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With the holiday season upon us, it’s a good time to get up to date on some of the Canadiens various prospects from across the world.  Congrats to the Canadiens scouting staff for having five players at the World Junior tournament, and were just shy of sending a sixth, with four guys in good shape to play in next years WJC’s in Sweden plus any prospects selected in the 2006 Entry Draft. 

Siarhei Kostitsyn is getting notice after his efforts in the most recent World Junior Division 1 group B tournament that saw him lead his team to victory in front of a home crowd.  His three point night ensure his country of a birth in next years WJC’s, and leading the tournament in scoring as well as being named player of the game in two of the five games played, made fans think of his brother Andrei and his international exploits.  In addition the younger Kostitsyn has also turned heads with his play in the OHL with powerhouse London Knights.  Kostitsyn is not only putting points on the board, leading the league in scoring for rookies, but he’s also playing with some sandpaper to his game. 

Andrei Kostitsyn got the chance to show why he was drafted so high when he blasted a Garth Murray pass for his first NHL goal.  After a slow start to the season, Kostitsyn seemed to pick it up after comments from his coach questioned his play.  Since then Kostitsyn started to play with more intensity and better on ice efforts and production.  Some injuries opened a spot with the Habs although his ice time was very limited, but hopefully the time spent in the NHL while on the bench and while working out with the team will help his game throughtout the season.

Francis Lemieux recieved an early present for the holidays when GM Bob Gainey signed him to a NHL contract.  With his impressive play this season in Hamilton, Lemieux has worked his way up the depth charts, giving Coach Lever more blanced scoring from his young team.  Lemieux has looked impressive this season with his speed and offensive skills.  Recently paired up with former QMJHLers Jonathan Ferland and Maxim Lapierre, the Q trio make up a very impressive line.

Jonathan Ferland recently made his return to the lineup after missing close to two months with another injury. He picked up right where he left off with a very strong game getting three points and the first star.  Ferland is one of the few prospects that has size, drives to the net and battles hard in the corners.

Corey Locke is having a solid season leading the Bulldogs in scoring and has been very effective on the power play. 

Maxim Lapierre is fast becoming a fan favorite in Hamilton with him intense play and hard work.  Lapierre even earned a short stint with the Habs where he got a taste of the NHL life.  Fans love the efforts he puts on the ice every night and he has been able to produce offense as well as helping out on the PK.

Andrew Archer is coming off a very solid year last season but a sports hernia injury has cost him 6-8 weeks, although he is expected to be back in the lineup over the next few weeks, Archer will needed to step up and play a bigger role with the team.  Not known for his offensive abilities, Archer started to show more of a physical side to his game last season, to the excitment of fans as the imposing blueliner stands at 6’4 217.

Jaroslav Halak has not had the start to his pro career that he likely had hoped for.  After being sent to Long Beach of the ECHL, Halak was great in his lone start getting a shutout, injuries has cost him most of the season.  Halak did get a brief callup to Hamilton but he was quickly sent back to Long Beach where he will now have to battle with follow Hab prospect Olivier Michaud and the teams starting goalie Greg Hewitt.  Michaud is currently injured but is due back with the team shortly, so there will likely be a log jam in nets for the Ice Dogs. Halak was also named to the pre olympic roster for Team Slovakia, which speaks volumes of the 20 year old’s skill level.

Across the pond fellow goalie Christopher Heino-Lindberg has not had a great debut in the SEL so far this year.  While playing for one of the top teams in the league, Heino has been solid putting up very respectable numbers with a 2.09 gaa and a save % of .918, but has only started five games all season while spending most of the season as the backup to the much older Daniel Henriksson.

In Russia Alexi Emelin seems to be handling the major disruption with his team Lada after they announced that the teams budget was to be cut in half, only a few weeks into the new season.  The team was forced to cut staff and many of the teams top veteran players moved on to play with other RSL teams.  Emelin has benefited from this with increased ice time and he’s second in the team in scoring for defensemen behind fellow Habs draft pick Andrei Kruchinin and not far behind team scoring leader and also fellow Hab draft pick Alex Buturlin.  Emelin is currently playing for Team Russia at the world juniors.

Many fans are wondering what’s going on with Mikhail Grabovsky who exploded in the RSL last season with Neftekhimik in just his second year in Russia.  Grabovsky has struggled to score goals this year but for whatever reasons the entire team is suffering from a major scoring drought, getting only seven goals in the last six games.  While the goals have been hard to come by, Grabovsky is on pace for a career year in assists and penalty minutes, but his two goals does raise concerns.  Hopefully in the second half he will pick it up, as he’s currently tied for fifth in team scoring with Dynamo after leading his team in scoring last season.

The NHL lockout last season had a big impact on Konstantin Korneev since he played on the big money spending AK Bars, so when NHL players started showing up his ice time started going down, even putting him off the team roster for a short spell.  This year things have not gone much better, with injuries hampering his playing time, Korneev has already missed a chunk of the season.

