NHL Player of the Month: Nick Suzuki
Obviously not happy to finish as the runner-up in October, Nick Suzuki took control of the Montreal Canadiens’ offence in November. He had 14 points in 13 games played; a second consecutive month eclipsing the point-per-game rate. Eight of those points were goals, three better than what Cole Caufield produced. He also managed to score four times on a power play that generally struggled, taking advantage of the extra attention on Caufield’s powerful shot to get more opportunities to use his own.
And the totals don’t even include this one:
NICK SUZUKI WENT FULL DATSYUK AGAIN pic.twitter.com/qoO4LcgKJa— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 25, 2022
It wasn’t all good news for Suzuki as despite an impressive 10 points at even strength, he was a minus-five as well. There were times when he and his linemates were caught in their own zone unable to gain possession, and that’s one area he will need to improve on in the coming years.
Defence was a team-wide problem for the club as a combination of fatigue among the rookies and some issues for Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson jumping into the ramped-up speed of the league a month into the season resulted in some rough defensive play, which Jake Allen wasn’t able to compensate for.
Honourable mention: Samuel Montembeault
Samuel Montembeault did survive most of those shifts with Suzuki’s line hemmed in the zone, and was a steadying presence in most games he started. It’s been quite a progression from a player who always seemed nervous with excess movement in his crease last year, now learning how to harness his excellent mobility to deal with net-front scrambles and defensive breakdowns.
Montembeault received five starts in November, and helped the team earn points in four of them with a 3-1-1 record. Other than one poor game in Columbus in which he allowed five goals, he was very strong between the pipes with no worse than a .917 save percentage in any of those contests. The best outing was his retribution versus the Blue Jackets a week after the initial loss.
Samuel Montembeault with ice in his veins tonight against breakaways. Two in a row. pic.twitter.com/L4n9YTKjnT— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 24, 2022
As we watch Allen go through a rough stretch of the season, especially with getting focused to start games, it’s nice that the team can turn to Montembeault if needed. The backup already received consecutive starts near the end of the month, and Martin St-Louis may be doing that more often in December if the netminder can keep up this performance.
AHL Player of the Month: Xavier Simoneau
The Laval Rocket have remained an enigmatic team throughout the first two months of the AHL season. Through the storm of inconsistency, Xavier Simoneau has become a guiding beacon.
Standing barely 5’7”, the 2021 sixth-round draft pick plays like a man a foot taller than he is. Tenacious on and off the puck, he’s never found an area of ice that he couldn’t insert himself into. I’ve taken to calling him a bulldog because that’s exactly what Simoneau is, and he shows no signs of deviating from that style of play.
With three goals and 10 assists in the month of November, the rookie forward has been far and away the best forward on the team in overall production. He’s set up goals with hard work along the boards, and gone to the dirty areas to finish plays off. If he is able to keep his current pace up, it looks like Simoneau will follow in the trend of forwards drafted by the Habs who have earned their NHL deal after first playing on an AHL contract first.
XAVIER SIMONEAU TIES IT ON THE POWER PLAY WITH 33 SECONDS TO PLAY pic.twitter.com/SCp9Kzy6qW— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 5, 2022
Honourable mention: Justin Barron
There was a solid case for Justin Barron to be the selection as well, but Simoneau’s overall numbers were too much to ignore. Barron deserves mention as he’s shown tremendous growth for the Rocket on the blue line. He has become more commanding on and off the puck, and has become a driver in making plays happen regularly. If he continues his current level of play, it’s only a matter of time before the NHL team comes calling.
European Prospect of the Month: Adam Engström
Engström has taken a step up the lineup and has rewarded that trust with strong defensive play and an increase in points. Even if the offensive production has been impressive — two goals and an assist in four games (SHL and CHL) — it is his strong defensive play that makes him stand out.
He has adapted to the physical play of the SHL without any problem and has become a solid partner for William Wallinder, creating the youngest defensive pairing in the SHL, both earning their stripes the hard way. The question is if Engström can keep his strong opening part of the season going for the full season.
Honourable mention: Oliver Kapanen
There was a strong case to be made for Kapanen, who started the month strong in Liiga and with the Finnish U20 team. However, his play hasn’t stood out in the past few weeks since coming back from the U20 international tournament in Czechia.
Even if the goal is good, and important, it has been Engström's defensive play that has stood out today.— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) November 29, 2022
Here he is working against one of Malmö's better forwards along the boards.
Had a better play earlier, but couldn't gif it. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/todVSwVTyu
North American Prospect of the Month: Sean Farrell
There were many prospects to choose from on the North American prospects side, from Lane Hutson who is continuing his record-breaking pace in the NCAA, to Vinzenz Rohrer who put up 15 points in 10 games in November for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, and Riley Kidney who scored at a two-point-per-game pace on the month in the QMJHL, but Sean Farrell’s 11 points in seven games in November take the cake.
A formidable playmaker with high-end processing and tremendous awareness, Farrell’s four goals and seven assists helped him take the lead of his Harvard team in points, ahead of Flames first-rounder Matt Coronato, while playing as much as 24 minutes on one occasion.
He has shown some highly intriguing progress in his defensive game and positioning, leading him to play top penalty-killing minutes for the Crimson where he was previously a rotating cast member on the second four-man unit. His mindset remains offence-oriented when he gets the puck on the penalty kill, but the awareness and scanning to read his opponents’ intentions and intercept passes has improved greatly, even at five-on-five. His ability to play inside contact has also seen a massive amount of growth.
This rapid improvement and addition of tools in his game separate him from the honourable mentions listed below, who have elevated some of their abilities without truly adding a whole new dimension to their skill set like Farrell has
Honourable mentions: Lane Hutson, Vinzenz Rohrer, Riley Kidney, Cedrick Guindon, Owen Beck — all five of these prospects I seriously considered. The Habs’ pool of North American talent is a sight to behold, and that has really shone in November.
Listen to Jared Book, Hadi Kalakeche and Patrik Bexell discuss the different players of the month: