February was an interesting month for some of Montreal’s prospects. While several of the usual suspects played well in Laval, some of the Habs’ lesser-known youngsters made their mark elsewhere.
1st Star: Cayden Primeau – After going through a bit of a dip, Primeau has returned to the level of play from the beginning of the season when he was pushing Charlie Lindgren for more playing time. With Lindgren gone for the rest of the year (in Montreal) and Keith Kinkaid shipped to Charlotte, this is his ball to run with down the stretch. If Primeau plays like this, the Rocket should have a chance.
Stats: 8 GP, 3-4-1 record, 2.14 GAA, .921 SV%
2nd Star: Jake Evans – I was tempted to leave him off the list as he didn’t even play in half of Laval’s games but there’s no denying that he earned this second stint with the Habs. After playing a minimal role offensively with Montreal, he returned to Laval and picked up where he left off. After being a complete non-factor early on this year, he has been their top all-around player.
Stats: 5 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, +3 rating, 4 PIMS, 19 shots
3rd Star: Charles Hudon – I still have my doubts about his NHL upside (I think he’s a ‘tweener’ at this point) but there’s no denying that he’s one of the top scorers in the AHL. On a team that has difficulty scoring a lot of the time, Hudon’s top-end production has been huge for the Rocket. They’ll need Jonathan Drouin to return soon to get Hudon back to Laval and on that top line again.
Stats: 11 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, +2 rating, 6 PIMS, 35 shots
Honourable Mention: Jesperi Kotkaniemi – My original plan was to feature Laurent Dauphin here but it’s tough to overlook Kotkaniemi. Even though he hasn’t scored yet, he averaged an assist per game so the offensive contributions are certainly there. He’s still one of the youngest players in the AHL so expecting him to dominate isn’t overly realistic. He’s doing good things in a big role and for someone that’s getting over the sting of being demoted, that’s not a bad performance compared to others in that situation.
Stats: 11 GP, 0 goals, 11 assists, 11 points, -1 rating, 14 PIMS, 25 shots
1st Star: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (Chicoutimi, QMJHL) – Yes, his overall numbers are down relative to last season but the overager had a very strong showing in February. He’s leading the team in scoring by a country mile and has the Sagueneens in position for a good run in the postseason. Harvey-Pinard was someone that I was hoping could spend some time in Laval down the stretch but that’s unlikely to happen now.
Stats: 11 GP, 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, +4 rating, 0 PIMS, 35 shots
2nd Star: Cam Hillis (Guelph, OHL) – On the one hand, you look at Hillis who isn’t racking up the points like Nick Suzuki was last season and it seems disappointing. On the other hand, he’s battling to be in the top ten in league scoring with his month of February playing a big role in that. With Marc Bergevin’s recent revelation that they’re likely to only sign one of their four CHL prospects from 2018, Hillis’ performance this season has him in the lead to earn that contract.
Stats: 12 GP, 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, -3 rating, 4 PIMS, 32 shots, 167/304 faceoffs (54.9%)
3rd Star: Cole Caufield (Wisconsin, NCAA) – The Badgers were a big disappointment this season but that’s not on Caufield who was consistently their top offensive threat and kept that up in February. A note on his overall season, it’s his consistency that is worth an extra mention; he didn’t have many of the big ups and downs that a lot of top scorers like him have. I like the idea of him sticking around for another year though. Wisconsin should be a lot better and there’s room for his numbers to get even better.
Stats: 9 GP, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, +5 rating, 2 PIMS, 35 shots
Honourable Mention: Cole Fonstad (Everett, WHL) – Fonstad has done a nice job since joining the Silvertips and is also battling for a top ten spot in league scoring. However, I put him behind Hillis on the priority list to sign is he’s a bit too much of a one-dimensional offensive threat. He’s a great playmaker but he doesn’t score much for an NHL prospect in his draft +2 year. To his credit, Fonstad shot the puck a lot more in February which is a good sign but he will need to be a bigger scoring threat in the playoffs to help his odds of signing, be it with Montreal or elsewhere.
Stats: 12 GP, 1 goal, 12 assists, 13 points, +10 rating, 2 PIMS, 40 shots