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Canucks’ Top 25 Under 25 (2022 Edition): #7 Aidan McDonough

Aidan McDonough has gone from a late-round long shot to one of the best prospects in the Canucks’ organization.

Hockey East Semifinals Tournament Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after April 15th, 1998.

Any top-flight organization has a few guys that sneak up on you. Those late-round picks or unsigned free agents that come out of nowhere to become an impact player — and importantly, do so for cheap. A common criticism of the Canucks, and one I have certainly echoed, is that they have failed to develop any sort of middle-class of prospects that could duke it out for roster spots.

In Aidan McDonough, though, the Canucks may have their diamond in the rough.

When McDonough was first drafted, it was easy to not pay attention. He was only a seventh-round pick, after all. In recent years though, he has become one of the most intriguing and important names in the Canucks organization.

The 22-year-old has been roughly a point-per-game player for each of the past two seasons. It was a mild jump up from 27 points in 31 games in his Draft+1 year, which itself was rather impressive given he had 42 points in 50 USHL games in his draft year. What really stood out this past year, though, and what has become known as McDonough’s bread and butter, is his 25 goals. In the previous two years, he had just 21 combined (11 in 2019-20 and 10 in 2020-21), showing just how stark his goal-scoring progress has been. McDonough has admitted to paying particular attention to improving his shot, and it certainly shows.

It’s the kind of progress that jumps off a page, and the kind of talent the organization needs to be developing.

Oh, and also, he’s childhood friends with Jack Rathbone.

While his shot is his most lethal weapon, Chris Faber of CanucksArmy has spoken positively about the rounding out of his overall game. He has become less of a power play specialist, more adept at driving play on his own, and has worked on his skating, which had previously been an issue. Cam Robinson, prospects writer for Dobber Prospects and frequent Canucks commentator, describes McDonough as a “shoot-first winger with a heavy approach to the game.”

With his mix of size, shot, and offensive instincts — along with his impressive development and work ethic since his draft year — there is no doubt that McDonough has punched well above his weight as a seventh-round pick. I have been a sharp critic of Jim Benning and Co., including their work at the draft table, but I have no problem admitting they hit a potential home run with McDonough.

What’s Next for McDonough?

While the decision was up in the air for a while, McDonough chose not to sign a contract with the Canucks earlier this year and instead will return to Northeastern in the NCAA, where he will captain the squad.

There’s always some anxiety around NCAA players signing with the team — I have seen hand wringing over Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Adam Gaudette, and others over the years — he says his plan is to eventually sign in Vancouver. As far as I can tell, there is no real reason to doubt his intentions.

On the ice, look for McDonough to continue to emerge as one of the more dangerous scoring threats in the NCAA. Ideally, he’ll round out his game a bit more, particularly with his skating. Given that he already has an impressive skillset, sanding off the few edges that remain would make him a legitimate NHL option in the not-so-distant future.

The best teams have late-round picks who turn out to be impact players. The Canucks may just have one of their own in Aidan McDonough.