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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
Our monthly three stars return with a new twist. With the Habs out of the picture, our focus shifts to the Hamilton Bulldogs as well as Montreal's prospects playing at other levels. We all know that one junior prospect had a month to remember but there were plenty of others who played well. For the Bulldogs, the numbers aren't quite so pretty but there were a few players who stood out amongst the crowd.
1st Star: Brendan Gallagher
I have to admit, Gallagher is surpassing my expectations early on this year. I had questions about whether or not he could create his own offence due to a lack of a supporting cast around him. His five goals represent 25% of Hamilton's goal production for November. Not only is that a glaring indictment about their offensive struggles but it also shows that he has been able to adjust to playing at the AHL level.
Stats: 11 GP, 5-2-7, -3 rating, 32 SOG, 25 PIMS
2nd Star: Gabriel Dumont
Dumont's name doesn't come up a whole lot when it comes to production but he has quietly been one of Hamilton's more consistent performers in that end in the early stages of the year. That's not the only reason why I'm putting him second though. His work on the penalty kill (at home) has been splendid; the Bulldogs now have a sparkling 95% PK on home ice. Dumont's best role is when he is a part of a supporting cast (instead of a go-to scorer) and last month, he played that role well.
Stats: 11 GP, 1-4-5, even rating, 24 SOG, 15 PIMS
3rd Star: Aaron Palushaj
On the whole, November was a so-so month for Palushaj. He spent time on the fourth line after being demoted for a lack of production and inconsistent defensive effort. On the plus side, he became more of a scoring threat as the month went on but the defensive concerns are still there. However, progress is still progress no matter how slow it is and three goals on this team constitutes above average play. He needs to be a leader on this team, the time for him to step up is now.
Stats: 11 GP, 3-2-5, -6 rating, 26 SOG, 16 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Michael Blunden
Scoring chances aren't officially tracked in the AHL but if they were, I'd be shocked if Blunden wasn't one of the team leaders for November. Blunden and his line usually could be counted on for a lot of the Bulldogs' offensive pressure in any particular game. Of course the downside is that he failed to capitalize on a lot of these opportunities. Still, chances are a lot better than what the rest of the team could muster up while he provided a necessary physical presence inside the top-6.
Stats: 11 GP, 2-1-3, -1 rating, 19 SOG, 11 PIMS
1st Star: Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia, OHL
It was a terrific month for the Habs' top prospect. Galchenyuk picked up points in nine of eleven games and had multiple points in all but one of those contests; this bumped him up to third in OHL scoring. What really impressed me, aside from his ability to take over games seemingly at will at times, was the fact that most of his production came 5-on-5 (only six of his points were on the man advantage). To the surprise of precisely no one, he is on Team USA's preliminary roster for the World Juniors and should spend a good chunk of this month with that squad.
Stats: 11 GP, 8-15-23, +4 rating, 6 PIMS
2nd Star: Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi, QMJHL
The Habs' 5th rounder returned to action at the beginning of the month after missing two weeks with a concussion and he spent November making up for lost time. He collected points in each of his final ten games, kick starting the longest active points streak in the QMJHL. He also was impressive playing a variety of roles in a pair of games against Russia in the Super Series and is a strong candidate to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Juniors.
Stats: 12 GP, 6-9-15, +6 rating, 22 SOG, 12 PIMS
3rd Star: Danny Kristo, North Dakota, WCHA
Kristo is supposed to be the go-to guy in this, his senior season. Although his team isn't living up to lofty expectations, that can't be pinned on him. With a strong month of November, Kristo has jumped to the top of North Dakota's scoring race and has been their best offensive threat on several nights. He recently was placed on a line with fellow Montreal prospect Mark MacMillan; that trio has played quite well since coming together.
Stats: 9 GP, 5-5-10, even rating, 33 SOG, 8 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Magnus Nygren, Farjestad, SEL
I touched on Nygren's season so far in my last HW Recap earlier in the week but he gets another mention here after a strong November. He continued to earn more ice time throughout the month to give him the team lead in points by a blueliner. He's doing exactly what he needs to in order to make the Habs want to give a contract by June.
Stats: 10 GP, 2-5-7, 6 PIMS