While the Habs struggled a bit in November, the same can’t be said for many of their prospects who put up strong showings. Those are highlighted in our three stars.
1st Star: Jake Evans – After a fairly quiet start to the season (which was perfectly understandable), Evans has now established himself as Laval’s top centre and one of their better overall offensive threats. He still doesn’t shoot enough but that has been an issue for him going back to his days in college. Even so, to be on the top line this quickly is a positive sign.
Stats: 13 GP, 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, +1 rating, 6 PIMS, 20 shots
2nd Star: Alex Belzile – For someone that’s on a minor league contract, Belzile has now become one of Laval’s most important forwards. He has been moved up and down the lineup and is being deployed on both wings as well. Not bad for a player that looked like he was going to be on the fringes of being a regular player before training camp started.
Stats: 13 GP, 1 goal, 8 assists, 9 points, even rating, 12 PIMS, 28 shots
3rd Star: Brett Kulak – Considering he was a number six that didn’t see a lot of special teams action last season, Kulak was getting more and more comfortable in Laval’s number one role before getting recalled to Montreal. Given how he has performed so far with the Habs, Joel Bouchard shouldn’t be expecting him back anytime soon.
Stats: 9 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, +2 rating, 2 PIMS, 21 shots
Honourable Mention: Alexandre Alain – His rise up the depth chart hasn’t been as quick as Evans but that’s not too surprising. He has, however, fared well when pressed into a top-six role and has contributed offensively when he gets those chances. He’s still ideally a bottom-six player most nights but it’s nice to see him step up when he’s given the extra responsibility.
Stats: 12 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +4 rating, 4 PIMS, 27 shots
1st Star: Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound, OHL) – He continues to provide an argument for why 19-year-old players drafted in the CHL should have the ability to play in the AHL. Suzuki is simply too good for the junior ranks and is continuing to light it up. Not surprisingly, he’s on Canada’s preliminary World Juniors roster and it may wind up being that tournament that prevents him from getting to the 100-point mark for the second straight year.
Stats: 13 GP, 9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points, +4 rating, 0 PIMS, 71 shots, 62.0% faceoffs
2nd Star: Josh Brook (Moose Jaw, WHL) – Brook has emerged as one of the premier offensive defencemen in the WHL and has quickly made people forget about his low output last year. He’s looking like quite a steal at the back of the second round. Brook is also on Canada’s preliminary WJC roster but even with his junior head coach running the show there, his spot on that team is far from a guarantee.
Stats: 10 GP, 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points, +14 rating, 10 PIMS, 32 shots
3rd Star: Joel Teasdale (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL) – While he’s going to be a complementary player at best in the pros, it’s nice to see Teasdale get the opportunity to be the go-to guy this season and hold his own in that role. He continues to be strong in his own end as well. He didn’t get the nod for the World Juniors so the question for him now is whether or not he gets moved to a contender in the ‘Q’ in the weeks to come.
Stats: 11 GP, 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, +9 rating, 11 PIMS, 38 shots
Honourable Mention: Brett Stapley (Denver, NCAA) – While Ryan Poehling rightfully gets most of the spotlight when it comes to Montreal’s forward prospects in the college ranks, Stapley has emerged as a go-to offensive threat in his freshman season. It’s too early to think of him as a steal yet but his performance so far is certainly encouraging.
Stats: 8 GP, 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points, +5 rating, 23 PIMS, 9 shots