The championship series across the Canadian Hockey League are about to get underway and the Habs will be represented in each of the three leagues.
Cole Fonstad (Prince Albert, WHL)
Fonstad had an okay regular season but never really moved into the top role. That has carried over to his postseason as he has been very quiet so far and has been held off the scoresheet in ten straight games while also missing a pair due to an undisclosed injury. Speculatively, given his struggles, it’s reasonable to assume that he’s not fully healthy at the moment. Nonetheless, he has the capability to step up and play a key role.
The Raiders will be taking on Vancouver in a battle of the top-ranked regular season teams. The Giants aren’t a high-scoring team – draft-eligible defenceman Bowen Byram leads them in postseason scoring – but they are a very strong squad defensively. This should be a low-scoring series which doesn’t bode well for Fonstad’s offensive numbers taking a big jump.
Nick Suzuki (Guelph, OHL)
Suzuki has been a fixture in our monthly top prospects series (he’ll be making an appearance in April’s column as well) and for good reason. Even when he was quiet, he was still churning along at over a point per game and when he has been on his game, he has been dominant.
Guelph has been up against the wall facing elimination several times this postseason (seven times in the past two rounds) and Suzuki’s play has been a big factor in them staving it off each time. He leads the OHL (and CHL) in postseason scoring with 31 points in 18 games and several of those have been of the highlight-reel variety.
The Storm will be in tough against a very deep Ottawa squad that has yet to lose in the playoffs. The 67’s feature four of the top nine scorers in the postseason, headlined by Tye Felhaber who had a stint in Laval last season but wasn’t offered a contract by the Habs. (He went on to score 59 goals in the regular season, earning a contract with Dallas in the process.) World Junior goaltender Michael DiPietro gives them a strong threat between the pipes as well.
Montreal technically has a second prospect in this series as Cam Hillis plays for Guelph but his season is over after breaking his collarbone shortly after coming back from, you guessed it, a broken collarbone.
Joel Teasdale (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL)
Teasdale has also been a frequent mention in the top prospects series, especially after he was dealt to Rouyn-Noranda midseason and has been on a torrid scoring pace since then with 35 goals in 43 games since then (including the regular season and the playoffs). The Huskies are a well-rounded squad after they made several in-season trades to load up while leading scorer Peter Abbandonato is one of the more intriguing undrafted free agents still out there.
They will be facing off against a Halifax squad that finished third overall in the regular season standings. Anyone interested in watching draft-eligible prospects will want to keep an eye on Raphael Lavoie, a winger who is projected to be picked around where Montreal selects (15th) plus a player whose performance with the Mooseheads forced the Commissioner to actually change the trade after the fact. (This actually happened…)
Halifax is hosting the Memorial Cup this season which means that regardless of the outcome of the series, Teasdale and the Huskies will be the second representative from the QMJHL so the Habs will have at least one prospect in the tournament. We’ll know in the next two weeks if Fonstad and/or Suzuki will be joining him.