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).
Surprise! There's a third Catching The Torch this week. The reason is simple: Cayden Primeau and Hayden Hawkey had performances fully deserving of their own separate spotlight.
Northeastern fell in the first game of the NCAA tournament, while Providence lost to Notre Dame in their second matchup of the weekend. But both Primeau and Hawkey were outstanding for their respective teams and tried their best to keep the playoff hopes alive, unfortunately coming just short of a Frozen Four appearance.
Their seasons are over, but they didn't go out without a bang.
Hayden Hawkey, G, Providence Friars
Hawkey had his best games of the season this weekend. He had to step up to give his team a chance against some strong opponents.
And step up he did.
This glove save is a likely candidate for best stop of the season, by any goalie, in any league.
Hawkey sprawled and completely robbed Clarkson University of a chance to get on the board in that second period. Scoring was something they never were able to do in that game as the Habs goalie stopped all of their 18 shots. Despite the low total, few were easy saves.
This shutout was just the third in the Friars' history at the NCAA Tournament. It was also Hawkey's eighth of his career, placing him second on the program's all-time shutout list.
On Saturday, Notre Dame was, as expected, a harder opponent for the Friars, but Hawkey battled to keep his team in the game, and if it were not for a defensive mishap at the very end of the third period, he might have stolen another game for Providence.
Hawkey is a fighter. He never gives up on a play and will find ways to come up with incredibly timely and unlikely saves when he is on his game. He displayed the full extent of what he can do this weekend, and it earned him his fourth Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honour of the season.
Despite an unremarkable year, where he put up numbers only on par with his previous campaigns, Hawkey has shown glimpses of the spectacular goaltending he is capable of. The .930 save percentage he accumulated in the team's last 22 games could also be a stepping stone to a senior season where he shows true dominance before finally joining the Habs system.
Cayden Primeau, G, Northeastern Huskies
Twenty-five. That's the number of shots Primeau stopped in the first two periods of Northeastern's game versus Michigan. And those were not routine saves.
The young goalie pulled off highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save when his sometimes spotty defence couldn't contain the speed of the Wolverines. The 1-1 score after 40 minutes didn't reflect the workload of the netminder.
It's hard to not admire Primeau's technical abilities even this early in his career. He doesn't stay down on the ice if he has even just a quarter of a second to go back on his edges, making him constantly ready to explode in the blue paint, and he often positions himself at the top of the crease to leave as little space to opposing players as he can.
He banks on his ability to read the play to know when to go back down for an upcoming release. Even when the puck is in heavy traffic in front of him, Primeau stands on his skates and uses his stick flat on the ice to block any potential low shots, maximizing his ability to move around.
Faced with close-quarter one-on-ones with opponents, he is very quick and shows a high athletic ability to reposition himself, but otherwise is moving smoothly between the posts.
While his rebound control is not perfect, it's of high importance to him, and he showcases an instinctual ability to know where he can deflect the puck for it not to be slide to an opponent's stick for a free goal.
His fast and often well-positioned glove is also a great aid in that task.
But like any any other player, there are highs and lows for Primeau. He would be the first to admit that the second goal he let in from a tough angle was not up to the standards he has set for himself this season. The puck shot from the bottom of the left circle hit him under the arm before deflecting in.
He wasn't as solid after that. Despite the third goal against being a great passing play and shot, plus a failed coverage by his defender in front of the net, it was one he could have stopped with a better placement of his stick while sliding to face the shooter.
It wasn't a perfect game, but the 18-year-old stood on his head for the majority of it, giving the Huskies a chance to slip away with the win. And they likely would have if it was not for another great goaltending performance at the other end.
Primeau's season didn’t end the way he would have liked, but it's one he definitely can be proud of. He managed to put off historic stats, finishing with a .931 save percentage, and established himself as one of the most improved prospects in Montreal's organization.
It's true that netminders have put up impressive numbers in their amateur career before not making much noise later on. Goalies’ performances also tend to be generally affected by the team they have in front of them and waver through the years. So it will be interesting to see what Primeau can do next season.
But confidence should be easy for him to maintain as he possesses the best quality any player can have: a sense for the game.
Primeau doesn't need much support to play assuredly and smartly in his net. The changes to Northeastern with some players leaving — like their star, Adam Gaudette — might threaten the Huskies’ powerhouse status next year, but fortunately for them, they will have their most promising prospect playing in between the pipes every night.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
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