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Montreal Canadiens Organizational Players of February

Mike Matheson has become a force on the Habs blue line, Adam Engström is finishing his season in style, and Riley Kidney is a point-producting machine.

NHL: FEB 25 Senators at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NHL Player of the Month: Mike Matheson

It has been a season full of fits and starts for Mike Matheson, missing the opening month of action and then out for another one from mid-February to mid-March. The 16 consecutive games he’s played since January 17 stand as the most stability he has enjoyed in his first year with the Montreal Canadiens. That increased comfort is showing up in his performance on the ice, where he was a point-per-game producer in February up until the game last night in San Jose, contributing three goals and five assists.

That stability is extending to defence partner Justin Barron, who is rounding into an effective player in his own right. That’s the kind of development you’d hope to see when pairing a veteran with a rookie, and that’s a role Matheson will hold as long as he remains with the team. Barron knows he has a solid teammate backing him up to allow more exploration of his offensive game, which is a benefit to both players.

On a nightly basis, Matheson is creating chances on offence, making smart plays with pucks in the defensive zone, and being a main transition player through the neutral zone. A lot of the Habs’ late-season surge can be credited to him, and he’ll at least help make these final six weeks of the regular season entertaining to watch.

Honourable mention: Nick Suzuki

Suzuki isn’t back to the point-per-game pace he was holding through the opening few months of the year, but he is rebounding from a difficult stretch through December and January. Having the energy of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard on his wing helped, but he’s looking a lot more creative than he had, which may be the result of recovering from an injury that nagged him for much of the season.

With Kirby Dach unable to play at the moment, Suzuki’s role has been elevated. He’s meeting that challenge as the season winds down, and this is all good experience to have for next year when the Habs will be a bit more competitive.

AHL Player of the Month: Cayden Primeau

Cayden Primeau was tested when he was sent back down to the Laval Rocket. After barely playing since an injury in November, the goaltender started eight of Laval’s nine games in February going 4-3-0 (with one no-decision), a 3.01 goals against average and a sparkling .922 save percentage.

Some of his best performances ended up in losses, like his 46-save performance in a 3-2 loss against the Toronto Marlies to end the month. Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle said he challenged Primeau to take control like he did in the playoffs, and he had a solid month when the team needed him most. Kevin Poulin has returned to the lineup, but Primeau still started both games since his return.

The Rocket will likely continue to ride Primeau in their playoff push, but they won’t have to run him into the ground with Poulin’s return, especially in back-to-backs.

Honourable mentions go to a group of players who had great months, including Peter Abbandonato (9GP, 3G, 5A), Anthony Richard (9GP, 1G, 8A), Brandon Gignac (9GP, 6G, 2A), Mitchell Stephens (9GP, 4G, 3A), William Trudeau (9GP, 2G, 4A), and last month’s winner Joël Teasdale (8GP, 6G, 1A).

European Prospect of the Month: Adam Engström

While Engström has outpaced his fellow European prospects in points with eight (1G, 7A) in nine games in February, it is his defensive play that has taken a step forward, something that has contributed to earn him more time on ice and better usage as he has gotten to play on the second power-play unit.

Engström has grown into a role with an SHL team in less than half a year, outpacing some of the highest projections. Some expected him to falter after the World Junior Championship and the loss in the Bronze Medal Game, but he has taken his game to a new level.

While Engström can still be a bit “puppy-like” in his defensive zone, being a little bit lost and/or not strong enough, it is plays like the one below that show where so much of his talent lies: skating, vision, and hockey IQ.

(Full credit to the referee who really skates well and focuses on the defensive play that is timed to perfection by Engström.)

Engström might have been the most underrated prospect in the Montreal Canadiens’ pool at the start of the season. There is no reason for him to have that title now.

North American Prospect of the Month: Riley Kidney

Kidney takes the cake for the second month in a row, as he seems nowhere near slowing down. Since his trade to the Gatineau Olympiques in early January, Kidney has amassed a whopping 46 points in 18 games played, 20 of which came in his eight matches played in February.

This tally includes a current streak of five multi-point games, and a 17-game point streak. So far, the only game in which Kidney was shut out in an Olympiques uniform was his first, which came hours after his team traded him.

Not only is he tallying points in outlandish quantity, but the quality of those points has massively improved compared to what we saw last season. As mentioned last month, Kidney has added a completely new facet to his game in the off-season, turning his biggest weakness — his lack of inside play and will to drive the middle — into a strength.

This seems like the work of Adam Nicholas, who preaches inside play above all for his forwards. Nicholas has consistently formed inside-driven players dating back to his Chicago Steel days, from Matt Coronato to the Habs’ very own Sean Farrell.

Speaking of Farrell, he was a close second to Kidney with his 13 points in seven games for Harvard in the NCAA, bringing his season total to 47 points in 29 games. That’s the most on his team by 11 points, and the third-best point-per-game tally (1.62) in all of Division I college hockey.

Players of October
Players of November
Players of December
Players of January

EOTP Players of the Month archive

Hadi Kalakeche, Matt Drake and Patrik Bexell discuss the players picked as Players of the Month: