February was a month of contrasts for Montreal’s prospect pool. In Laval, injuries decimated their roster and no one really had a big month offensively. Meanwhile, at the junior level, there were some impressive performances that earned them one of our three stars.
1st Star: Kevin Poulin – Poulin didn’t play much – less than half of Laval’s games, in fact – but he was simply stellar when he was between the pipes. That helped him earn Goalie of the Month from the AHL while also giving the Canadiens enough comfort to move Michael McNiven to free up a contract slot. It might not be enough to get him an NHL contract (although two years ago, he went from an AHL deal to an NHL one right before the trade deadline) but it was an impressive showing nonetheless to help keep the Rocket playing near the .500 mark despite all of their injuries.
Stats: 6 GP, 5-0-1 record, 1.63 GAA, .945 SV%
2nd Star: Rafael Harvey-Pinard – While I think his NHL future is that of a lower-end role/energy player, it’s good to see Harvey-Pinard get put into more of a prominent scoring role as a result of Laval’s injury troubles. He held his own in that spot which is certainly encouraging from a development perspective. He’s not a prototypical top liner so there weren’t many flashes of offensive dominance but he found a way to be productive.
Stats: 13 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, +5 rating, 4 PIMS, 25 shots
3rd Star: Louis Belpedio – I’ve never really thought of Belpedio being much of an offensive threat but evidently, he does have at least a little bit of skill at that end of the ice as he somewhat surprisingly became their top threat from the point for stretches last month. Depending on what happens with Montreal’s back end, there could be spots available to finish the season and Belpedio has done well enough to at least get him into consideration for a late recall.
Stats: 13 GP, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, even rating, 10 PIMS, 25 shots
Honourable Mention: Peter Abbandonato – On a shift-to-shift basis, Abbandonato wasn’t exactly noticeable. He had limited minutes overall and considering he’s a player on recall from the ECHL, that makes perfect sense. But he was able to be one of Laval’s leading point-getters last month despite the lower spot on the depth chart while continuing his streak of every goal he scores being a game-winner.
Stats: 13 GP, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 16 shots
1st Star: Joshua Roy (Sherbrooke, QMJHL) – Could it have been anyone else? Roy wasn’t just good or even great. He was outright dominant. He was close to a goal per game pace which is quite good and averaged nearly two assists per game which is even better. Roy was unstoppable, simply put. He’s well on his way to establishing himself as Montreal’s top prospects, an outcome few could have imagined back in July when he was picked in the fifth round.
Stats: 10 GP, 8 goals, 18 assists, 26 points, +2 rating, 2 PIMS, 53 shots
2nd Star: Xavier Simoneau (Charlottetown, QMJHL) – Yes, he’s an overager and he’s expected to be dominant but Simoneau piled up the points and played with an impressive level of consistency. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do and the end result is impressive. What is a bit encouraging to me is that he has managed to stay to down the middle. I have my doubts that he’ll be able to do so in the pros but for now, the fact he’s stayed at centre is only a good thing.
Stats: 8 GP, 5 goals, 10 assists, 15 points, +7 rating, 6 PIMS, 21 shots, 52.3% faceoffs
3rd Star: Rhett Pitlick (Minnesota, NCAA) – The first few months of Pitlick’s college career were decent but he wasn’t standing out much. That’s fairly normal for most rookies too so it wasn’t an area of concern. Last month, he stood out. After not scoring in his first 17 games, he scored five goals and was an all-around threat. The skill has always been there for Pitlick but the consistency hasn’t. It’s too late in the year for this to be sustainable but for next season, I’m intrigued to see if he’ll be able to play at that level or slide back again.
Stats: 8 GP, 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, +9 rating, 4 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Kaiden Guhle (Edmonton, WHL) – I know some see Guhle’s offensive numbers and wonder if he’s struggling since he’s not dominating. But that’s not a concern for me. His puck skills are good enough to help the offence but not drive it so hovering around a point per game while playing heavy defensive minutes is perfectly fine. That line describes his month of February and his season overall. There’s plenty to be optimistic about with Guhle, even if the production isn’t as significant as some others at the major junior level.
Stats: 10 GP, 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points, +13 rating, 12 PIMS, 38 shots