How Canucks late-round gem McDonough is succeeding at the NCAA level

Mar 29 2021, 12:24 pm

Two years after being picked in the seventh round, the Vancouver Canucks appear to have selected a potential diamond in the rough with Aidan McDonough.

The 21-year-old Milton, Massachusetts product has had an overwhelmingly productive start to his collegiate career, with 21 goals and 47 points in 52 games over two seasons with Northeastern University.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound college sophomore has always produced offence, scoring 42 points (21-21-42) in 50 USHL games during his draft year, in addition to two massive seasons in high school at Thayer Academy.

After completing his second NCAA season earlier this month, let’s take a look at what the Canucks have in McDonough.

Power play prowess

McDonough’s production has been largely based on the fact that he is an unmitigated monster on the power play at the NCAA level.

Picked 195th overall as an over-ager by the Canucks in 2019, McDonough has developed into one of the best power play producers in the NCAA. His ability to score with the man-advantage can break games wide open. Watch as he dismantles New Hampshire University with a hat trick, all on the power play on February 12.

One-timer off the rush:

One-timer from a sharp angle:

Another one-timer from a similar spot:

Some of his impressive power play numbers, according to CollegeHockeyNews.com:

  • A total of 15 of his 21 goals scored in his NCAA career have been on the power play — most off one-timers from the right-hand circle.
  • Tied for fifth in power play goals in 2019-20 (six goals)
  • Tied for eighth in power play goals in 2020-21 — with fewer games played than players ahead of him (nine goals)

His trigger

McDonough operates primarily as an off-puck threat who uses a hair-trigger release, pinpoint precision, and leveraging of his frame to create immense power in his shot. He is Bryson DeChambeau loading up for a 350-plus yard drive when he lets his shots fly against NCAA goaltenders.

Watch as McDonough flexes onto his right-knee to achieve full rotation and explode through the pass on his back foot.

McDonough’s ability to move to open up passing lanes consistently aids his overwhelming shot. He finds open seams and sets his feet and stick to prepare for passes into his wheelhouse. He adapts to coverage, fading out between the goal-line and the circle, effectively limiting the defender’s ability to pressure his release without breaking ranks. He is also an expert at slipping through defensive structures for one-touch plays near the crease.

Watch McDonough hunt and jump for opportunities like family trying to find parking at Superstore on a Sunday:

On-puck movement, attacks off rush, passing

Secondary to his off-puck game, McDonough flashes some ability with the puck. While McDonough’s stride is a considerable weakness, he can up his pace, blending puck protection, small-ice maneuverability, and slot-oriented play to power on net.

Get excited if you like power moves because McDonough had some beautiful attempts last season:

McDonough is a solid facilitator as well.

He uses his strength on the forecheck to gain significant body positioning, quickly facilitating turned-over pucks to teammates in the slot — usually through traffic. He incorporates hook-passes that cut against the grain as he cycles around the net, resulting in high-danger chances for his teammates in the slot.

It’s important to note that these opportunities were not entirely plentiful in my viewings, but when he had the chances, he made the most of them.

Translatability

While McDonough’s shot, off-puck movement, and work along the boards represent translatable habits to the pro level, his four-way mobility is another story. Watch as he chases but successfully keeps the cycle going for Northeastern.

His level of movement laterally, lack of explosiveness from a stopped position, and the degradation of his stride as shifts continue — while serviceable enough at the NCAA level — could suffer in the professional ranks, where the pace of play is not only higher, but more efficient. It could lead to a relative lack of puck touches, and this loss of effectiveness can ultimately limit the number of chances that McDonough can leverage his skill-set.

Future

Regardless of the work he might have to overcome with his skating, McDonough has already outplayed the value of the draft capital used and represents a solid depth-piece of the Canucks’ heavily graduated prospect pool. The added comfort of a successful season without former Canucks’ prospect, Tyler Madden, who he played with in 2019-20, also raises optimism.

McDonough, like any NCAA player of prominence, has the opportunity to leave college whenever he pleases. He’ll turn 22 next season, so he’ll be older than most third-year college players. With more opportunity to continue his power play prowess, plus an expanded leadership role, it represents an opportunity to continue his development with the Huskies.

With the quality of players exiting the NCAA in the recent years, it might be favourable for the Canucks to afford McDonough this time. Regardless, you can bet that the Canucks will want to cash in on their long-shot bet, before that ticket might expire.

Daniel GeeDaniel Gee

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