Brooks Bandits winger Aiden Fink is putting up big-time numbers in the AJHL as a first-time draft-eligible forward, but he’s hardly getting big-name recognition for the 2023 NHL Draft.
That dynamic may or may not change in time for this June’s draft, but one this is for sure: Fink knows how to score. It’s not just luck, even if most of the sport’s most productive skaters try to put on a modest front and remain humble.
There’s an art to it. It’s at the intersection of great skill and an even better work ethic. You have to put in the hours, and that’s true of the game’s very best goalscorers.
“I worked on a lot of stuff regarding my scoring touch like my one-timer. I feel like I improved it a lot. My shot accuracy is something I am trying to improve so I can score even more goals,” Fink told EP Rinkside. “Regarding my scoring touch, I worked on my re-directs, every scenario how to score a goal. That’s what I worked on.”
Fink’s scoring is up. He potted 19 last season and is on pace for 39 this year and over 100 points.
“Pucks are going my way. I have two good linemates and have been playing with Hunter Wallace. They know where to find me. I think pucks are just bouncing my way,” Fink explained.
“I just want to put the puck in the net as quickly as I can. I don’t want to get it in my mind that I have the puck on my stick. Some bounces can happen. I just focus on putting it in the net and be happy after. That was a crazy play. It was a good first goal back.”
Fink is always ready for a rebound. It’s important to keep your stick down. This future Wisconsin Badger does that and more.
“I learned to have my stick down from T.J. Hughes. He put up 66 goals last year. At every practice and every game, I watched what he did. I watched how he would score so many goals,” Fink admitted. “He was always prepared for that puck. Maybe it takes a weird bounce, but with his stick there he’s ready for it. It kind of transformed this year. I’m doing well with that.”
Having a quick-release wrist shot doesn’t happen overnight. That’s a skill that gets better through repetition.
“At my house in Calgary, in my garage, I have a shooting tarp. I like to work on it there. I shoot pucks after practice. In my garage, I shoot a lot of pucks. The tarp is away from the wall, but I went through the glove. It’s plastic and went through that and put a hole in the wall,” he laughed.
The top shelf is one place goal scorers like to shoot for. Fink talked about his favourite spot.
“When you’re coming down you kind of see a little space up top. I feel like I see a lot of space up top. With my shot, I feel like I can hit that corner,” Fink reiterated. “I love to go up top. When I’m in close, I like to put it just below the glove, that’s a spot I like a lot. It’s just a quick-release shot. His glove is usually by his shoulder, if you release that shot, right above the pad and below the glove. It will go in every time.”
On the power play, Fink likes playing the hammer.
“On the power play, we’re running a spread. So, I’m by the dot on my one-timer side. I like that spot because I can shoot the one-timer or make a play,” said Fink.
Like all prospects, Fink has been getting faster every season.
“I worked with Cale Makar’s skating coach Pat Puddifant. He really teaches me how to use my skates. I am a lot faster,” Fink stated.
Playing the penalty kill doesn’t mean you can’t look for offensive opportunities.
“I’m playing the PK here in Brooks. Our PK coach wants us to score goals. It’s not all defensive,” Fink pointed out. “If we have a breakaway. We’ll take it. If we have a 2-on-1, we will take it.
“I think a lot of PKs now are trying to score to help their teams. The thinking has changed. When I watched the NHL back when I was a kid. There weren’t too many goals coming off the PK. There are a lot more now.”
The World Junior A Challenge was a place where Fink shined while playing for Canada West. His 12 points in six games rank fifth on the all-time points list. Andrei Svechnikov had 12 points as well in 2016-17.
“It was an amazing series. It was amazing to wear that leaf. Our team was really good. Top-to-bottom, the forwards and defense were really good, but unfortunately, we couldn’t score, and that’s how you can lose. I thought I had a good tournament,” Fink mentioned.
What would it be like to get drafted by the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames?
“It would be amazing. Honestly, I wouldn’t care who I went to,” Fink revealed. “I hope I get drafted and hope I can prove myself to that team.”
Teams have called Fink, but he’s still not sure about attending the draft in person.
“I still haven’t talked to my agent about that. We haven’t really figured that out yet. It’s a little too early to focus on that now,” Fink added. “Maybe we will decide after the season we will probably decide if we should go or not. Or just have a pizza party at my house.”
After I heard his choice of what he thought good pizza was, I decided to move on. It was the right thing to do. That’ll just be a footnote in this story.
The Bandits have a lot of season left, and Fink is excited to see how far they can go in the playoffs.
“This season personally is going well for me. I’m producing and in that first-line winger role. Teamwise, I think we’re having an outstanding year,” said Fink. “I hope we continue that and win a national championship here.”
Fink keeps this up, and he’ll cap all of that off with a draft selection in the second or third round, too. He’s heading to the University of Wisconsin next season.