Canucks sign NCAA free-agent Hirose to entry-level contract

Mar 29 2023, 5:39 pm

The Vancouver Canucks have added another prospect to the pool.

The Canucks have signed NCAA free-agent defenceman Akito Hirose of Minnesota State to a one-year entry-level contract, the team announced Wednesday. Hirose wrapped up his season last week after a first-round loss in the NCAA playoffs.

“As we continue to look at ways to improve the depth of our organization, signing a defenceman with this type of skillset is an important move for our hockey club,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said in a release. “Akito is a strong skater and he has put up impressive numbers on both sides of the ice in the NCAA and BCHL. We feel that our coaches and development team will provide him with the help and support he needs to start his pro career off in the right way.”

Vancouver was a rumoured destination for Hirose, who hails from Calgary, Alberta.

The 23-year-old left-shot blueliner had 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 2022-23, and was a Second-Team All-CCHA member, a two-time CCHA Defenceman of the Week and the CCHA Defenceman of the Month in January.

He played 104 games with Minnesota State, finishing his NCAA career with 68 points (seven goals, 61 assists) and a plus-53 rating.

ā€œHirose has been an important player for [Minnesota State] over the last few years. Heā€™s a talented offensive player,ā€ The Athleticā€™s Corey Pronman wrote inĀ an article earlier this season.

ā€œHeā€™s a strong skater, unusually strong for a college free-agent target and has strong playmaking abilities to go with that. Hirose has a chance to make it on what he can do with the puck, but whether he can defend men will be a question. His skating will help him, but I wouldnā€™t call him the hardest to play against defenceman.ā€

Hirose is the third NCAA player to recently join Vancouver after the Canucks inked its own prospect Aidan McDonough earlier this month and signed free agent Max Sasson three days ago.

The 6’0, 170-pound rearguard is expected to report to Vancouver and could make his NHL debut soon. The Canucks have eight games remaining in the regular season.

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