Among the areas that new GM Marc Bergevin said he would set out to improve
was the clubs’ grit and toughness. Their July 1st signing of Brandon Prust
goes a long way towards shoring up that area as that is what he is best known
for around the league. He played primarily on the fourth line in New York
but given the commitment Montreal made to him (four years at $2.5 million per
season), will he have a greater role with the Habs?
Statistically speaking, 2011-12 was a down year for Prust. After
setting career highs across the board the previous campaign, he regressed
towards more regular numbers for a player with his role this past season.
Part of that can be attributed to a roughly two minute per game drop in ice time
came as a result of some better skaters up front for New York. As is often
the case with players like Prust, stats don’t tell the whole story. He was
still a tenacious penalty killer, played a very physical style of play, and
fought a ton. He saved his best for the postseason as he saw an increase
in ice time while his hitting numbers improved considerably.
Season Stats: 82 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 PTS, -1 rating, 156 PIMS, 0
PPG, 2 GWG, 68 SOG, 11:56 ATOI
Playoff Stats: 19 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, -1 rating, 31 PIMS, 0 PPG,
0 GWG, 21 SOG, 12:46 ATOI
(Prust has only played three full NHL seasons.)
Although most fans have him earmarked for the fourth line, I’m not so sure
that’s what Bergevin and new coach Michel Therrien have in mind for him.
The size of the contract plus the
supposed promises that John Tortorella brought up in an offseason interview
suggests to me that they have plans to use him a bit more. If I were
guessing the opening night lineup today, I’d have him skating on the 3rd
line with Lars Eller. The other winger could be a variety of players
including Louis Leblanc, Colby Armstrong, or Travis Moen. He also should
see lots of time on the penalty kill while being the team leader in fights.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the total number of fights come down
compared to his past couple of seasons.
As I noted earlier, stats don’t tell the whole story for Prust which is why
he won’t be the most valuable of fantasy players despite playing what should be
a pretty important role for the Habs this season. If he stays on the 3rd
line all year he has a shot at cracking 20 points for the second time in his
career but that doesn’t make him worth a draft pick. That said he is worth
a late round pick in pools that place high value on penalty minutes or at the
very least a late week pickup in head-to-head formats for teams needing a
short-term boost in that category. As he can play all forward
positions, keep an eye out for multi-position eligibility; if he gets that then
he should be moved up in your rankings/watch lists accordingly.