Canucks prospects: Bains nears call-up territory, some Klimovich clarity

Arshdeep Bains shows why he’s an AHL all-star, Coach Colliton provides clarity on Danila Klimovich’s disappointing season and more

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

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Arshdeep Bains

He was named an AHL all-star on Thursday.

He sure looked like one on Saturday.

Abbotsford forward Arshdeep Bains notched two primary assists and scored the game-deciding goal as the Canucks beat the Tuscon Roadrunners 5-2 at the Abbotsford Centre.

Playing on a line with Vasily Podkolzin and veteran John Stevens, the trio combined for four of Abbotsford’s five goals, with Stevens netting his first AHL hat trick.

Down 1-0 early in the second period — and after getting shut out by Tuscon 4-0 the night before — it was Podkolzin coming in hot on the forecheck to poke the puck over to Bains, who zipped a quick pass to Stevens in the slot to break the goose egg.

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Then it was Bains with a pretty one-handed pass to a streaking Stevens, who put Abbotsford ahead 2-1 a couple minutes later.

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Stevens reciprocated the seeing-eye pass later in the frame, with Bains settling the puck and zipping a wrister glove side past the Roadrunner’s goalie.

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Stevens (3G, 1A) was given the game’s first star, while Bains — who went a plus-3 with two shots on goal — was named the second star of the game.

After the game, Stevens spoke about how proud the team is to have Bains represent them at the AHL All-Star Classic, which goes Feb. 4-5 in San Jose.

“We’re all really happy for him and he’s an awesome guy,” Stevens said. “He works so hard and he’s a really special player. He’s really fun to play with — you’ve gotta be ready for the puck at all times because he’ll find you when you’re not even looking for it.”

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Bains, a well-rounded 6-foot, 183-pound left-shot forward, has 32 points in 31 games (9G, 23A) this season and leads the team.

The Surrey product caught up with Randip Janda on Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi on Saturday and said it feels pretty good to be an All-Star.

“It’s been a pretty special journey from where I started so it’s been awesome and I wouldn’t change the route I took.”

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Bains said he was called into head coach Jeremy Colliton’s office on Monday, his 23rd birthday, with Abbotsford GM and Canucks director of player development Ryan Johnson on the line, who broke the news to him.

Bains had a good rookie season last year (66GP, 13G, 25A) and said he’s just building on what he accomplished as a first-year pro — including his 200-foot game.

“It’s a big part of pro hockey playing on both ends of the ice and … you can kind of see that with the top guys in (Vancouver), how they compete at both ends and they still find time and ice to perform and produce.

Bains also cited Elias Pettersson and other skill player’s ability to kill penalties — something he’s been doing as well — which should also help him find a role at the next level.

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Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin told Canucks.com‘s Chris Faber that there are several players in Abbotsford “in the discussion” for a call-up, which would certainly include Bains.

“I’m very confident based on the reports I get all the time from Ryan Johnson and the staff down there in Abbotsford that several players are in the discussions for a call-up whenever that situation comes up. We’re excited to see those guys get a game or more up here. Absolutely,” Allvin said earlier this week.

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Canucks prospect Arshdeep Bains tests Flames goaltender Dan Vladar during NHL pre-season game last September. Photo by Sergei Belski /USA TODAY Sports

Whether its Linus Karlsson or Nils Aman, who have seamlessly fit into bottom six roles in Vancouver when called up — or Bains, Aatu Raty or Vasily Podkolzin — there are options going forward should the Canucks run into some injury trouble.

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For now, however, there are only so many roles to fill and the big club already boasts chemistry and production from the bottom two lines.

Bains will be in Vancouver, eventually. Until then, he’s 10 points off the AHL scoring lead and with five points in his last three games, the former WHL scoring champion could conquer another league by the time the season is done.

Abbotsford is 19-11-2-1 and in fifth place in the 10-team Pacific Division.


Abbotsford Canucks forward Danila Klimovich salutes the crowd last season at the Abbotsford Centre.
Abbotsford Canucks forward Danila Klimovich salutes the crowd last season at the Abbotsford Centre. Photo by Darren Francis Photography /Abbotsford Canucks

Danila Klimovich

While Bains is reaching expectations this season, the same can’t be said about talented teammate Danila Klimovich.

