The Abbotsford Canucks announced on Wednesday (Jan. 5) afternoon the signing of a pair of forwards to professional try out agreements.
The American Hockey League club has inked deals with Japanese-born Yushiroh Hirano and Spruce Grove, Alta. product Brandon Cutler.
Hirano was born in Tomakomai, Japan, which is a city in the Hokkaido (northern) region of the country. The city has some significant hockey history, as it was the birthplace of International Ice Hockey hall of famer Tsutomu Kawabuchi.
Kawabuchi helped build the sport in Japan and was also the head coach of the Japanese women’s hockey team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He was inducted into the IIHF hall of fame in 2004.
The 26-year-old Hirano is in his third year of pro hockey in North America, having previously played for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones. He also suited up in one game for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and in that game he became the first-ever Asian born player to score a point in AHL history.
He has collected 121 points in 144 games in the ECHL. Prior to his time in the ECHL he was junior hockey in the USHL, Sweden and Japan. Hirano has also represented Japan on the international stage several times.
He has 29 points in 25 games this season in Cincinnati and leaves the ECHL tied for third in league scoring.
Cutler, 21, developed in the Spruce Grove Saints minor hockey program and moved on to the St. Albert Raiders as a U18. He was then drafted by the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels and spent two seasons there and three seasons with the Victoria Royals. He collected 106 points and 194 penalty minutes in 258 WHL games.
He went on to sign his first professional contract with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies in September and has 27 points in 23 games.
In other Abbotsford Canucks news, forward Ethan Keppen is returning to the Ontario Hockey League. The 20-year-old has yet to record a point in 11 games with the Abbotsford Canucks this season. He returns to the Flint Firebirds where he previously spent three seasons.
Abbotsford returns to action on Thursday (Jan. 6) when they host the Bakersfield Condors.