NHL Player of the Month: Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli had a 2020-21 campaign that challenged for the best of his career so far. He feasted on a long season series with the Vancouver Canucks to post 28 goals in a shortened season, then also tied for his best post-season production from his Stanley Cup win in 2014 by almost claiming the trophy a second time with the Montreal Canadiens.
With the caveat that scoring is down across the board for the Habs this year, Toffoli was once more leading the club in points in early December when he had to have hand surgery. It was past the middle of January when he was able to return to the lineup, but his scoring touch was left intact.
Playing just seven of 11 games, he still led the team in goals with four and was one off the best monthly point total; eight versus Nick Suzuki’s nine. As had been the case during the post-season, the special teams were the main beneficiaries of his talents, with four power-play points and a short-handed goal. He took those two situations that had ranked right at the bottom of the league all season long and made them dangerous minutes for the opposition.
Toffoli is now in a three-way tie for the team goal lead with nine and sports the top points-per-game rate at a respectable 0.76. He enters February on a three-game points streak, and we know he won’t be overly concerned about this week-long break disrupting his momentum.
Honourable mention: Artturi Lehkonen
Lehkonen tied Toffoli in points in three more games, still missing one of the contests while on the COVID list. He also had a short-handed goal in his tally, as well as his first power-play goal in four years. But where he really shone, and typically does, was at even stength.
On a team that put in generally terrible performances all month long — a 1-8-2 record with 54 goals allowed — he was one of the few providing consistent effort, and had a team-high six even-strength points. He’s getting to play with top-end linemates with all the roster turmoil, and the results are deserved for the hardest-working Hab.
AHL Player of the Month: Jesse Ylönen
It was not an overly busy month for the Laval Rocket, as COVID ran rampant and forced the team into a number of schedule changes, with their first game not coming until halfway through. By the end of January, the team had played just six total games, with many players only playing a handful of them due to injuries and recall issues.
One such player was Jesse Ylönen, who was recalled to Montreal, was part of their massive COVID outbreak, and was sent back down to finish the month with the Rocket. His return was a welcome relief for the team as his first game back saw the Rocket take down the division-leading Utica Comets on the back of Ylönen’s two-goal night.
Rocket Power Play Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 20, 2022
: Jesse Ylönen (6)
: J-S Dea
: Kevin Roy pic.twitter.com/NDmE8diuEa
He added two assists in a win over Texas to end the month, and despite playing just three games compiled four points that helped keep the Rocket secured in a playoff spot for the time being.
His confidence is also continuing to grow as he is more willing to make high-risk plays to get the puck into more dangerous areas for scoring chances. He is also using his lethal wristshot to great effect, generating a ton of great looks not only on the power play but at even strength.
With the Rocket returning to near full health, Ylönen will have some reinforcements, which should allow him to play away from the opposition’s top lines and increase his production as this season continues.
North American Prospect of the Month: Kaiden Guhle
After heading to the Edmonton Oil Kings from Prince Albert in a sell-all trade deadline by the Raiders, Guhle has earned 10 points through eight games for his new club, including nine in his last six within the month of January. The towering defender has shown an interesting progression in his offence, activating from the point more frequently in the offensive zone rather than relying on the rush to dictate his production.
The benefit for Guhle of joining a team as stacked for talent as the Oil Kings is the amount of points he can obtain simply by virtue of sharing the ice with the team’s leading stars. Dylan Guenther, Jake Neighbours, Josh Williams, and the rest of Edmonton’s forwards have been firing at all cylinders, with the team netting 27 goals in the six games since Guhle rejoined the club after the shortened World Junior Championship.
The Habs’ 2020 first-round pick, who turned 20 years old during the last month, has a lingering bit of panic in his game that appears when his first option gets erased by an opponent, but playing in Edmonton’s structured system has gradually helped him show more comfort with the puck, as he knows where his teammates are and has adapted to their on-ice habits.
If Guhle continues to earn top power-play minutes, there isn’t much stopping him from maintaining his current point pace, or even improving upon it.
European Prospect of the Month: Frederik Dichow
It might be getting repetitive seeing the same player in this spot, and one was hoping that a strong performance from Oliver Kapanen in the World Juniors or from Mattias Norlinder upon his return to SHL would have changed things up. However, COVID protocols have stopped play for both of them, and there was an injury for Norlinder in this span as well. Therefore, it is the reigning holder, Frederik Dichow, who gets the nomination this month as well, going four-for-four this season.
The Danish goalie has been equally strong as before when it comes to keeping Kristianstad as a top team in Sweden’s second tier, HockeyAllsvenskan. Even with two tough games — a 10-minute, four-goal performance and a full game with six goals against — Dichow had an .898 save percentage and was instrumental in Kristianstad’s win against AIK. He kept his team within striking distance in that game before the team turned things around in the last period, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win.
Dichow will be one of two Montreal Canadiens prospects in the Olympic Games (joined by Sean Farrell on Team USA). He has earned it the hard way, but it remains to be seen if he gets to play any serious minutes in the tournament.