A couple weeks ago I was able to have a conversation with one of the Canucks’ seventh round picks Aidan McDonough. We talked about his early years, growing up in Massachusetts and what hockey was like on the east coast in Cape Cod, we chatted about his season with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and even the Vancouver Canucks development camp and how he was on a ferry and a flight one day and then playing hockey the next day at the camp.

McDonough was born in early November of 1999, and we joked a bit about how it was a breath of fresh air to be talking to a player what wasn’t born after the turn of the millennium and he joked about being one of the older guys at development camp when he’s skating around with some guys born in 2001. He grew up playing alongside Canucks 2017 4th round pick Jack Rathbone from first to eighth grade and was coached by Jack’s father, Jason. After grade eight Aidan attended the Thayer academy, where he was coached by former NHL player Tony Amonte. He then moved to the USHL for one season after his senior year, looking to raise his draft stock as a potential late bloomer.

Aidan claims that he was about 5’8″ and 150 pounds in his freshman year of high school. He grew to about 6’2″ in his senior year and spoke about how he had an adjustment period near the end of his high school career and felt that this season in the USHL was the first year that he was comfortable in his post-growth-spurt body.

His love for hockey was born at an early age as he heard stories about his father playing at a high level in high school alongside Aidan’s many uncles. There were a number of great hockey schools around his childhood hometown, so he was able to attend plenty of college hockey games growing up, where he fell in love with the passionate, high-energy atmosphere. Aidan’s father was also close friends with Colorado Avalanche scout Neil Shay who took Aidan under his wing and helped foster his love for the game.

McDonough was a two-sport athlete in high school and was even captain of his school’s baseball team as a junior before fully committing to hockey. He joked about the growth spurt ruining his chances to be a second basemen as the ground balls were more difficult. He was a good hitter but wasn’t a huge fan of fielding, which I can respect as a former Designated Hitter myself.

Aidan enjoyed being on the powerplay this season for the USHL Roughriders and likes to consider himself a power forward who models his game after British Columbia native Jamie Benn. McDonough also made a point of saying he enjoyed watching Auston Matthews’ shoot the puck, but was careful not to draw any direct comparisons.

I asked about his time in Cedar Rapids and the team’s reputation for chippy, physical play.

“We took pride in playing physical, that was one of the things that coach Carlson preached. It is a really tough league, everyone is a real good player, it’s a really physical and defensive league. We wanted to make sure that if you mess with one of us you mess with all of us. We weren’t afraid to throw the body around or drop the gloves if need be.
I had a couple scuffles here and there… I don’t really go looking for anything in terms of fighting, physicality is a part of my game so I like to use my body as an advantage and finish checks and separate guys from the puck. I wasn’t really looking (to fight) but it came across me a few times and I had to defend myself. I only had one official fight but I try to stay out of the box as much as I can.”

McDonough is attending Northeastern in the fall and is excited to play alongside a number of local Massachusetts players; as well as Canucks 2018 68th overall pick Tyler Madden, McDonough’s former development camp roomie.

He described development camp as an unforgettable experience where he learned a lot of things he can bring to summer training and to Northeastern next season.

McDonough also enjoyed the off-ice activities at development camp. He described the Grouse Grind as a fun team-bonding despite a dense fog that obscured the view at the end of the run. He also enjoyed the cooking that they worked on as a team. The most memorable experience at camp for Aidan was visiting the children’s hospital, being able to pop into some rooms and give some stuffed animals out to kids made him feel proud to be a part of the  Canucks organization:

“We love doing it, I think it might resonate a bit more with the kids because we are a bit younger and I think it’s big for us to get accustomed to doing things like that, its a big part of being a pro, giving back is really important.”

As a seventh round pick, the road to the NHL is a long one for McDonough if he makes it at all. When asked about what drives him, he spoke about his belief in himself and his awareness of difficult it is to take the next step as a prospect:

“Even if you get drafted or you don’t, I think you always have that in the back of your mind that you believe you can play at that level. I think going to development camp, you realize I’m pretty close, not everyone at that camp is going to play in the NHL but I’m right here with all these guys. You also realize that wow I have so much work to do and I think it kind of excited me to get back to my training. I’m obviously so far away but if I have a good year or two you never know. You got a taste of that life, being treated like an NHL player, after that it’s like ok, jeez, I want to do this for the rest of my life so I’m going to go home and do what I have to do to be able to live like that.”

Aidan is a great kid and though he has a long road to becoming an NHL player, the drive is definitely there. He’s set up to succeed at Northeastern this fall, and he and teammate Tyler Madden will make the Huskies a fun team to follow for Canucks fans.

I’ll include the links to the interview here and also will link the Twitter thread of some of the GIFs I created that are focused on his best goals and assists from last season in the USHL.

Apple Podcast link
Spotify Link