Klimovich played in just his eighth game of the AHL season on Saturday, and while he hit the crossbar and put four shots on goal in what was his best game of the season, he is still without a goal this campaign after potting 17 last year as a 20-year-old.

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Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton provided some clarity on the Klimovich situation ahead of Friday’s loss, telling team broadcaster Brandon Astle that it’s not just injuries that have held the 6-foot-2, 201-pound right-shot forward down this campaign.

“It’s hard. He had a breakthrough in some ways last year with his production and was able to earn more ice time and a role at different times and the next year it just doesn’t seem to happen,” said Colliton. “There’s injuries that can play into it, but ultimately if you want to play and, hopefully, show you can help us win, there’s certain things we need: work ethic away from the puck, puck management, attention to detail — and that may be in practice — and if you do that, you put yourself in position to succeed when the games start.

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“So it’s part of the process in his development and when you go through adversity, if you’re able to push through it and be determined enough to stick with it, then you can be rewarded. But it doesn’t always happen right away for you.”

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Puck management is a big one for the Belarusian forward. Klimovich can wow you with slick moves and a booming shot, but can also be frustrating to watch when he’s not reading the play in front of him and giving up the puck at bad times.

Coach Colliton is running a tight ship in Abbotsford alongside his coaching counterparts in Vancouver.  If you can’t play a complete game, there are other prospects chomping at the bit.

Let’s hope Klimovich can pay attention to detail in practice and execute when it comes to game time.

We weren’t calling him the Klim Reaper last season for nothing.


Vancouver Canucks prospects Jonathan Lekkerimaki in action for Orebro HK of the Swedish Hockey League during the 2023/24 season.
Vancouver Canucks prospects Jonathan Lekkerimaki in action for Orebro HK of the Swedish Hockey League during the 2023/24 season. Photo by Orebro HK /Submitted

Jonathan Lekkerimaki

At this midway point of the season, everyone and their dog knows the Canucks are legit.

Their prospect pool, however, is earning the same reputation — with much of the credit going to world juniors MVP Jonathan Lekkerimaki.

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The Canucks’ 2022 first-rounder was one of NHL.com’s five breakout stars of the tournament, where he scored seven goals in seven games and dazzled his way up the NHL prospects pecking charts.

He’s been so good, bass-bumping mixtapes are being made about him.

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The Hockey Writers released their Top-100 NHL prospects midseason rankings on Friday and for the first time in a long time, a Canucks prospect is in blue-chip territory.

Lekkerimaki clocked in at No. 25 on the list, with the seven goals he scored in seven world junior games figuring prominently in the ranking.

This time last year, no Canucks prospect was within a sniff of the top 50.

The 2022 first-rounder returned to Orebro of the SHL this past week and had an assist and two shots on goal in over 18 minutes of ice time in a 3-0 win over Malmo.

Lekkerimaki, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound right-shot winger, leads all U20 players in points with 17 (10G, 7A) in 26 games.

The skill is undeniable, the tenacity in his game is growing and that shot is already elite.

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Those hands, meanwhile, are other-worldly.

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Lekkerimaki could be a special player by the time he’s ready to go in Vancouver — something nobody was saying just last season.


Vancouver Canucks prospect Hunter Brzustewicz in action this season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Hunter Brzustewicz in action this season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Photo by Tiffany Luke /Kitchener Rangers

Hunter Brzustewicz

We’re 42 games into the OHL season and a familiar name still sits atop the scoring charts.

Defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz continued to stave off the challengers this past week with five assists in two games as his top-ranked Kitchener Rangers continue to crush the opposition.

The 2023 third-round pick had two assists and a plus-2 rating in a 6-2 win against the Erie Otters on Friday, and had a three assist, plus-4 effort on Saturday against the Ottawa 67’s — including a fantastic stretch pass short-handed to spring a teammate for a breakaway early in the second period.

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Brzustewicz, 19, also featured in The Hockey Writers’ top-100 list, coming in at No. 55 with a ceiling of a second-pair offensive defenceman in the NHL.

The right-shot D-man now has 67 points (8G, 59A) in 42 games and a plus-32 mark. Brzustewicz’s 59 assists is more than any other player in the entire CHL.


