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 (NCAA) level.
Scott Walford has the consistency of a metronome in how he earn his points. He tends to record an assist every other contest, keeping his production at around 0.5 points per game.
It was like this before he was drafted, the same pattern was replicated last season, and it is the case again this year. It’s to the point where I often don’t have to change his weekly stats in the table at the bottom; the Victoria Royals usually play around the same number of games, and he usually earns the same totals.
Last week, however, Walford stood out. Not just in his production, with his three points in the same number of games, but also with this beautiful goal.
It clashes with how the third-round pick is often pictured: a defensive defenceman, unwilling to jump on the attack.
It’s true that Walford is not one to make decisive offensive plays very often. But, contrary to the perception, he does skate up to create offence often when he sees an occasion, especially this season. He ventures deep in the offensive zone to pressure the opposing breakout or switch with his forwards on a high cycle.
In the play above, Walford did everything himself for the goal. He broke through the opposing defence with a difference in speed, lifted the puck above the goalie’s shoulder short-side, and tied the game.
The defenceman does work on his skills in the summer. He has been featured in videos from Adam Nicholas, a skills coach who works under the banner of Stride Envy. This goal was him recognizing the opportunity to use those skills, showing puck-protection abilities and quite a powerful back end.
This isn’t to say that Walford is going to take Josh Brook’s place as best offensive defence prospect in the organization. Far from it. The third-rounder remains true to his identity. But it’s good to see sparks like this occasionally from him. Defensive defenceman who make it to the NHL — a rarer and rarer breed — usually still show some offensive capabilities in Junior.
Vision and the ability to read the game, from which offence stems, are also qualities that translate very well to a shutdown role.
Where Walford displays those qualities the most with the puck is in his stretch passes. This is the way he got one of his assists this week. He lifted his head, found a teammate streaking in between two opposing defencemen, and launched the puck. It traveled across three zones to land on the stick of that teammate, who dangled the goalie on a breakaway for the goal. Before making that pass, Walford also had made a good defensive play, anticipating the opposing rush and stopping it as it entered the zone.
The defenceman’s other assist was on the power play. He has been a staple of the Royals’ man advantage for a while now. There is not much creativity in his game, but he distributes the puck well enough for the coaching staff to still place him there. The main benefit is in his defensive instincts. Standing as the last man back on that first unit, he acts as a safety net as he transition the play from one side of the ice to the other, mixing in a slapshot occasionally in his exchanges
Walford had six goals in his draft year, followed by only two last season. If he continues to seize his offensive occasions like he has been recently, we could see him beat his career mark in 2018-19, in his last year in junior before he leaves for professional hockey, in all likelihood.
Joel Teasdale, LW, Blainville Boisbriand Armada
Teasdale envisioned participation in the World Juniors for Team Canada this season. Unfortunately, despite a good debut — 29 points in 28 games on an offensively challenged squad — the invite wasn’t extended to him. It’s disappointing, but not surprising considering the talent pool the brass of the National Junior Team has to pick from.
The next objective for Teasdale is to stay above the point-per-game mark through the season, and lead the Armada as far it can be carried (until he likely gets traded to a contender) in preparation of a jump to Laval next season.
"He's an incredible person, but I'm only a coach and not a general manager. The organization has a job and we have to prepare for the future, but I'm not sure if he will stay with us this year," - @ArmadaBLB head coach Bruce Richardson on #Habs Joël Teasdale. https://t.co/z25TNXhsiJ— Canadiens Prospects (@mtl_prospects) December 4, 2018
It is undeniable that Teasdale has talent. But he will have to diversify his offence if he wants to keep producing at the next level.
A good part of his offence right now comes from opportunistic plays to the slot. Either he receives a pass as he skates, uncovered, through that area, or he dangles his way to arrive in front of the blue paint to beat the goalie. They’re plays that he won’t be able to make very often against pros.
That being said, this above sequence is another great display of deception that could have been added to Tuesday’s edition of Catching the Torch. It is definitely a translatable skill. The fake shot is well executed, dropping the netminder to his knees as he bites on the misdirection.
This goal was a bright spot in an otherwise dreadful night for the Armada, who lost 10-3 to the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Allan McShane, C/LW, Oshawa Generals
McShane may be on the third line, but at least the Generals got him some much-needed help, trading for Anthony Salinitri from the Sarnia Sting, an overager with a goal-scoring touch.
McShane’s production has been increasing steadily recently. He recorded four points, including three goals, this week, for a total of 10 goals and eight assists on the season. He was also named the first star in two of his three games.
His best game was on Saturday, a nationally televised contest, in which he scored twice. His first goal was a powerful one-timer from the top of the circle. For his second, he received the puck while rushing into the offensive zone, froze the defence and the goalie, and lifted it top shelf as he drove by.
But it was an assist that was his most impressive display. After skating over the offensive blue line, in a single motion he caught the puck and slid it over to Giovanni Vallati, who then had a free lane to fire on net thanks to McShane attracting the attention of the defender with his move.
The Oshawa Generals look to be preparing to contend this season. They will likely acquire other pieces to bolster their offence, and that should logically translate to more production for McShane. He might not reach the high totals some (including me) thought he would at the start of the season, but if he remains hot, he could still surpass a point-per-game mark even without playing top minutes.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL season to date
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||Owen Sound||27||20||21||41|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||28||7||12||19|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||23||9||22||31|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Hockey East||Wisconsin||16||2||3||5|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||14||3||12||15|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||13||1||5||6|
Cayden Primeau’s season to date