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Catching The Torch: Cayden Primeau closing in on the best season in Hockey East history

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

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

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) and collegiate level(USHL, NCAA).

Cayden Primeau was fighting for his saves a bit more than usual these past two games, but with the strong defence of Northeastern and his remarkable ability to find pucks through scrums, it rarely cost him. Instead, he put up even better numbers than his season average and finished his two-game weekend with an efficiency of .934, blocking 57 of the 61 shots directed towards his cage.

The story keeps on writing itself for Primeau, who, despite the favourable circumstances that he's put in while backstopping a strong Huskies team, has proven to be an extremely solid presence between the posts, and more than an important piece in his college's on-ice success.

He has now improved to top five in the NCAA for both his .933 save percentage and his goals-against average of 1.86. This feat earned him a nomination for the 2018 Mike Richter Award, presented annually to the most outstanding goaltender in the NCAA. He's currently a semifinalist for the honour, and the performances he keeps putting out are only helping his case.

His stats are not just great. They are historically great.

Primeau's numbers in the regular season have been the best by a U19 goalie in college in the last 10 years. If he keeps his save percentage above .930, it would be, according to Corey Pronman, the best season performance by a Hockey East goalie ever.

No matter what happens from now until the end of the playoff run (which could be a long one with what Northeastern has shown), Primeau has had more than an amazing season. He has shattered every expectation anyone could have had for him, and has pushed his perceived ceiling to a future NHL starter for many.

No pressure.

Primeau will face Hayden Hawkey and Providence next weekend for the Hockey East championship. The last time the Huskies battled the Friars, they tied one game and lost the other in overtime. These are two very evenly matched teams, and it should make for an intense final.

The performance of Hawkey, who has struggled in his team’s two wins in the playoffs so far with a .875 save percentage, may be the deciding factor in this game.

Prospect Spotlights

Ryan Poehling #11, C, St-Cloud State

Poehling was in full form for the first weekend of the NCHC playoffs. He played with a different energy and even a mean streak that is usually not an element of his game.

He was relentless on the puck. If you stole it from him, he was going to get it back even if he had to hunt you down over the full length of the ice.

He was at the origin of plenty of chances for the Huskies in their hard-fought battle against Miami University. St. Cloud tried a couple of changes to their power play that had Poehling slide down behind the net to create switches in coverage. The plan was to have another teammate quietly get in front of the net for a scoring chance as the movements happened, hoping to capitalizing on a confused defence.

It almost worked on a few occasions, but Poehling didn't see his passes converted. When he got a chance himself, he barely missed to the right of the net, after creatively changing the point of his release at the last second to try and beat a set goalie.

There's another play at the end of the above montage that will evoke a recurring question for Poehling: whether it was preferable for him to pass or shoot. In a two-on-one, he tried to immediately give the puck back to his teammate as he reached the doorstep with only the goalie to beat.

The Habs prospect has shown that he can fire very quickly upon receiving a pass. His catch-and-release motion has been honed to become dangerous; you can tell by watching the clip below. The puck barely stays on his stick for half a second before flying towards the net.

The issue remains in the precision of the shots. I think this is something Poehling is aware of, and why he prefers to beat a goalie with a lateral pass when possible rather than try his luck hitting one of the spots open to him. It has worked for him in the past, but with the important games coming up for his team, he might be called upon to score some big goals.

He answered that call on Saturday when he recorded his 13th of the season on the power play. The puck came to him from the half-wall but barely touched his stick before he passed it towards Mikey Eyssimont. Eyssimont gave it back to him for a perfect redirect into an open net.

It was a beautiful play that was telling of the chemistry of the team at this point in the season.

Unfortunately, St. Cloud went on to lose that game and had to play again on Sunday due a tied best-of-three series. With Miami's season on the line and the chance to go to the Frozen Faceoff tournament, that extra game was a nail-bitter for 60 minutes and then another few minutes in overtime.

As things were getting desperate for the Huskies, Patrick Newell and Eyssimont rushed down the ice and combined for the game-winning goal, ending a memorable game and providing the team with a last win on home ice before they continue their road to the Frozen Four.

Jake Evans, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The dominant Fighting Irish won over Penn State in the Big Ten tournament to send them to the finals, where they will face Ohio State on home ice on Saturday. After ending the regular season with a five-point weekend, including two goals against Michigan State, Jake Evans had a quiet game on Saturday for the start of the playoff.

But, even when he can't help his team find the back of the net, the captain constantly remains a force due to his play away from the puck. He was recently recognized for it by being nominated as a finalist for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.

Evans currently leads the team with 38 points in 35 games and ranks second in the NCAA with 460 faceoff wins. This a testament to his talent on the dot, but also to the huge responsibilities he is given every night.

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

NCAA weekly performance

Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jake Evans C Big Ten Notre Dame 1 0 0 0
Nikolas Koberstein RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks Season over
Ryan Poehling C NCHC St. Cloud State 3 1 0 1
Casey Staum LD USHL Dubuque Injured

NCAA season to date

Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jake Evans C Big Ten Notre Dame 35 11 27 38
Nikolas Koberstein RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 36 1 11 12
Ryan Poehling C NCHC St. Cloud State 33 13 17 30
Casey Staum LD USHL Dubuque 18 0 3 3

Goalies weekly performance

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Hayden Hawkey NCAA Providence 2-0-0 2.50 0.875 0
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 2-0-0 2.00 0.934 0

Goalies season to date

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Hayden Hawkey NCAA Providence 22-10-3 2.14 0.914 3
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 19-6-5 1.86 0.933 3