Even though he did not see any time with the Canadiens this year, Max Friberg was crucial in keeping the IceCaps' playoff hopes alive in the absence of many star players.
Friberg was originally acquired when Montreal shipped Dustin Tokarski to Anaheim in January. He posted five goals and 12 assists in 25 games played with the San Diego Gulls, respectable production for an AHL forward.
After landing in St. John's, Friberg found himself bouncing between the second and third line, in addition to seeing plenty of penalty killing time.
In 42 games with the IceCaps Friberg registered seven goals and 12 assists, which is a step down from his production in San Diego, but not surprising given the overall difference in quality between the two teams. He had a quiet start to his tenure on the Rock, chipping in the odd goal or assist while playing alongside Gabriel Dumont and a rotating cast on the wing. However with the recalls of Michael McCarron, Sven Andrighetto and Daniel Carr, Friberg had to shoulder a much larger work load down the stretch.
At 5'10" he's not the biggest player in the league, but to his credit he's built like a tank. Weighing in at just over 200 lbs, he is explosive and battles hard along the boards. He's a smart player that knows where to have his stick in the defensive zone, and is relentless on the forecheck.
When placed in an expanded role Friberg thrived for the IceCaps, who were playing with a depleted roster due to injuries and call ups. The Swede went from third line minutes, to being Lefebvre's all-purpose forward, being used on the power play, the penalty kill, and in key defensive assignments. He rewarded his coach with several multi-goal weeks. The IceCaps benefited from his offense, which consequently freed up the duo of Charles Hudon and Nikita Scherbak to terrorize opposing goalies.
Unafraid to battle in front of the net, Friberg uses his low center of gravity to gain leverage on defenders and tap in rebounds with relative ease. While he isn't as skilled with the puck as Scherbak or Hudon, he's smart, finding open passing lanes and creating plenty of chances for his teammates.
#IceCaps up 3-1. Latest goal courtesy of Morgan Ellis. Nice dish from Max Friberg. #Habs pic.twitter.com/FuRtULh2tg— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) March 26, 2016
Next year will be a major one for Max Friberg, seeing he's in the last year of his entry-level contract and will need a big year to show he can factor into the Canadiens' future.
With players like McCarron and Hudon potentially bound for the NHL next year, he should be given more responsibility to prove he's still a prospect worth talking about. With a healthy cast around him we can expect to see a rise in his overall production. Worst case scenario the IceCaps have a 35 point, penalty killing forward at their disposal, which is always an asset on any team.