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Among the areas that new GM Marc Bergevin said he would set out to improve was the clubs' grit and toughness. Their July 1st signing of Brandon Prust goes a long way towards shoring up that area as that is what he is best known for around the league. He played primarily on the fourth line in New York but given the commitment Montreal made to him (four years at $2.5 million per season), will he have a greater role with the Habs?
Statistically speaking, 2011-12 was a down year for Prust. After setting career highs across the board the previous campaign, he regressed towards more regular numbers for a player with his role this past season. Part of that can be attributed to a roughly two minute per game drop in ice time came as a result of some better skaters up front for New York. As is often the case with players like Prust, stats don't tell the whole story. He was still a tenacious penalty killer, played a very physical style of play, and fought a ton. He saved his best for the postseason as he saw an increase in ice time while his hitting numbers improved considerably.
Season Stats: 82 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 PTS, -1 rating, 156 PIMS, 0
PPG, 2 GWG, 68 SOG, 11:56 ATOI
Playoff Stats: 19 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, -1 rating, 31 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 21 SOG, 12:46 ATOI
(Prust has only played three full NHL seasons.)
Although most fans have him earmarked for the fourth line, I'm not so sure that's what Bergevin and new coach Michel Therrien have in mind for him. The size of the contract plus the supposed promises that John Tortorella brought up in an offseason interview suggests to me that they have plans to use him a bit more. If I were guessing the opening night lineup today, I'd have him skating on the 3rd line with Lars Eller. The other winger could be a variety of players including Louis Leblanc, Colby Armstrong, or Travis Moen. He also should see lots of time on the penalty kill while being the team leader in fights. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see the total number of fights come down compared to his past couple of seasons.
As I noted earlier, stats don't tell the whole story for Prust which is why he won't be the most valuable of fantasy players despite playing what should be a pretty important role for the Habs this season. If he stays on the 3rd line all year he has a shot at cracking 20 points for the second time in his career but that doesn't make him worth a draft pick. That said he is worth a late round pick in pools that place high value on penalty minutes or at the very least a late week pickup in head-to-head formats for teams needing a short-term boost in that category. As he can play all forward positions, keep an eye out for multi-position eligibility; if he gets that then he should be moved up in your rankings/watch lists accordingly.
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