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Catching The Torch: Jack Gorniak’s quickness helping him find a role in the NCAA

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

Icon Sportswire via 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, WHL), collegiate (USHL, NCAA), and professional (ECHL) level.

Jack Gorniak had been spending some time on the top line with Wisconsin's top-scoring forward, Seamus Malone, before rejoining Tarek Baker and Sean Dhooghe on the second trio. Gaining confidence and being trusted with creating offence, the Habs freshman has started producing recently, picking up seven points in his last 13 games after recording just a single point in his first nine.

The NCAA is a hard league to play in. Teams often play tighter defensive systems than what we see of Junior formations in Canada. They have a much higher practice-to-game ratio, while in the college league back-to-back games against the same opponent is the norm, giving even more importance to pre-scouting and adaptability. Strategies can be drilled in during the week of preparation, and players are generally better at taking away space and in one-on-ones.

For those reasons, plays like this one are not possible for Gorniak anymore.

But the element that stands in this highlight-reel attempt, Gorniak’s skating ability, is still a great tool for the prospect to rely on with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Gorniak has multiple gears and a relentless motor. He is not only speedy, but also has great acceleration which fits his north-south game very well. He propels himself on the ice with a constant use of crossovers, switching to forward strides when he has already reached his full momentum.

Due to his skating style, it often looks like Gorniak is hopping on the ice. He shuffles his feet in short, very fast pushes that have him catch up rapidly to the play. He can hunt the puck on the backcheck and in an instant be on an unsuspecting rushing opponent to steal the puck away or force a dump-in. Even if he is the furthest player from the puck on an opposing breakout, he often arrives first at his own blue line to help his defence as the play descends in his end.

On the attack, his skating can put defenders on their heels, force them to make bad decisions, or forfeit the blue line. It can also push the defensive line back for his teammates, or allow him to reach the net ahead of the play, uncontested as his teammates enter the offensive zone.

One thing Gorniak could add to his skating and 200-foot game is the usage of linear cross-overs. When he is at the top of his momentum, he expends a lot of energy maintaining it by constantly using full forward strides. He could benefit from punctuating those strides with a crossover every so often to add a deceptive element to his skating, or quick bursts that make predicting his skating path and the appropriate gap harder for defencemen.

Here’s an example of linear crossovers from Jesse Ylönen, one of the very top skaters in the entire Habs organization. He uses forward strides but also crosses his feet two times, letting his weight-shifts move him along, beating the defenceman with those accelerations.

Still, Gorniak’s pressure-heavy style as it is, fueled by his athletic attributes and work ethic, has him growing into a dependable forward for Wisconsin.

Right now, Gorniak has a role both on the penalty kill and the man advantage, slotting in as pivot on the second wave. He is getting chances to show what he can do. The totals he puts up, and offensive potential, will depend on if he can develop his vision and other tools to go along with his skating.

Gorniak had a nice setup on Saturday to spring Dominick Mersch for a goal early in the first period. He entered the zone through the middle, attracted the full attention of the defence to himself — all four sticks of the defenders were pointed toward him — and slid the puck over to his teammate to give him a shooting chance from inside the dots.

Such displays have been scarce for the prospect, but remain encouraging. They should also become more common as he gains experience.

It’s probable that Gorniak finds a nose for the net, and a stronger aptitude along the boards. As he develops, his balance and edges will allow him to stand his ground and find pucks to push in, and his explosiveness could be used to separate from defenders in close quarters and head toward open ice with possession, finding scoring chances for himself and others.

It may have been a high-school league, but Gorniak still tallied 108 goals and 146 assists in his career before coming in to Wisconsin. He definitely knows how to get the puck in the net. Now, it’s a question of finding new ways to get it there.

Joël Teasdale, LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

The Huskies have been dominating their opponents recently. They won games against Val-d’Or, Charlottetown, Saint John, and Blainville-Boisbriand respectively by scores of 4-0, 8-1, 8-4, and a ridiculous 10-0. Teasdale, playing on the first line, didn’t let up against his old club with a three-point night, and those where added to the six points he already had in the three previous matchups.

In total, he has recorded 16 points in eight games since joining Rouyn-Noranda. He has been just what the doctor ordered for the team.

His experience has served the team’s offensive game very well. Teasdale looks calm out there; he is patient and knows he will get scoring opportunities with the talent around him. His effectiveness around the blue paint has been magnified and he is just finding goal after goal, rushing the net when it’s undefended or planting his feet in front of it, fighting against back pressure when needed with his stick on the ice, ready for a pass or for a deflection.

He has also shown that he can fake out defenders and peel off of the boards to create space for himself and more offence for his line.

His production of two points per game shows no sign of slowing down, and he could rapidly become the top goal-scorer on the team as his totals increase from his time with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

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

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 BLB / ROU 45 26 28 54
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 43 13 16 29
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 30 9 12 21
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 39 19 21 40
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 36 23 30 53
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 47 18 30 48
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 18 4 9 13
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 42 5 21 26
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 35 10 36 46

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 Big Ten Wisconsin 22 2 6 8
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 19 5 11 16
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 20 3 16 19
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 23 0 6 6
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 21 1 7 8

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 13-4-1 2.37 0.922 3