Gritty forward Brandon Prust was to the Habs last season as the aorta is to the heart of the human body. Through his on-ice leadership and willingness to stand up for his teammates on a nightly basis, Prust energized the team with tenacious play. He served on each of the team’s lines throughout this season, but his most successful role was when he flanked rookies Brendan Gallagher and/or Alex Galchenyuk. Jokingly dubbed the rookies’ babysitter, Prust assumed the responsibility with grace. While his value is determined by the intangibles he brings to his team, his value to fantasy owners may be low unless there’s weight given to PIMs and hits in the fantasy league’s scoring settings.
Season Stats: GP 38, G 5, A 9, PTS 14, +/- +11, PIM 110, PPG 0, SHG 0, GWG 1, SOG 39, ATOI 13:38
After departing from the salary-capped New York Rangers as a UFA, Prust signed on with Montreal for a 4-year deal worth $2.5M a season. He came as advertised, dropping gloves in combat 10 times during the lockout shortened campaign. Apart from offering honorable protection, Prust supported his teammates through his sound defensive play on route to a +11 plus/minus rating in only 38 games.
While he averaged under 14 minutes of ice time per game, many of the minutes came in crucial defensive instances both on the penalty kill and at the end of games. Prust had Head Coach Michel Therrein’s trust and frequently found himself promoted to the team’s top lines in the dying minutes of games for added security while defending leads.
5 Year Averages
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
As he does for a living in the NHL, Prust is a serviceable role player in fantasy leagues where points are scored beyond the traditional goals and assist column. Brandon Prust makes a solid pick up where PIMs, plus/minus, hits, and short-handed goals are counted. With the Habs improved depth at the forward position next season, expect Prust to play even more short-handed minutes than he did last season. This could very well lead to valuable short-handed fantasy points. While he’s a decent point producer among bottom six role players, it’s unlikely he’ll break the 30 point plateau.
Ideally, George Parros’ arrival through a trade with the Florida Panthers will prevent Brandon Prust from coming to fisticuffs with league heavyweights too often. Unfortunately, there’s no certainty that Parros will dress a majority of the Habs games this season. It’s also unlikely that Prust will change the game that has garnered him success at the NHL level. I anticipate that Prust will continue to drop the gloves on a regular basis as long as management gives him the okay to do so.
Considering the shoulder injuries suffered at the end of last season due to his robust play, I foresee some hesitation in green-lighting Prust to wreak havoc on opposing players. At the end of the day, he’s a much more valuable player on the ice than in the penalty box or on the injured reserve. Still, the team will be confident knowing that Prust will be backed up by Parros, Travis Moen, and Douglas Murray if games get physical.
With the off-season acquisition of Daniel Briere and the continuing development of young guns Galchenyuk, Gallagher, and Lars Eller, the team has depth that may push Prust down as far as the fourth line. In order to pick up points on a regular basis, he will have to make the most of his opportunities. He will surely be promoted to the team’s top lines both during in-game line juggling and as injuries arise throughout the season.
If you have Prust on your fantasy team roster, I’d suggest keeping him on the bench as you track the team’s game-by-game lineups to determine when he may be the best bet to dress. His offensive production will likely get a boost when he is paired with either of Habs sophomores Galchenyuk or Gallagher with whom he showed chemistry last season.