In Finland the lone Hab prospect Oskari Korpikari struggled last season as injuries and milatary service cost him most of the season with Karpat.  But this season has been the opposite for Korpikari, where he has played in every game for Karpat and has already reached a career high in assists, points and penalty minutes, while being very close to a career high in games played after taking part in fourth season with Karpart despite being only 21. Korpikari is still looking for his first ever goal in the FNL.

In the NCAA the Canadiens have shown an interest in drafting or signing players out of the ECAC which is known for the ivy league schools that make up a large percentage of the conference.  Guys like Chris Higgins, Yann Danis, Ryan O’Byrne, Jon Gleed, J T Wyman and now the newest addition Philippe Paquet all have either played or currently play in the ECAC conference.  Since the 2001 draft and the addition of Andre Savard the team has only had one college player draft or signed not from the ECAC and that was Mike Komisarek who played in one of the top conferences the CCHA. 

Ryan O’Byrne might not be a house hold name among Canadiens fans yet but with his play so far this season it won’t be long before he joins the Hamilton Bulldogs and gives fans an exciting defensemen to watch.  In the mold of Mike Komisarek, O’Byrne is also a huge, mobile, physical defensemen that has shown a great deal of progress in his overall game this season.  The 21 year old junior may chose to return to Cornell next season for his final year, but either way it won’t be much longer before he’s crushing opposing forwards in the AHL.

Jon Gleed a teammate of O’Byrne’s has not had the same kind of successful season, as injuries has cost him two weeks of time in an already short schedule.  In eight games he’s only recorded one point, which may cost him a contract with the Canadiens this summer as the Cornell senior and current assistant captain is more known for his play on the PK and in his own end.  The soon to be 22 year old will need to find a team to play for next season after spending the last four years at Cornell.

J T Wyman has gotten off to a hot start with the high scoring Dartmouth Green as the 19 year old is looking to have a career year after a solid rookie season last year as a true freshman making the jump from one of the top schools in the USHS.  Wyman has already bulked up a bit from last year and could likely continue to grow past his 6’2 204 frame.  More of a power winger, Wyman is solid in both ends of the rink and has shown a decent amount of offensive skills playing on the second line for the big Green.

Philippe Paquet is in a similiar situation as Wyman was last season, making the jump from the USHS to the ECAC.  Paquet chose Clarkson the only non ivy league school out of the Canadiens prospects, but it may have been a great choice as the rebounding program had some openings on the blueline and the freshmen has been able to play in every game this season so far. 

In Long Beach the team has turned things around after some tough losses.  It’s too bad the Canadiens chose not to resign Christian Larrivee, who is currently leading the team in scoring with 27 pts in 28 games.  The Habs currently have four prospects in Long Beach with Cory Urquhart being the most highly touted.  Urquhart has not had a great season with only six goals so far this season.  He did get a short call up to Hamilton where he picked up one assist in two games. 

Jimmy Bonneau in his rookie year is playing in a lesser role then Urquhart but he does lead the team in penalty minutes and is one of the team leaders in plus minus.  He has 4 assists but has yet to score a goal this year.

In the short amount of playing time both Jaroslav Halak and Olivier Michaud have had, both put up very good numbers with Halak boasting a .957 save % and a 1.07 gaa.

Carey Price had a rough start to the season, letting in an average 4.5 goals a game but it didn’t take too long for him to turn things around.  Since then he’s been short of outstanding at times for a very weak Tri City team.  Price ended up getting snubbed for Team Canada but will have the chance to show off his skills next year while he continues to back stop Tri City where he will consistently faces a lot of rubber each game. 

Mathieu Aubin is enjoying a career season in every offensive aspect of the game.  Many questioned if he would be able to produce at good clip after the loss of both high skilled wingers Alex Picard and Alex Bourret, but Aubin has shown himself to be Mr. consistency, producing night in and night out while leading his team in scoring. 

With the trading frenezy going on the QMJHL, both Drakkar prospects Loic Lacasse and Alex Dulac-Lemelin were on the move recently.  Lacasse was actually treaded twice on the same day, first he was traded to Bathurst along with Dulac-Lemelin but then he ended the day being traded to Drummondville where he will now join up with fellow Hab Guiallume Latendresse.  Lacasse has had another tough season but now will play for a better team.  Dulac has already tied a career high in goals scored with eight, as the big defensemen was leading Drakkar in goals for defensemen and was one of the team leaders in plus minus.  Latendresse has enjoyed great success scoring goals this year with 22 goals in just 26 games, as he is set to surpass the 29 goals he scored all of last season.

Kyle Chipchura was recently named team captain of Canada’s world junior team.  After losing most of last season, Chipchura has had his trouble scoring goals but just prior to the world junior camp he picked up a couple goals and is on pace to put up career numbers despite the slow start and lack of offensive production from his team Prince Albert.

Greg Stewart was on pace for another career season, until a recent injury cost him a couple weeks of playing time.  The hard working winger already has 11 goals on the year after getting a career high 16 goals last season.  The Petes are looking like a strong canidate to make a Memorial Cup run this year which would be a great experience for Stewart who could be joining Hamilton next season.

Matt D’Agostini is one of the feel good stories of the OHL, as a walk on for Guelph he was second on the team in scoring last year and leads the team in scoring this year, enjoying a career year.