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Catching The Torch: Allan McShane is heating up, and Josh Brook’s creativity continues

Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

Brandon Taylor/OHL Images

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.

Allan McShane was out with an injury a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t seem like anything major, but the absence suggests that he might not have been in full form at the start of the season. The eight points in eleven games he recorded before being sidelined would also point to that.

Since his return, McShane has four points in six games, including three goals. But, it’s not necessarily the production that makes it believable that he is on the right track for the rest of the season. This week, the prospect displayed more of his talent than in most games I’ve watched of him last year. He was making plays that he wasn’t during his first games, and looked much more comfortable handling the puck.

The most impressive stretch for McShane was in the third period of the Oshawa Generals’ Sunday contest versus the Niagara Icedogs. It was a close game, one that needed overtime, and McShane elevated his play to try and get his team the win against the come-from-behind Icedogs.

The Habs’ forward, who is now acting as a centreman for the Generals, displayed his agility and great balance on his skates to pierce the opposing defence, move them around, and create plays to set up his teammates with precise passes that were preceded with very effective fakes.

When McShane is at the top of his game, he processes the game much faster than the majority of other players on the ice. He is able to adjust against opposing pokecheck, and protect the puck against heavy defensive pressure. Constantly shoulder checking and gathering information on his surroundings, he locates and takes advantage of any openings that the opposition gives him.

Take a look at this sequence in the third period from Sunday’s game (the first clip runs through the play and the second is a freeze-frame analysis).

McShane skates between the blue line and attacks the middle of the ice upon entering the offensive zone while evading pokechecks. He then slides the puck below the goal line for his team to retrieve it and circles to the top of the zone. He comes back to drive the net and creates a beautiful exchange with a teammate that, unfortunately, ends with a missed net.

A couple of seconds later, he gets the puck back behind the cage and takes advantage of the defencemen not having his stick on the ice to skate to the faceoff circle, pulling off a few skating moves to separate from pressure and create space for himself to continue going forward. He attracts the opposing defence on him in the process, freeing another teammate for a scoring chance.

That wasn’t the only impressive play from McShane this week. One of his goals was a very difficult release that he managed beautifully. After coming back from behind the net and opening up his skates in the 10 and 2 position that he likes to do — the position that allows him to face the play and be a threat to pass or shoot — he roofed the puck past the goalie short side. The shot was precise and it had real power behind it despite only a limited weight shift being possible.

If McShane would play with the same intensity and offensive drive that he showed in the clips above every night, he would be a dominant player in the OHL and put up numbers akin to its top players. It’s clear that he is a multi-talented forward, as he can score just as well as he can pass.

The few points he managed since coming back from his week off are a good start, but McShane needs to continue using this skill of his to write his name on the scoresheet and do it consistently. Reaching this other level that many scouts, who have been excited about the prospect since before his draft year, envisioned he would get to at some point.

Josh Brook, RD, Moose Jaw Warriors

If you have been following Josh Brook, you have seen his play of choice on the man advantage. He receives the puck above the circles on his strong side, skates up, surveys his options, and either hits the stick of his teammate right in front of the cage for a deflection goal or fires the puck at the net low, aiming for a rebound. All four of Brook’s assists this week were from this kind of play in the offensive zone.

When I first watched the highlights, I thought what Brook keeps doing is getting to be a bit formulaic. It’s something that worked in junior hockey against opposing defence with lapse in awareness and coverage, but might not work as he rises to other levels of hockey.

It’s clear that Brook is ready for bigger challenges. After watching more of the defenceman this week, I now think that my first impression upon seeing him add points in similar fashion this week was wrong.

He is doing exactly what he has been tasked to do in the offensive zone. It continuously works because he has grown to be very good at freezing the defence and keeping them guessing on what his intended target for the puck is.

When he was displaced from his usual half-wall spot on the powerplay, and was instead seen quarterbacking the play in the offensive zone, Brook was just as effective with his great usage of a fake shot and his quick feet to find lanes for his passes.

Vision and an ability to use deception effectively are offensive elements that are translatable to the next levels. The defenceman is now up to 23 points in 16 games.

Below is a montage of Brook in the offensive zone, illustrating some of the plays he manages to now pull off routinely.

Josh Brook wears #2 with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack

On prospects needing a new challenge, Nick Suzuki keeps filling his highlight reel every week in a different manner. This time, it was with his great patience in possession.

He scored a beautiful goal by outwaiting the goalie and pulling him out of his net, only to decide to go around the netminder to put the puck in the deserted cage. He added an assist on the powerplay by doing the same to a couple of defenders — showing the shot and forcing them into a blocking position, only to dangle his way to the cage and find a teammate on the opposing side of the net for the goal. Suzuki currently has 35 points in 21 games.

Nick Suzuki wears #37 with the Owen Sound Attack.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand 22 10 14 24
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 24 6 9 15
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 22 4 10 14
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 17 6 6 12
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 21 17 18 35
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 22 6 9 15
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 16 1 7 8
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 16 6 17 23

NCAA season to date

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Hockey East Wisconsin 12 1 2 3
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 10 3 7 10
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 12 3 10 13
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 12 0 2 2
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 11 1 2 3

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 7-3-1 2.43 0.916 2