Some strong performances at the World Juniors highlight Montreal’s top prospect performers for the month of December.
1st Star: Michael McCarron – After a quiet November, McCarron responded with his best month of the season. While his overall numbers are bolstered by a four-assist game, he still was Laval’s best overall offensive performer and is more than holding his own on their top line.
Stats: 11 GP, 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points, +2 rating, 24 shots, 18 PIMS
2nd Star: Alex Belzile – I keep waiting for his production to dry up. Let’s remember, this is a player that only became a full-time AHLer last season in his sixth year of professional hockey. However, Belzile continues to be productive and should pass his career high in points sometime this month. He will represent Laval at the All-Star Game, a well-deserved honour.
Stats: 11 GP, 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points, -3 rating, 22 shots, 2 PIMS
3rd Star: Michael McNiven – This was a weird month for McNiven. While he finished it in Montreal, he also was sent to the ECHL early on in December. However, an injury to Charlie Lindgren forced his recall and he was a lot sharper in the games that followed which helped Laval pick up a few wins.
Stats: 5 GP, 3-0-1 record, 2.27 GAA, .907 SV%
Honourable Mention: Jake Evans – The start of the month was good as was the end of it. The middle wasn’t as sharp though as he hit a bit of a wall and had a five-game pointless drought. That’s not entirely unexpected for a first-year pro but they will need more good than bad in the second half from Evans.
Stats: 11 GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, even rating, 21 shots, 4 PIMS
1st Star: Ryan Poehling (St. Cloud, NCAA/USA WJC) – Poehling was decent at the college level but it’s his performance in the preliminary round at the World Juniors that has him here. He had a third period for the ages against Sweden, singlehandedly clawing the US back into the game (one they eventually lost in overtime). He wrapped up the round with the tournament lead in scoring.
NCAA Stats: 3 GP, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, even rating, 2 PIMS
WJC Stats: 4 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, +4 rating, 2 PIMS, 9 shots
2nd Star: Alexander Romanov (CSKA Moscow, KHL/RUS WJC) – For a player that hasn’t recorded a single point in league play this season (yes, he doesn’t play a lot but with that much firepower, it wouldn’t be crazy to think he could have picked up a lucky assist or two along the way), Romanov has quite the two-way threat at the World Juniors. He is steadily earning more ice time while showing that he’s more than comfortable with the puck on his stick. It’s still a really short sample size but this is certainly a promising performance.
KHL Stats: 3 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, even rating, 2 PIMS
WJC Stats: 4 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, +7 rating, 0 PIMS, 12 shots
3rd Star: Jesse Ylonen (Pelicans, SM-liiga/FIN WJC) – Ylonen was having a nice stretch before the World Juniors and actually is in a lower role there than he was with his club team which is a surprise. That hasn’t stopped him from being productive in the tournament, however. His improved play in the SM-liiga is certainly encouraging as it shows he’s starting to adapt to playing at the higher level after spending last season in the Mestis.
SM-liiga Stats: 6 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +4 rating, 0 PIMS
WJC Stats: 4 GP, 1 goals, 3 assists, 4 points, +3 rating, 0 PIMS, 5 shots
Honorable Mention: Scott Walford (Victoria, WHL) – Walford came into this season as someone that could be on the borderline for a contract offer from the Habs. Months like this will certainly help his cause significantly. His defensive game is solid but while the flashes of offensive potential have been there, they haven’t been consistent. That changed a bit last month as the 19-year-old flashed his playmaking skills. Keeping that up in the second half would go a long way towards securing his entry-level deal.
Stats: 12 GP, 1 goal, 10 assists, 11 points, +5 rating, 22 PIMS, 33 shots