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Catching The Torch: Jack Gorniak’s adjustment, and Nick Suzuki’s penalty-kill prowess

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

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty 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, QMJHL, WHL) and collegiate (USHL, NCAA) level.

Jack Gorniak, #11, LW, University of Wisconsin

Jack Gorniak plays in Wisconsin’s middle-six this season. Despite getting more than a few scoring chances since the first game of season for the Badgers when he recorded his lone assist, he has had trouble finding the back of the net.

That is unlike anything Gorniak has known until now. He recorded 28 goals last season with West Salem High, doing it in only 24 games, and he had 30 in even fewer contests the previous year. As has been said a few times for the new Habs prospects drafted out of high school, there is quite a step between the level the played in their draft year and the NCAA.

Jordan Harris had adapted quite well, but the defenceman is very much an exception. It took a while for Ryan Poehling to start contributing offensively with St. Cloud State in his first year, and Jake Evans wasn’t anything close to the prospect he is now in his debut with Notre Dame.

The fact that Gorniak’s name is not often on the scoresheet right now is nothing to worry about; he is a long-term project. Plus, there is still a very exciting element in his play, and it’s his speed.

The Habs’ fourth-rounder is flying out there even against the tougher competition. He is defined by his quickness. He’s one of the rare players who can be the F1 on both offence and defence on a particular shift, meaning that he can go all out as the first man on the forecheck and beat everyone else with his speed while tracking the play down the neutral zone, crossing the blue line as the first forward back as he descends in his own end.

His acceleration can also draw penalties as he surprises defenders with an unexpected speed difference on zone entries.

He is a train that is hard to stop, and because of this quality and his athleticism, he will always have value for the Wisconsin Badgers while he figures out the offensive part of his game.

Nick Suzuki, #37, C, Owen Sound

Suzuki has been playing centre regularly now that he has been separated from Kevin Hancock. It seems to be working well for him as he recorded his second six-point week, with an equal number of goals and assists. He got his points in a variety of ways: precise releases, breakaways, and deceptive passes.

But what impressed the most about his play this week was his work on the penalty kill. Suzuki is trusted for long minutes while short-handed by his coach because his involvement is not limited to defence. He can create some great scoring chances by capitalizing on the opposition’s mistakes.

His reads are a level above the majority of players on the ice. Against the London Knights, he had a sequence that displayed just how effective he can be at transforming defence into offence even on the penalty kill.

He pressured the offensive formation of the Knights on their zone entry and stayed close to the defender at the point once the play settled into the defensive zone. He watched as the defender made a behind-the-back pass to his forward on the wall, and when the defender got the puck again, he cut his second behind-the-back feed to skate the other way and set up Hancock for a short-handed goal.

This kind of scoring chance was also made possible because of his patience. Suzuki read the defenceman’s preferred plays, but didn’t commit to cutting the pass before the defenceman started his attempt. He had his stick in a poke-check position and only switched it to intercept at the last second.

It seems that Suzuki is taking this last season in Junior to show that he can become a multi-threat forward. Every time he is on the ice, something happens.

Joël Teasdale, #24, LW, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada

Suzuki wasn’t the only one with a six-point week. Joël Teasdale went off and also scored three goals and three assists, showing his skill and his one-on-one ability against defenders.

Teasdale likes to challenge opponents with his stickhandling. If he sees an opportunity to slide the puck between stick and skates to attack the slot, he takes it. He is a good puck protector with an aggressive mind, qualities that fuel his offence.

The Armada visited Samuel Houde and the Chicoutimi Saguenéens on Saturday. Houde was left off of the scoresheet, but Teasdale recorded one assist on a good display of vision. He is more of a scorer than a playmaker, but shows quite often that he has a passing ability to complement his hands and play around the net.

Teasdale will need to keep up this pace and find ways to augment his scoring ability this season. Next year the AHL awaits, and it will be a challenge for him. He won’t be able to get the inside track on defencemen as easily and will have to rely on his shot, protection ability, and teammates to get points on the board.

Ryan Poehling, #11, C, St. Cloud State

Poehling is back to a point-per-game mark with a three-point performance this weekend. He finished a passing play with a tap-in on the far post on Friday, and in the last seconds of the same game, while short-handed and on the ice defending his team’s lead, he found the empty net from behind his blue line. His last point was acquired on the power play on Saturday.

St. Cloud is now at number two in the NCAA rankings, once again one of the top teams in the country. Their only loss came at the hands of the other Huskies, Northeastern University, and was the result of a stellar performance from Cayden Primeau.

St. Cloud will look to carry their dominant stretch into the post-season this year, going further than they could in 2017-18 with a disappointing first-round exit in the Frozen Four. To accomplish that, they will need their number-one center, Ryan Poehling, to take the next step in his offensive game. This three-point week could be a good springboard.

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

CHL weekly performance

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 3 3 3 6
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 0 2 2
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 2 1 3
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa Status unknown
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 3 3 3 6
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 1 0 1 1
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 2 0 1 1
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 2 0 2 2

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 18 9 11 20
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 18 5 9 14
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 17 3 8 11
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 11 3 5 8
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 16 13 12 25
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 17 5 9 14
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 12 0 5 5
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 12 5 10 15

NCAA weekly performance

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 2 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 2 0 2 2
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 2 2 1 3
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 0 0 0 0
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0

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 8 0 1 1
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 6 1 4 5
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 8 3 5 8
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 8 0 0 0
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 8 1 2 3

Goalie weekly performance

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 0-1-1 4.30 0.886 0

Goalie season to date

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 4-3-1 2.60 0.911 1