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.
It was an incredibly productive week for CHL prospects. This weekend alone, Montreal's four WHL defencemen combined for 13 points. Each blue-liner also posted a multi-point performance.
The most impressive showing came from Josh Brook on Thursday night, making the flashiest move I've seen in the junior ranks this season.
This play will be reminiscent of a certain Norris Trophy-winning defenceman for most Habs fan. The showy spin to beat the first defender, and the quick pass to the slot while attracting everyone's attention, made it very easy for the receiving forward to complete the play.
The least that can be said about Brook is that he has confidence. That added to some strong abilities and a great supporting cast with the Moose Jaw Warriors means all the elements are there for him to put up impressive numbers this year.
While the above display has not been a common occurrence for him, it is a glimpse of an offensive ability that could be taking a step forward. After all, the season has just started for Brook. With five points in four games this week, it looks like he is more than getting back into form.
Josh Brook, #2, Moose Jaw Warriors
It’s worth looking at that assist versus the Edmonton Oil Kings in finer detail.
This angle highlights how Brook manipulated his opponents into opening a passing lane to Jayden Halbgewachs in front of the net. He first created space for himself to get further up the ice and attract all eyes to him, leaving Halbgewachs uncovered. The Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder scored the game-winning goal with all the space Brook created for him.
Brook is truly at home on the power play. Three of his points came with a man advantage this week. One of those was on a shot-pass to the front of the net, with Halbgewachs (once again) managing a great tip-in.
Watch how Brook first stops at the blue line to make sure he gets lost in coverage. After a couple of seconds, he slides down to position himself between two defenders to receive a pass. From there, he becomes very threatening to Medecine Hat's defenders with all but one focusing on him while he's seeking out Halbgewachs.
Brook likes to get as close to the net as possible, preferably to the top of the left circle.
His assist on Friday was a shot he fired from that location. He moved his feet before receiving the puck and turned his momentum toward the net. His wrist shot rebounded off the Red Deer Rebels’ goalie and was put in by Brett Howden.
Brook can also use his wrist shot from the blue line quite effectively. He pushes with his left foot as he's about to fire to change his release point and give himself a better chance to get the puck past the player attempting to block it.
His highlight-reel assist showed that he has more than one trick in his bag, and that wasn’t the only time he decided against attempting a shot to drive closer to the net.
He didn't create much separation from his coverage on the play below, but the lazy attempts at taking the puck away from him, combined with good protection on his part, allowed him to get deeper into the zone.
He is an aggressive player on both sides of the ice, indicated by the way he defends zone entries. He maintains a tight gap through the neutral zone that he closes immediately at his blue line, or even before, often using his body to bring the opposing forward to an almost dead stop when he can.
However, considering this aspect of his playstyle, it's hard to explain why he chooses to be the second man on puck retrievals on occasion. He seems to forfeit possession in favour of a chance to hit or push opponents off the puck once they get it.
It would generally be more effective if he went first and tried to protect it with his body, something he has the size to execute well. The chances of him being able to knock someone down for a clean retrieval are not worth the risk of surrendering an immediate scoring chance against.
He added to his season total with two more points on Sunday, including his first goal. Both points were obtained at four-on-four.
Weekly CHL performance
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||4||1||4||5|
The rest of the Habs defenceman in the WHL also had some impressive performances this week.
Cale Fleury recorded three assists in a game for the third time in his career. His first two, like most of his production this season, came from point shots. One was deflected in, while the other bounced to a teammate who fired a second time for the goal. His last assist was a pass on an empty-netter.
Fleury also had a fighting major in that game when he didn't appreciate a high check from a Medicine Hat Tigers player. It was a dangerous hit with the head as the main point of contact. Thankfully, it didn't seem to cause an injury.
Since joining the Pats, Fleury has 10 points in 11 games. The change of scenery and his pairing with Josh Mahura have both been working wonders for the Habs’ third-rounder.
On Saturday, Jarret Tyszka scored a beautiful goal with wrist shot that beat the Spokane Chiefs’ goalie clean to the top of the net. It was his fourth of the season. Unfortunately, he finished the night with a -5 goal differential as the Thunderbirds got crushed by the Chiefs 9-2.
Just a day earlier, Tyszka (#5) also recorded three assists in a game, the first such performance in his junior tenure. He now has 20 pts in 29 games.
Scott Walford (#7) is still looking for his first goal, but had two assists on the power play on Friday to bring his season total to 16 points. Walford has been a solid defensive presence on the Victoria Royals’ blue line all season, currently leading all CHL Habs prospects at +14.
CHL season to date
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||7||1||5||6|
Michael Pezzetta and the Sudbury Wolves only played two games this week. He scored in one of them, taking his own rebound to give his team the lead. Unfortunately, they lost that game 5-4.
After not scoring at all for a while, William Bitten has six goals in his last 10 games. This week, his eighth of the season triggered an avalanche of teddy bears, one of the great traditions of junior and minor hockey around this time of year.
He also picked up an assist in the same game that fully displayed his passing ability. With great accuracy, he threaded the puck through the skate of a defender on the power play, leading to Marian Studenic's goal a few seconds later.
On Sunday, Bitten used his speed to beat a defender to a loose puck on the penalty kill. He got in front of him on the battle and exploded away to get a one-on-one chance with Mississauga's goalie. He easily beat him with a shot above his left shoulder for his ninth of the season.
Bulldogs Goal 1 Dec 10 Will Bitten puts the Bulldogs on the board in Mississauga! Watch now at https://t.co/e0qxs64TKU @OHLHockey @BulldogsOHL pic.twitter.com/LrUIbddjIn— Cable 14 Hamilton (@cable14) December 10, 2017
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