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, QMJHL, WHL), and collegiate (USHL, NCAA) level.
It happened a few times last season and again in Saturday’s game. Down three goals at the start of the third period, the Moose Jaw Warriors were desperate for more offence. They had been shut out by Medicine Hat up until that point and needed to shake things up.
It’s no secret that Josh Brook is one of the team’s biggest offensive weapons. He’s producing a lot from the blue line this season, even factoring into close to half of the team’s goals as recently as a few weeks ago. He runs the power play and consistently pushes the pace at even strength. He is a key element of the team’s transition play and therefore is often the starting point of the Warriors’ attack.
But there is only so much defencemen can do to put the puck into the net. They are limited by their responsibilities. They can roam up, but are always mindful of the need to get back.
This is why the Moose Jaw Warriors, when they felt like their attack needed a boost, decided to use Brook on the wing, switching him from a quarterback role to full-on offensive threat.
It must have been a fun period for Brook who was now free of his usual defensive duties. He scored a goal, and was consistently involved in the multiple offensive chances of his team, getting more than a few shots on net himself. He carried the puck up the ice, set up his teammates, and created turnovers with forechecking pressure like a seasoned forward would do.
The strategy worked. Medicine Hat’s lead evaporated before the end of the third period thanks to the play of Brook and some other reinvigorated Warriors. Moose Jaw then won in overtime with the Habs prospect back on defence — not that it mattered with the space given by the three-on-three format.
This position switch is not a regular occurrence for the team, but it’s probable we see it again this season. It’s one of the team’s last cards when they have their back against the wall, and it already showed its potential.
Josh Brook wears #2 with the Moose Jaw Warriors (in white).
There was another game that was quite interesting from the perspective of Habs prospect: their contest versus the Prince Albert Raiders and Cole Fonstad on Wednesday.
It was another good performance by Brook. His confidence was high throughout the game; he was moving the puck well and had a clear desire to make things happen for his team. He recorded an assist on one of his power-play setups: a shot-pass to the front of the net for a deflection.
It is not the first time the defenceman tried this play, and was successful with it, and it won’t be the last.
Cole Fonstad, C/LW, Prince Albert Raiders
As for Fonstad, he picked up a few points with two assists.
They weren’t the prettiest points, but it must have been a slight relief for Fonstad who was left pointless in his three previous games and had just one point in his last seven. The fifth-rounder was producing at a high pace in his start to the season, but slowed down in the last few games.
Some of this drought could be explained by his move to centre, but he also struggled before the switch. In the game against Brook, Fonstad wasn’t on the first power-play unit of the Raiders and wasn’t one of the most-utilized forwards either, it seemed. So there might be more going on there that we don’t know.
Still, there is some pretty good news in his case, and it’s that he doesn’t look out of place as a pivot. Fonstad is an underrated defensive player with a good understanding of the game and an ability to read opponents. This serves him well in his new duties. He isn’t the biggest player, but he can hold his own and even gain body positioning to win puck battles with appropriate timing.
The points will come back for Fonstad. He is offensively talented and smart, enough to overcome this difficult stretch. Plus, it feels like there is another level for him to attain with the right opportunities — something he might not have right now. The prospect has the potential to be a dominant player in the WHL.
In the meantime, even if he is not scoring regularly, Fonstad is still showing his smooth puck-handling skills that help him evade defenders and pull off some impressive controlled zone entries for his team.
Cole Fonstad wears #24, and is the one with the puck in the video
Nikolas Koberstein, RD, Alaska Nanooks
The Nanooks have had a difficult start to the season, losing all but one game, which they tied with Denver University on October 20. It must be a tough locker room to be in for the team’s new captain, Nikolas Koberstein.
Koberstein was drafted in 2014 by the Canadiens and is playing his last year of college hockey this season. It’s a last chance for him to impress the Habs’ brass.
He has been held pointless since the start of the year, but points are mostly just a bonus in the defenceman’s game. He relies on his range and his physicality to dominate opponents on the defensive side of the puck. He gets offensive opportunities and is a good passer, but is not the blue-liner of choice for the power play or the one to help the team make a difference on the attack.
The biggest drawback in Koberstein’s game — and what might make Montreal hesitate to give him his chance — is how he reads the play away from the puck. In the game against Denver (featuring fellow Habs prospect Brett Stapley), Koberstein was caught a few times a step behind: on the breakout where he could be giving quicker pass options, and against attacking forwards. It can be deadly for someone who, despite being an overall good skater for his size, can’t accelerate as fast as the players he faces.
The Nanooks don’t play again until November 9. They will likely welcome the break after this disappointing start to the season.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL season to date
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||Owen Sound||13||10||9||19|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||16||5||8||13|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||10||5||8||13|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Hockey East||Wisconsin||6||0||1||1|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||6||1||4||5|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||6||1||2||3|
Goalie season to date