Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL), collegiate (USHL, NCAA), and professional (ECHL) level.
Change to Catching The Torch's format
We are testing something new for Catching The Torch. The coverage will now be split over two days, with CHL prospects highlighted on Tuesday, with a review of the NCAA prospects on Thursday. This is done in order to allow for more in-depth spotlights of some of the lesser known Habs youngsters.
Jarret Tyszka scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday. It's quite surprising that it took him 17 games to do so as he gets considerable power-play time and has a good point shot. But, contrary to expectations, his goal didn't happen from his traditional wrister or slapshot from the blue line.
It was an almost complete solo effort. Tyszka went through the Raiders’ defencemen, who underestimated how bold the Montreal prospect can be if he's left some space.
The fifth-rounder has some work to do on the defensive side of his game, but a quality he definitely possesses is confidence with the puck. He's constantly testing the waters when he has possession, trying to gauge the forechecking pressure on him, and see what he can get away with.
It has its downsides, but this tendency is exactly what led to his goal. He caught the Raiders in a moment of lazy defence that he exploited masterfully.
Tyszka first extended his reach to pick up a puck sliding out of the offensive zone. Using a great body fake, he shook off the first opposing forward, who expected a pass and was too eager to cut it. He then made his way along the half-wall looking like he was considering options on the other side of the ice.
But after a timely contact from a teammate on a defender — the kind of legal interference that creates great scoring opportunities — Tyszka got an open lane to the net, and didn't hesitate to take it. He slid the puck in between the goalie's pads to give the Seattle Thunderbirds the lead.
Cale Fleury #4, Regina Pats
Since welcoming Cale Fleury, Regina has won against the Calgary Hitmen at home and have split their weekend road trip with a win against Everett and a lost versus Portland.
Fleury is currently playing on the Pats’ first defensive pair with Josh Mahura, the Anaheim Ducks’ third-round pick in 2016. The ex-ICE player will need some time to adjust and develop chemistry with his partner, but once they learn to support each other better, it could be one of the more impressive pairings in the WHL.
On his first ever shift with the Pats, Fleury chipped the puck in the offensive zone, but it got immediately blocked by an opposing forward. It resulted in a breakaway against a few seconds into the game. Not the way that the Habs prospect envisioned his start with his new team.
Fortunately, his goalie, Max Paddock, saved both the breakaway and Fleury's first impression on his coaching staff. He had a much better game from that point on, displaying his offensive abilities.
On the man advantage, against the very aggressive box of the Hitmen, Fleury circulated the puck well, allowing Mahura to drive the net for rebounds as he let his powerful shot go.
In the dying seconds of the second period, he pressured the opposition's breakout, retrieved the puck, and, after making a move on a defender, accelerated to the net where he tried to backhand the puck past the Hitmen's goalie.
Fleury creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates from his play at the blue line. It's probably his best quality with his talent to rush the puck. He identifies his options rapidly and knows how to sell his next move to the other team's defence.
Stretching the ice, getting as much space as he can from his blue-line partner, he accelerates laterally as he receives the puck, and looks up at the net while getting in a lane to fire a shot, convincing the player covering him that it's what he's about to do.
However, by having his coverage move to block a release he won't use, he frees up one of his forwards who circled to the blue line, allowing him to shoot from a better angle after a quick pass.
His first point with Regina, an assist he got on Saturday, was on a similar play. This time, he first tried a behind-the-back pass to Sam Steel after having dragged an opposing forward out of position. It opened a lane to the net for the prolific scorer. Steel missed but got the puck back to Mahura.
Once again, Fleury stretched the space between him and his partner as much as possible before receiving the next pass, creating an open area for Steel to circle back to the blue-line uncovered. Fleury found him there which resulted in a prime scoring chance and a goal.
From the same spot on the ice, also using cross-overs to accelerate as he receives, he fired a shot that was tipped by Jake Leschyshyn for his second assist in three games with the Pats.
William Bitten #14, Hamilton Bulldogs
On Saturday, Bitten had his first three-point game of the season (one goal, two assists). It was well deserved after his team failed to capitalize on his passes a ridiculous amount of times in the last couple of weeks.
His goal came off a great shot a few feet from the net. The pass he received barely allowed him to catch and release in a single motion as the puck was too close to his body. For that reason, he had it bounce on his stick just slightly ahead of him. The backward movement he already had initiated placed him in a better position to fire a second later.
Both his assists were on Matthew Strome goals. In the first period, he gained the zone and passed to the Flyers prospect, who then faked out a defender and sniped the puck behind the Ottawa 67’s’ goalie.
However, Bitten's most impressive point was later in the game on the power play. Standing on the goal line, he one-touched the puck to Marian Studenic right in front of the net.
The goaltender allowed a rebound on the resulting shot, and a scramble for the puck ensued. Instead of mindlessly trying to bang the puck in like the others, Bitten tried a pass across the crease that found its way to Strome for an easy goal.
Montreal's 2016 third-round pick is still playing centre for the Bulldogs. Since going back to the position he has won 55.9% of his faceoffs, which is an improvement over the 48.2% he posted in an equal number of draws in his first stint at the position this season.
That being said, Bitten needs to support his teammates on the breakout better at times, especially now that he's in the middle. He's often jumping ahead of the play in the neutral zone when his defenceman have the puck.
He could be of great use to them if he stayed lower, or circled back to receive a pass that would allow him to accelerate with the puck and carry it all the way in the offensive zone with speed, something he is capable of doing consistently.
This season, it would be a mistake to underestimate Bitten based on his point total. If the Bulldogs had more scoring threats, his production could easily be past the point-per-game mark that he's getting closer to after his performance on Saturday.
Even in that game, there were other golden chances that were not capitalized upon.
CHL weekly performance
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||Back to practice|
Michael Pezzetta had two assists on Tuesday. The first was created by his play in front of the net and the second on a zone entry he prepared. He now has 22 points in 24 games.
However, that wasn't the key moment of the game for Pezzetta. He had a crushing elbow to the head of a player who presented his numbers to him, and it was inexcusable. He got a major penalty and was ejected from a game his team was already winning comfortably. Only Pezzetta knows why he does such bone-headed things.
He was at risk of getting a multiple-game suspension due to his history as a repeat offender. Fortunately for the Habs prospect — who is playing for a pro contract right now — the OHL decided that no further discipline was required.
CHL season to date
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||Back to practice|
There is some good news regarding Josh Brook: the Habs’ second-round pick in last year’s draft is skating again, and joined his team at practice this week. He was orginally slated to be out for six to eight weeks after suffering a wrist injury at Montreal's rookie camp earlier this summer, and has already missed more than 20 games.
Brook is a talented defenceman on both sides of the puck and a very exciting prospect for the organization. Catching The Torch will cover him extensively as soon as he's back on the ice with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.