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The 2003-04 season is only a few weeks in so far, but some of the Canadiens prospects have gotten off to a good start, hopefully they can keep up the pace. Not all of the prospects have even started playing hockey in this new season, but out of the ones that have, a few have been impressive so far.

Cory Urquhart– (‘03, 2nd round 40th)C. Urquhart after an impressive showing at the Habs rookie camp, may have learned a few things, as he has been his team’s top player since he was returned to the Rocket of PEI for the 3rd game of the season. Since his arrival, he’s been on a goal scoring pace of one a game and close to two points an night average. He’s not only leading his team in scoring, but he’s one of the top scorers in the QMJHL so far. Playing under coach Alain Vigneault, Cory gets top line ice time and plays in all situations.

Corey Locke– (‘03, 4th round 113th)C. From one Cory to another Corey, Ottawa 67 and the CHL leading scorer, Corey Locke has also gotten off to a quick start in the OHL. Their were several questions in regards to Locke’s production levels without his two wingers from last year. Would he be able to repeat his offensive prowess with new linemates and more attention from opposing teams? Well so far Locke has answered the questions and silenced his critics by leading the OHL in scoring in the earliest parts of the season.

Johan Eneqvist– (‘00, 4th round 109th)C. Over the summer Eneqvist announced that he was leaving the SEL for the tier-2 league in Sweden, as he was unhappy with the amount of ice time he was receiving. Playing on the 4th line with Leksand, Eneqvist saw little game action, but with his new team Hammerby, who are one of the top teams in their league, he will see an increased amount of ice time, playing on one of the top lines. So far the move has gone well, as he’s one of his team’s top scorers and already has double the amount of goals he had all of last year in just seven games, as he has picked up four goals so far this season.

Jaroslav Halak– (‘03, 9th round 271st)G. A no show at the Habs rookie camp due to team obligations, Halak has played very well in the Slovakia junior league. He’s 2nd in the league in goals against, and has put up some very impressive numbers so far. Hopefully his good play will get him some ice time in the mens league, and perhaps a invitation to the U-20 National Junior team. His 94.53 save % is tops in the junior league, and very impressive even though it’s against junior aged players.

Danny Stewart– (‘03, 4th round 123rd) LW. Having young Phnom Sidney Crosby as your linemate will surely help increase your offensive production, but you still can’t overlook the success the recently drafted Stewart has had so far. After Crosby who is 2nd in the QMJHL in scoring, Stewart is 2nd on his team in scoring, and 4th in the Q in scoring with 16 pts so far this season, one ahead of Cory Urquhart.

Tomas Plekanec– (‘01, 3rd round 71st)C. A very good rookie year with Hamilton in the AHL seems to have been a confidence booster for Plekanec. So far he has been impressive at times at the Habs training camp, and throughout the preseason. He has been rewarded for his efforts by still being on the team up through to the last cuts that are to be made by coach Julien. Even if he doesn’t make the NHL this year, hopefully the young Czech forward will continue to progress and build on what he’s learned so far.

Michael Ryder– (‘98, 8th round 216th)RW. Ryder has often been overlooked or passed by when call-ups to the Canadiens were issued. But Ryder took it all in stride and has continued to work hard night in and night out. His hard work is finally playing off, as he is leading the Canadiens in scoring in the preseason, which is something many would never have guessed when he was the 9th pick of the Habs in 1998 or while he was demoted to the ECHL on two different occasions. He has made it to the final cuts, but if he doesn’t make it right away, it’s safe to say this wont be a setback for him, but another stepping stone.



Who’s not doing so well


Joni Puurula– (‘00, 8th round 243rd)G. Puurula has lost his starting job with HPK in the SM-Liiga, and to make matter worse, after watching from the bench for every game so far, Puurula finally got into game action, only to be injured on his fist save of the game. No word as to how long he will be out, but when he returns, he won’t be getting the ice time he has last year, if his replacement continues to do so well. Not good news for the young Finnish netminder, who may consider crossing over the pond to North America next year if playing time is limited where he is currently.

Andrei Kastsitsyn– (‘03, 1st round 10th)LW. Not the best start for the much hyped young Belarus star. Kastsitsyn has appeared in only 2 games with CSKA in the RSL, and after recording an assist on the game wining goal, he has been sent down to the farm team CSKA-2 for now. It’s unknown for how long he will be down there, but this could be good for him, as it should get him a lot of playing time, and those long cold bus rides may help him to chose to play in North America next season.

Josef Balej– (‘00, 3rd round 78th)RW. Once considered a top notch prospect, Balej is coming off a poor season where he was injured and inconsistent at best. But things don’t seem to have gotten any better for the young Slovak, as he didn’t get much attention at the Habs training camp, and was quickly sent back to Hamilton for the 2nd year in a row. All is not lost for the speedster, but a message hopefully hits home, and that is he needs to work very hard on several areas of his game if he wants to play in the NHL someday.