February was a positive month for many Montreal prospects. Not only did
numerous unsigned draftees have strong individual performances, but the Habs’
AHL affiliate in Hamilton also had a winning month for the first time this
season. Later draft picks exceeding expectations was a consistent theme in
February, find out which ones stood out from the crowd in our monthly 3 Stars.
1st Star: Michael Bournival – After a first half which
generously could be described as underwhelming, Bournival is beginning to find
some comfort and consistency in his play. With the injuries the team is
facing he regularly finds himself inside the top six while he also is shifting
back and forth between centre and the wing. If he can find a way to keep
this up, he’ll do a lot to boost himself back up the Habs’ depth chart.
Stats: 9 GP, 3-3-6, +4 rating, 29 SOG, 2 PIMS, 1 GWG
2nd Star: Nathan Beaulieu – After going through a rough
stretch, the rookie blueliner is starting to pick his play back up. His
new defence partner (more on him shortly) has allowed him to play more of an
aggressive game which is Beaulieu’s preference. On the negative side, the
powerplay (which he anchors) is still struggling but with all of the recent
injuries to players on the defence, he likely is going to get a chance to play
even more in the coming weeks.
Stats: 12 GP, 4-1-5, -1 rating, 23 SOG, 8 PIMS, 2 GWG
3rd Star: Greg Pateryn – When he fractured his elbow early in
the season (November 2nd), I didn’t think he would be too big of a loss, a
rookie depth defenceman generally doesn’t have too great of an impact.
When he returned, I quickly realized how wrong I was there. He is reliable
in his own end (although he had some struggles early in his return as he returned to
game shape) and has formed a quality rookie top pairing with Beaulieu.
Don’t rule out him being the first recall if there is another injury on
Stats: 12 GP, 3-2-5, -3 rating, 24 SOG, 9 PIMS, 1 GWG
Honourable Mention: Robert Mayer – None of the Bulldogs’
goalies (including now-traded Cedrick Desjardins) got to play much but Mayer
the most starts and had his best month statistically of the season. There
have been moments where Mayer has made a legitimate case to be the starter and
others where he has played like a fringe backup. Right now, he’s playing
more like the former. However, with him going to the NLA next season,
Dustin Tokarski should be getting the bulk of the starts moving forward.
Stats: 5 GP, 4-1-0 record, 2.37 GAA, .931 SV%
(As Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are in the NHL, they are ineligible for a star here as the
point of these articles is to highlight players in the system.)
1st Star: Darren Dietz (Saskatoon, WHL) – Prior to the month of
February, Dietz was having a really rough season in the +/- category (-19) but
was still putting up quality offensive numbers. February turned all that
around as not only did he have by far his best scoring month of the year (more
than double the points of any other month), he also posted an eye-popping +23
rating and was a key part of the Blades’ month long winning streak.
Stats: 15 GP, 7-12-19, +3 rating, 18 PIMS; 2 GWG
2nd Star: Olivier Archambault (Drummondville, QMJHL) – Of the players that need to
sign a contract by June 1st, the Habs’ 4th rounder in 2011 is one that going
into last month was really on the bubble. After his strong play in recent
weeks, I could
see the Habs leaning towards offering him a deal. He always has been a ‘toolsy’
player and right now at least, all the tools are coming together for him.
Late in the month he surpassed his previous career high in points which was set in his
Stats: 12 GP, 7-9-16, -3 rating, 12 PIMS, 30 SOG, 1 GWG, 11/27
3rd Star: Danny Kristo (North Dakota, NCAA) – He was our first
star in January and statistically speaking, he did better in February in
points-per-game, albeit with only six games played. He remains among the
top scorers in the NCAA and should be a serious contender for the Hobey Baker
Award. For those who are anxiously awaiting his pro debut, it will likely
be delayed somewhat as North Dakota is expected to have a lengthy playoff run.
Stats: 6 GP, 5-5-10, +6 rating, 4 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Daniel Pribyl (Sparta Praha, Czech
Extraliga) – There were several worthy candidates for this spot but I wanted to
highlight Pribyl here. He tailed off for quite a while after a strong
start to the year but was on the fire down the stretch as his team approached
the postseason. For a junior aged player suiting up as a regular in a pro
league, he is making a very strong case to be offered a contract by the Habs.
Stats: 8 GP, 4-3-7, +4 rating, 0 PIMS
I’m also going to toss out a special honourable mention to Brady Vail but not
for his numbers. He noted at the draft there were at times he had to play
defence for a few shifts last season. In February, with Windsor having a multitude
of injuries, he had been pressed onto regular blueline duties for the past
several weeks. More notably, he wasn’t playing sheltered minutes on the
third pairing. Instead, he found himself regularly paired with Nick Ebert,
their highest scoring defenceman, both 5-on-5 and on special teams. He certainly made the most of a challenging situation last month but with one of the injured players returning, he will shift back (for now at least) to his natural position.