Canucks prospects of week 13: McDonough, Rafferty and Keppen

Each week, I will be featuring the Vancouver Canucks top three prospects. Here’s a look at who stood out in week 12.

The increased confidence of some of the Vancouver Canucks’ prospects became very evident this past week as they continue to progress at various levels. One of the featured players had a career game in college hockey, another is turning heads with the Utica Comets — while the final one had a goal in three straight games.

1. Aidan McDonough

Several of the players selected by the Canucks at the 2019 NHL draft, particularly in the later rounds, have been pleasant surprises. None exemplify that more than seventh-round pick Aidan McDonough. Like most first-year players, McDonough started the season being used sparingly and did not produce a point until his fifth game of the season.

This past week, however, in the lone contest that the Northeastern Huskies would play, McDonough produced a career-high four points. He rifled home his first goal after receiving a cross-ice pass from fellow Canucks prospect Tyler Madden, while on the power play to put the Huskies up 3-0.

Dartmouth would storm back with three goals in the first nine minutes of the second period. Shortly after that, the Huskies returned to the man advantage, and McDonough tallied his second power play marker of the day.

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On Northeastern’s fifth goal – yet again coming on the power play — McDonough would retrieve the puck on the end boards and feed a backhand pass, which resulted in a secondary assist. He then added another assist to close out the second period with the Huskies leading 6-3. Dartmouth managed one goal in the third period, but the Huskies came away with the 6-4 victory.

McDonough has 14 points in his last nine games and seven goals and eight assists on the season. All seven of his goals have come on the power play.

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2. Brogan Rafferty

Each time I watch the Utica Comets play, I am impressed by the play of Brogan Rafferty. His poise, vision and all-around game are exceptional. This past week, Rafferty registered one goal and five assists in the four games the Comets played.

The Comets trailed the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2 after two periods, but a tremendous third period — in which they scored four times — resulted in a 6-3 victory. Rafferty provided much of the damage with one goal and two assists in that final frame. He earned the first star of the game selection, and deservedly so. Originally, Rafferty had been credited with a fourth point, but it was later changed.

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Next up for the Comets were their division rival, the Toronto Marlies. Rafferty added two assists in the contest, including the primary assist on the game-winning power play goal. The Comets came out on top 6-4. They would drop their next two games despite the impressive play of Rafferty.

He had one assist in a 4-3 loss to the Sound Tigers and went scoreless in a 5-1 loss to the Binghamton Devils. Rafferty leads all defencemen in the American Hockey League in assists with 19.

3. Ethan Keppen

Another Canucks’ prospect from the 2019 NHL draft that has recently elevated his game is Flint Firebirds forward Ethan Keppen. The vast majority of his goals come from in close. His net-front presence and willingness to crash the net are his top attributes. Those qualities resulted in three goals this past week.

His first goal of the week provided the Firebirds with the go-ahead-goal in a 5-3 win vs. the North Bay Battalion. Keppen deposited a pass at the edge of the blue paint by going hard to the net. In their next game, the Firebirds would be edged 5-4 by the Saginaw Spirit.

Keppen buried a rebound from the edge of the crease while being knocked down on the play. In the rematch a night later, Keppen would open the scoring by getting open in the slot and quickly releasing the puck after receiving a pass from behind the net. Unfortunately, the Spirit would end up sweeping both weekend games. This one by a 5-3 count.

All three goals were the result of his fearless effort to get to the dirty areas in front of the opposition net. That willingness will be a valuable trait in having success at the next level.

Honourable mentions

Two other Comets deserving of mention this past week are Kole Lind and Lukas Jasek. Both players registered three goals and two assists in four games.

Next: Canucks: No market for Sven Baertschi?

Be sure to come back next week to see which exciting young players are featured in the Canucks prospects of the week.

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