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- With a $5 M cap hit, Sergei Gonchar is one of the most expensive d-men in franchise history. The only ones higher are P.K. Subban ($9 M), Andrei Markov ($5.75 M), Mathieu Schneider ($5.75 M), and Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 M).
January wasn't the greatest of months for the Habs or their AHL affiliate in Hamilton. Fortunately, things went better for many of their prospects, several of which had their best months of the season. The same can't be said for too many of the Bulldogs but a handful of players were able to make positive contributions at least. Here are our top prospects for the first month of 2014.
1st Star: Nathan Beaulieu - Even though he only played in half of Hamilton's games before getting recalled to the Habs, he certainly made his mark when he was in the Bulldogs' lineup. Over this stretch, he was cutting down his defensive zone miscues which likely was a big factor in him getting the nod to the big club. Roster size limits may keep Beaulieu in the minors until the trade deadline as others return to health but he probably won't see much more action with Hamilton this year.
Stats: 5 GP, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, even rating, 4 PIMS, 16 shots
2nd Star: Dustin Tokarski - It's hard to win games when you get very little goal support but somehow Tokarski managed to post a winning record in January. All of his wins came when he allowed just one goal while two of his losses came when only two shots beat him. He did his job most nights.
Stats: 7 GP, 4-3-0 record, 2.01 GAA, .925 SV%
3rd Star: Christian Thomas - Despite spending a good chunk of the month on the third line, Thomas was able to be relatively productive while earning himself a brief recall in the process. After looking a bit sluggish upon his return from injury, he has had more jump as of late and is beginning to become the offensive threat we all expected when he was acquired.
Stats: 9 GP, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, +3 rating, 4 PIMS, 16 shots
Honourable Mention: Sven Andrighetto - He endured a notable slump after a hot start but last month, Andrighetto showed signs of turning it around and was much more involved in the play. Sylvain Lefebvre let him play through his struggles and kept him on the top line and if the end of January and the beginning of February are any indication, his patience has paid off.
Stats: 10 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, even rating, 8 PIMS, 17 shots
1st Star: Brady Vail (Windsor, OHL) - For the third straight month, Vail cracks (and rises on) our list. He has taken his offensive game to another level since trades forced him into more of a scoring role than he has been accustomed to. After being one of the first cuts in Montreal's camp (he was sent home before it even started) there were questions as to whether or not he'd get an entry-level deal. The question now appears to be when he will get his deal.
Stats: 12 GP, 9 goals, 13 assists, 22 points, +4 rating, 4 PIMS
2nd Star: Tim Bozon (Kootenay, WHL) - He had a terrible start to the year with Kamloops but is now living up to expectations on the offensively gifted Ice. If I had to raise a negative point, it would be that he once again seems to be in a secondary role but at the same time, it's hard to argue with results. As long as he's producing, it's hard to complain.
Stats: 11 GP, 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points, +9 rating, 4 PIMS
3rd Star: Zach Fucale (Halifax, QMJHL) - Although the World Juniors didn't end the way he or Team Canada would have hoped, Fucale wasn't the reason they failed to medal. Upon his return to the QMJHL ranks, he picked up where he left off when he left, by dominating. His month was highlighted by becoming the fastest goalie in QMJHL history to reach the 100 win plateau. As of this writing, Fucale is 40 away from tying the all-time record and since he's returning next season, he has a good shot at breaking it.
Stats: QMJHL: 7 GP, 6-1-0 record, 2.10 GAA, .909 SV%
World Juniors: 3 GP, 1-2-0 record, 2.36 GAA, .905 SV%
Honourable Mention: Magnus Nygren (Farjestad, SHL) - Nygren was slowly brought back into the lineup when he left the Bulldogs but around the midway point of the month, he started seeing major minutes (lots of games over 23, even one over 27 minutes). Plus, his powerful shot has been a boon for Farjestad's powerplay while his all-around game has improved. He has improved on his play from last year, a season that earned him the Borje Salming award.
Stats: 10 GP, 5 goals, 2 assists, 7 points, +3 rating, 0 PIMS
- HW 3 Stars: December's Top Prospects posted by B. La Rose
- HW 3 Stars: November's Top Prospects posted by B. La Rose
- HW 3 Stars: October's Top Prospects posted by B. La Rose