December is always a big month for young prospects. Those that are
junior aged are vying for spots at the World Juniors and the Habs had no fewer
than six players suit up for their countries. For those that stay in
junior, it’s a chance to play more important minutes and stake a claim to a
bigger role. In Hamilton, it was business as usual for the Bulldogs who
had more of an offence by committee structure this past month but had some shine
over the rest.
1st Star: Michael Blunden – Yes, he doesn’t do much of anything
when he’s with the big club but the big winger has really made his mark with the
Bulldogs this year. In December, he stepped into more of an offensive role
with injuries to players like Andrighetto and Thomas and he was actually able to
pick up some of the slack. While that doesn’t mean he’ll perform better if
and when he gets recalled, it likely increases the chance that Blunden will get
another shot at some point this year if he can keep it up.
Stats: 11 GP, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, -2 rating, 34 shots, 14
2nd Star: Greg Pateryn – The ‘big two’ of Beaulieu and Tinordi
get all of the hype but it’s Pateryn, one of the grizzled veterans of Hamilton’s
blueline (really, how terrible is that) who has been their best. Many
thought his offensive outburst towards the end of last year was a mirage but
instead, he has built upon it and been even better this year. He’s a
central figure in all situations and in the event that a blueliner is needed
from the farm, he has clearly earned the nod.
Stats: 11 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, +2 rating, 15 shots, 6
3rd Star: Gabriel Dumont – The beginning of the season was
terrible for the diminutive centre, especially on the offensive side.
However, he and Blunden teamed up to be a surprisingly effective duo, capable of
playing a strong two-way game. If he can parlay his December success into
a strong second half, Dumont should help restore some of his value to the
organization after clearing through waivers early in the year.
Stats: 11 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +3 rating, 32 shots, 15
Honourable Mention: Louis Leblanc – Regardless of the
injury/recall situation, Leblanc has found himself on the 3rd line for most of
the year and December was no exception. To his credit, he is beginning to
produce from the lower lines with more consistency than he did last year (he
already has exceeded 2012-13’s point total). If that’s what he was sent
down to work on (and given the inflexibility that Sylvain Lefebvre has with
regards to moving him around in the lineup, there’s a good chance that it was a
point of emphasis), he is delivering what they’re asking of him.
Stats: 11 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +1 rating, 28 shots, 4
1st Star: Martin Reway – (Gatineau/Slovakia) – Although Reway
only played a total of five games in the month, he gets the nod due to his
dominance at the World Juniors. It’s very rare for an 18 year old prospect
to dominate at the WJC’s but he took Slovakia by storm and was leading the
tournament in scoring at the conclusion of round robin play. There was a
lull in his play when the Habs cut him in training camp, it will be interesting
to see if there’s another one as he re-acclimatizes to QMJHL play.
Stats: QMJHL: 1 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, +1 rating, 2 shots, 2
WJC: 4 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, +1 rating, 17 shots, 2 PIMS
2nd Star: Brady Vail (Windsor, OHL) – The centre cracks our
list for the second straight month. After Kerby Rychel was dealt, the
belief was that Windsor would be selling but the Spitfires have continued to
play well, in large part due to the play of the Habs’ 2012 4th rounder.
Vail is now getting a chance to be one of the go-to guys and he’s making the
most of it which should greatly help his chances of getting an entry-level
deal…or at least an ATO at the end of the season like he did last year.
Stats: 11 GP, 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points, +7 rating, 6 PIMS
3rd Star: Charles Hudon (Chicoutimi/Canada) – Although he
didn’t have much of a role with Team Canada (his lone goal was an important
tying marker that earned them a point at least), Hudon was in the midst of
having his best month of the year prior to departing for the WJC’s as he was
averaging two points per game, well above his season average. He will have
a lot of pressure on his shoulders moving forward after Baie-Comeau moved
several first round picks to acquire him as a rental for the playoff run.
Stats: QMJHL: 5 GP, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, +1 rating, 34
shots, 8 PIMS
WJC: 4 GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, +5 rating, 6 shots, 0 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Connor Crisp (Sudbury, OHL) – Crisp has
been very inconsistent so far this season when it comes to production.
When he’s on, he’s a big time threat but when he’s not, he goes quiet for a
while. December was an ‘on’ month for him and as a result, he saw time up
on the front line briefly for the Wolves. The next step for him is
bringing his ‘A game’ on more of a regular basis so that can be relied upon as a
go-to player down the stretch.
Stats: 9 GP, 7 goals, 3 assists, 10 points, +5 rating, 18 PIMS