much.
With the two points, Focht’s rookie season total now reads two goals and seven points in 19 games.
Jasek Sees His Point Streak Snapped
After recording a point in three straight games, Lukas Jasek saw his point streak snapped on Monday against the Crunch. However, he still managed to put up two points last week, bouncing back with an assist against the Devils on Wednesday and another assist in the second meeting against the Crunch on Sunday. With those tallies, he upped his season total to two goals and 15 points in 19 games.
This is starting to become a broken record because Gadjovich just seems to score in almost every game he plays in. Now, he only scored one goal in four games this week, but when you look at what he’s done this season through 18 games, you can’t help but marvel at his season so far. He now has 12 goals on the season and is only one away from his total from all of last year.
The 6-foot-2 Regina-born power forward has looked every bit of the player that dominated the OHL in his draft year. With the Canucks struggling to find consistent contributors in the bottom-six, he could be the perfect role model for Jake Virtanen, who doesn’t seem to know how to use his size effectively.
Keppen Picks Up First Professional Point
After a less-than-stellar debut on Apr 16 against the Providence Bruins where Ethan Keppen drew a minus-3 in the plus/minus column, he redeemed himself with his first professional point on Wednesday. The 6-foot-2 Whitby native was only playing his third game in the AHL, so it’s great to see him get his first tally so quickly. After seeing his OHL career with the Flint Firebirds come to an abrupt end because of the pandemic, he was also seeing his first action since Feb 2 of last year. He has the potential to be a solid bottom-six winger in the NHL, so it will be interesting to see how he develops in the coming seasons.
I’m pretty fortunate for myself to be here right now and getting a shot…Just seeing other leagues play — like Quebec league and the WHL, even Junior A leagues — it’s pretty frustrating. Like, the OHL was the only league not playing…So, mentally, it was really tough.Ethan Keppen on the 2020-21 OHL season being canceled
Comets’ Next Games: Apr 28 vs. Syracuse Crunch, Apr 30 vs. Rochester Americans, May 2 vs. Syracuse Crunch
Vasily Podkolzin – Team Russia (Euro Hockey Challenge)
Podkolzin’s KHL career with SKA St. Petersburg may be over, but his international career definitely is not. After ruling out an appearance in the NHL this season, he joined Team Russia for two games against Team Belarus in the Euro Hockey Challenge. He ended up recording two assists in the two games, including a beautiful against-the-grain dish to Vegas Golden Knights prospect Ivan Morozov to sweep the series.
That series won’t be the end of the road internationally, as Podkolzin is slated to play for Russia in the upcoming World Championships as well. Despite not playing in the NHL this season, Canucks fans will still get to see their top prospect lighting it up somewhere before the start of training camp in September.
Toni Utunen – Tappara (Liiga)
After 14 games between goals, Utunen only had to wait two games for his next one. This time it was his first goal in the playoffs since 2018 when he was competing in the U18 SM-sarja with the Tappara U18 team. With the win on Friday, Tappara is now in the second round after dispatching KalPa in four games. He will look to continue his goal-scoring ways against Lukko when they meet up on Apr 29 for Game 1 of the next round.
Next Games: Apr 29/30/May 2 vs Lukko
Dmitri Zlodeyev – Dynamo Moscow (MHL)
Zlodeyev and MHK Dynamo Moskva are Kharlamov Cup Champions. After winning a high-scoring 7-5 game on Friday against Loko, they wrapped up their series to bring the championship home for the first time in their history. He also scored his first goal of the playoffs in the eventual finale and finished with one goal and four points in 11 games.
The dynamic two-way center will look to build upon his solid season in the MHL and VHL next season as he continues to prove to everyone that he should have been selected way before the sixth round in 2020.
Jack Malone – Youngstown Phantoms
Jack Malone remains one of the hottest Canucks prospects out there right now. After another five points this past week, he has three goals and nine points in his last six games and is riding a four-game point streak. He added two more goals to his total against Team USA on Friday and Saturday and finished his third full USHL season with a very solid 11 goals and 41 points in 44 games. Unfortunately, he won’t be competing in the Clark Cup Playoffs this year as the Phantoms struggled to stay above water this season finishing last in the USHL with a 12-30-5-2 record.
Jackson Kunz – Green Bay Gamblers
Like Malone, Jackson Kunz stayed hot with another three goals and four points last week. He now has 12 points in his last seven games and has upped his rookie season total to 23 goals and 43 points in 50 games. Kunz and his teammates will now get ready to meet Danil Gushchin and the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the first round of the playoffs where he will try and lead his team to their first Clark Cup since 2012.
That does it for another edition of the Canucks prospects report. Stay tuned for more next week as we continue to bring you all the updates from here and overseas!
All statistics were provided by Elite Prospects
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.