Tom Willander
Boston University defenceman and Vancouver Canucks prospect Tom Willander wears the player of the game jacket after scoring the game-winner against rival Maine in a 3-2 win in November. Photo by twitter.com/TerrierHockey /@TerrierHockey

Tom Willander

It wasn’t just Lekkerimaki’s performance at the world juniors which put the Canucks prospects pipeline back on the map.

2023 first-rounder Tom Willander was great in his own right, putting together a solid defensive effort with an occasional pop of offence to reach the lofty expectations for the 18-year-old.

Willander, who scored that big goal against Canada and finished the tournament a team-high plus-9, was back at Boston College this past weekend and paired up with Team USA gold medal-winning stud defenceman Lane Hutson.

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In Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win over Northeastern, Willander was held off the scoresheet, but came to Hutson’s defence early in the third period after the pint-sized D-man was dropped to the ice by the benches. Willander came flying in and crunched the Huskies forward into the boards for a two-minute penalty.

Something tells me head coach and former NHLer Jay Pandolfo won’t mind that minor infraction.

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Willander then notched an assist in a 3-2 win over New Hampshire on Saturday night for his No. 2 ranked team.

The smooth-skating, precise passing 6-foot-1, 179-pound right-shot D-man has three goals, six assists and a plus-13 rating in 17 NCAA games this season.

Willander, meanwhile, was the 40th-ranked prospect on The Hockey News’ Top-100 list.


Sweden's Otto Stenberg (C) celebrates with Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson after scoring the 1-0 goal during the Group A game between Germany and Sweden in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden on December 28, 2023.
Sweden’s Otto Stenberg (C) celebrates with Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson after scoring the 1-0 goal during a Group A game between Germany and Sweden in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden on Dec. 28, 2023. Photo by ADAM IHSE /TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

Elias Pettersson

There was a lot to like about Elias Pettersson’s game at the world juniors.

The all-out effort defensively. The poise in high-pressure situations. And, of course, the crushing hits.

Pettersson, 19, is back in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan now and the 2022 third-round pick got one game in so far with Vasteras, picking up a secondary assist in over 18 minutes of ice time in a 6-2 win over Ostersunds.

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Pettersson did go a minus-1 in the game and has a minus-5 rating in 18 Allsvenskan games this season for his eighth-place team, so there is still work to do defensively.

Much of that development will take place in Abbotsford, where Pettersson is slated to play once his season is done. Vasteras is above the playoff bar, so when Pettersson packs his bags for the Fraser Valley remains to be seen.


Vancouver Canucks forward Vilmer Alriksson celebrates after teammate Aidan McDonough scored a power play goal in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.
Vancouver Canucks forward Vilmer Alriksson celebrates after teammate Aidan McDonough scored a power-play goal in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. Photo by Marissa Baecker /Shoot the Breeze

Vilmer Alriksson

Good things happen when you go to the net — especially when you’re bigger than everyone else on the ice.

6-foot-6, 214-pound forward Vilmer Alriksson had gone cold to end 2023. The 18-year-old, drafted by the Canucks in the fourth-round this past summer, went 13 games without a goal before scoring in a Jan. 6 win at Owen Sound, then followed it up two games later with a net-front marker on Friday in a 4-2 loss at the Soo Greyhounds.

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Playing his first season in North America, the guy they call ‘Ricky Bobby’ in Guelph is having a decent campaign, with nine goals and 15 assists in 41 games.

Still only 18-years-old, Alriksson has been tasked by Canucks brass to turn his finesse game into a power one.

The team is preaching patience with the player, whose game needs to grow into that huge frame he carries.


Jackson Dorrington in action during the 2022 Vancouver Canucks development camp at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC., on July 12, 2022.
Jackson Dorrington in action during the 2022 Vancouver Canucks development camp at UBC. The defenceman scored his first NCAA goal for Northeastern on Friday. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Elsewhere: Left-shot two-way defenceman Jackson Dorrington scored his third of the NCAA campaign for Northeastern on Friday, ripping a one-timer off the crossbar and in.

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Dorrington, 19, is a 6-foot-2, 192-pound D-man taken by the Canucks in the sixth-round of the 2022 draft. He is a robust physical presence and plays a disruptive style of defence.

[email protected]

twitter.com/mike_raptis

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reference: theprovince.com

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