Montreal Canadiens Player of the Month: Jonathan Drouin
He did put up 53 points a season ago, but periods of skilled play were just as common as bouts of disinterested hockey for Jonathan Drouin in 2018-19. Entering his third season with the Canadiens, it was clear that he had plenty more he could offer the team. Now 12 games into a new campaign, we’re seeing the full extent of his ability.
It’s not just the offence, even though he is currently tied for the team goal-scoring lead with seven after ending October with four goals in his final three games. His dedication to the defensive side of things also stands out this year for the right reasons.
He now hustles on the backcheck to be the first forward onto an opposing puck-carrier. His second breakaway goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday ended with speed and a surprise shot, but it started with good positioning to create a turnover inside his own blue line, creating the chance for himself.
If he can record over 50 points in a season with half-hearted commitment, now that he’s actively involved in shutting down opposition opportunities and creating his own that number could rocket way up in 2019-20. Twelve points in 13 games is a great start, and a pace he can maintain if he continues to play this well.
European Prospect of the Month: Mattias Norlinder
The defender has burst onto Canadiens’ fans’ radar with highlight-reel plays coming every week. Sometimes it is hard to figure out if he is a centre or a defender as he will attack down the middle when he has the chance.
While his speed and eye for the game is the foundation of his offence, they are also a corner stone in the defensive aspect of his play as well. His defence is surprisingly good for a defender who has offensive upside written all over him. He reads the game well and uses his speed to get to areas before a bigger and more experienced player, and defuses the situation without much of a problem. Norlinder is also surprisingly strong and his balance is good, so he can play the physical game even if the big hits are missing from his game at the moment.
With six points (3G, 3A), a +7 rating, and an eye-catching game, Norlinder gave the other players in Europe a target they couldn’t reach, especially considering that plays like this are standard in his arsenal.
North American Prospect of the Month: Cole Caufield
October featured several great performances from Habs prospect, but it’s hard to ignore what Caufield has been doing in his first few games with the Wisconsin Badgers. It comes down to this: Caufield is putting up CHL-dominant numbers, but in the most competitive non-professional league in the world. He is also doing it as a true freshman for Wisconsin, something that doesn’t prevent him from leading the team in points, with 10.
From an NCAA-wide perspective, Caufield’s numbers are also surpassing his more experienced and mature peers. He currently leads the league in goals with eight in seven games.
Cole Caufield's nation leading 8th goal pic.twitter.com/taVZz665PZ— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 31, 2019
The diminutive forward has been an incredible boost for what was a struggling Wisconsin power play last year, due both to his well-known ability as a triggerman and his gravitational pull on the defence, giving other talented teammates more space to operate.
His five-on-five play has been a work in progress, but improvements have already been more noticeable game to game. There is more attention to defensive details and better integration inside Wisconsin’s breakout system.
The Badgers again have a full schedule in November against a varied level of competition. It will be interesting to see if Caufield can sustain his current offensive pace.
Laval Rocket Player of the Month: Cayden Primeau
It was a roller-coaster of a month for the Canadiens’ AHL club. They lost their first three games, then won three in a row, then played poorly in back-to-back losses before winning two in a row to end the month. The offensive attack was balanced, but saw some good performances from Ryan Poehling and Charles Hudon, while the defence was anchored by the ever steady Xavier Ouellet. The real story was written in net for the Rocket, and that of course is the play of Cayden Primeau.
Cayden Primeau continues to impress in net tonight, big pad save here to deny the Senators a fourth goal. pic.twitter.com/e3sLem04ky— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 24, 2019
Primeau started five games for the Rocket, posting a 3-2-0 record, while his counterpart Charlie Lindgren went 2-3-1 in his six starts. With a 1.99 goals-against average and .937 save percentage, Primeau is not only one of the best rookie netminders, but is posting some of the best overall numbers in the league as a whole.
He shows composure and great positioning between the pipes, and while Lindgren is the veteran, it looks like it won’t be long before another CP31 takes control of the crease at the AHL level once again.
Scott and Patrik recorded a podcast discussing the choices and the first month of the season. You can listen to it here.