2013 Habs Half Season Review - Brandon Prust

USA TODAY Sports

Prust was signed to be a bottom six player for the Canadiens, but his versatility has seen him play all over the lineup. Has he been worth the $2.5M a year?

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Please refer to the introduction for explanations of all statistics used in this review.

To begin the season, Prust wasn't really that effective of a player at even strength. I even wrote about how he was dragging the Gallys down when that line was put together. But since then, he took off and his first half season with the Canadiens was spectacular.

Signed to be a bottom six player, Prust has managed to play a multitude of roles, including top minutes with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, and excel in them. His possession metrics put him firmly within the top 9 forwards on the team, and although his time with the Gallys has him facing middling competition overall, he faced tough minutes with tough zone starts for a large portion of the year.

What's even more impressive is how Prust reacted to a tougher role:

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Prust floated along below team average possession for most of the first half, but when given a more challenging role, he instantly meshed with Gionta and Plekanec and skyrocketed to success at even strength.

It's important to mention that this is a player who has been playing on the 4th line for the New York Rangers for a few seasons, with some spot duty on the 3rd line. To go from the 4th line to the first line isn't something that's easily done, especially for a veteran who's never had to do it before.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Prust's first half overall is his scoring chance differential. Only two Habs forwards have been on the ice for more scoring chances per 60 minutes, and only two have been on for fewer scoring chances against per 60 minutes. As a result, Prust has the second best scoring chance differential on the team. A remarkable feat for a guy we don't expect to bring a lot of offense.

His personal production is probably slightly inflated due to his high on-ice shooting percentage, and expect him to have a few more goals against at some point, as he's had some amazing goaltending behind him, but it's tough to punish him too much for good luck when his underlying numbers are so excellent.

On the penalty kill, Prust is perhaps even more impressive. It's clear from his icetime and competition that he played second wave minutes, but he's been absurdly good in them. He has by far the best Corsi on the PK of any forward on the team, and the second best differential after Ryan White, who plays limited minutes.

To grade Brandon Prust, I'm not sure what role to use as a comparable, since he's played everywhere. I feel like the only thing we can grade him against is what he was signed as, and that's a bottom 6 player. Prust has been far beyond what you can expect from a player in that position.

First half grade: 10/10


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