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.
It’s the crazy trade deadline period in the CHL, and we are back just at the right time with Catching The Torch to cover the latter half of the season for CHL and NCAA Habs prospects.
This is an exciting time for top prospects in Junior hockey as either they get a chance to play on a very strong team with hopes of contending for a Memorial Cup, or they get to fill top roles in their rebuilding formation for teams looking to them for the future.
Cole Fonstad. LW, Prince Albert Raiders
Cole Fonstad’s Prince Albert Raiders are all-in this year and overflowing with talent. He is playing on a line with their summer acquisition, Noah Gregor, a San Jose fourth-rounder and WHL over-ager who is having a great season. The duo have fed off each other very well recently; the Habs prospect, after a long cold streak, now sits above the point-per-game mark thanks to a crazy stretch of 26 points in 16 games.
Fonstad is still not getting top minutes, but now has found ways to use the chemistry he has with his linemates to his advantage. The fifth-round pick is a good puck distributor, and as long as he can keep finding Gregor with timely passes, the points will continue to come.
That said, the exciting sequences in his play, from a development perspective, are the ones where he can combine his skill and vision to create plays himself without necessarily relying on the strength of his teammates. There is one play that stood out in that way last week, when the Raiders faced the Saskatoon Blades.
Fonstad isn’t the biggest player — he stands around 5’10” or 5’11” depending on the sources — and clearly has room to fill out. Still, it didn’t deter him from using his body in the sequence below to create space for himself.
On a puck retrieval, he stopped before reaching the puck and let the defender bump against him, stopping the opponent in his course and using the push to create a pocket in which to handle the puck.
He tried to cycle the puck down on first touch. The puck was blocked, but before trying again Fonstad caught sight of Ozzy Weisblatt on the board, and changed his plan. He fed the puck to his linemate, starting a give-and-go play that led him to gain a step on the defender. He received the next pass with his feet, bounced it up to his skate on his way to the net, dangled around a second opponent, and tried to slide the puck five-hole on the goalie.
Fonstad can be a shifty stickhandler, especially when he combines it with skating agility. Adding quickness and continuing to work on weight shifts would definitely help him cut through defences even more easily, but the skills he already possesses can come together to pull off repeated controlled zone entries for the Raiders.
In fact, he is one of the players who attempt the most controlled zone entries and is quite successful at it.
Take a look at this zone entry. Fonstad fakes the defender with a weight shift to his left, showing that he is going in that direction to the defender in the neutral zone and making him turn his skates. Instead, he immediately switches and rides the edge of his right skate to create a sharp turn in the opposite direction, leaving the defender in an awkward position to defend the sudden change.
He goes around, extends his stick to protect the puck, and presents it to a second defender who initiates a pokecheck. Fonstad immediately brings the puck back and moves around him, too.
The prospect wasn’t going at blazing speed, but the momentum he had and the deception he used was enough to pierce through the Blades’ defence.
Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals
McShane has moved up in the Generals’ lineup, centring a line with Serron Noel and Anthony Salinitri on his flanks. The trio should be leaned on heavily until the end of the season as Jack Studnicka, the team’s previous top centreman, was traded this week to the Niagara IceDogs. It’s then a good thing that this combination has been very effective for Oshawa.
McShane recorded 12 points in his last seven games, and shows no sign of stopping. Half of those points are goals, as the forward has made good use of his hands and shot, but also of a newly shown ability to find pucks around the net to deflect in. He didn’t just stand near the blue paint to score those goals; he timed himself well with passes or shots, beating his coverage there or arriving deceptively behind it.
More than his goal-scoring, this stretch of games was a showcase of McShane’s playmaking talent.
The pressure he has put on the opposition with good positioning while forechecking has helped him get more turnovers to turn into immediate offence. Unexpected changes of possessions are often where the best offensive chances happen. The opposing defence isn’t set and there are holes in the coverage to exploit. Always acutely aware of his surroundings, McShane can find the stick of his teammates quickly from those broken plays to create great setups for them.
Jarret Tyszka, LD, Seattle Thunderbirds
After a three-assist game at the end of December, Tyszka hasn’t managed to string points together as much recently, which is often the case for a player coming back from injury. There is a rush upon returning, but it takes time to be accustomed to the nightly grind.
Just like last season, he showed that he can make quite an impact on the power play with his wrist shot. Tyszka isn’t a frequent user of slapshots, preferring the precision that the wrister gives him from the blue line, and it can be surprising at times how he can pick his spot cleanly from quite a distance.
You can see him look up to scan the net in the above sequence, and fire the puck in a low trajectory to beat Regina’s goalie.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL season to date
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||Owen Sound||28||22||23||45|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||41||14||27||41|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||28||9||29||38|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||20||2||5||7|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||16||3||14||17|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||17||1||6||7|
Cayden Primeau’s season to date