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Catching The Torch: Cole Fonstad and Gianni Fairbrother link up in Everett

This week’s report also checks in with a healthy Cam Hillis, and looks at the fast start for Jacob LeGuerrier.

Robert Murray/WHL

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 (QMJHL, OHL, WHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Cole Fonstad is moving on to the Everett Silvertips, joining fellow Habs prospect Gianni Fairbrother as the team looks to compete for a WHL Championship.

The Prince Albert Raiders, Fonstad’s old team, won it last year. They again sit at the top of the league, but the departure of top players like Noah Gregor and Brett Leason doesn’t make a repeat of their dominant 2018-19 season likely. Fonstad’s trade is an indication that a rebuild in under way for the team.

He has put up nine points in the same number of games to start his fourth season of Junior hockey, and he should help bolster the Everett’s. The Silvertips don’t get scored on all that often thanks to the strength of their back end and the team-wide defensive structure, but they currently sit in the bottom half of the league in goals scored.

It’s also possible he gets a chance to play down the middle for the Silvertips, who lack a top offensive player in that position. Fonstad was a centreman before the start of his Major Junior career, but never got the chance to show what he could do as a pivot for the Raiders. A change of environnement, a new position, and a bigger role could help the Montreal Canadiens’ fifth-rounder selection break out offensively.

Cam Hillis, C, Guelph Storm

A healthy season would be a success in itself for Cam Hillis. The excitement of being selected in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft has waned as he hasn’t been able to take the next step in his development.

The 2018-19 season slipped out of his control. Injury after injury kept him out of games, and in the brief periods he was able to play, he couldn’t establish himself as one of the premier OHL playmakers, despite showing he had the potential to become one in his draft year.

Only having three points in his first seven games isn’t something to be satisfied with for the new captain of the Guelph Storm, but at least he’s on the ice rather than watching from the sidelines. It gives him a chance to make an impact in the game for his team, and hopefully that’s something he can build on.

Hillis scored his first goal of the season on Friday against Jacob LeGuerrier’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. It was a crushing 7-1 defeat, but in the first period, the marker from the Habs prospect’s stick tied the game and gave some hope to the Storm in their difficult matchup.

It was a great individual effort. He won a race to the neutral zone to support the transition and tried a toe-drag against a defender as he got to the offensive zone. The puck wobbled but was kept under his control, allowing him to quickly fire and beat the Greyhounds’ goalie.

He continued to battle hard every time he stepped on the ice, even when it was clear the game was getting out of hand and a comeback wasn’t in the cards. At the end of the second period, the centreman had a shift that encompassed his play style very well. He stole the puck with a timely stick-lift on the backcheck and carried it out of the defensive zone before making a hook pass to a teammate in the wide line in the neutral zone.

The pass allowed his team to gain access to the offensive zone in a controlled way. Then when the puck moved to the blue line, he rushed to the front of the net where he almost capitalized on a rebound for a second goal in the game.

Hillis generates offence through his passing abilities, but it’s his work ethic on and off the puck that got him drafted. Even in his first year in the OHL, the maturity of his play was what allowed him to stand out. His smaller stature never limited his ability to continuously force himself between the puck and opponents, both in his own end and on the forecheck, and drive the net as well.

He needs to show he can put up numbers this season, but the pro-like elements of his game still give him a leg up on his peers who are hoping for NHL contracts.

Jacob LeGuerrier, LD, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

LeGuerrier was on the winning side of his matchup against Hillis. The top-four defenceman of the Greyhounds picked up a goal and an assist in the victory.

Since the start of the season, he has picked up points in nearly every game. He doesn’t have the skill set of an offensive defenceman, but his attention to detail defensively also translates to some scoring opportunities. As he looks to descend from the offensive blue line to match the depth of opposing forwards looking to get the puck out, establishing a solid gap to stop counter-attacks, he also puts himself in spots to one-time the puck on net when it gets to the top of the zone.

This is exactly what led to his goal against Guelph. Twice in the sequence he moved to the top of the circle and found a puck to fire at the net. His second attempt cleanly beat the Guelph goalie.

LeGuerrier was also very eager to jump in on the rush in that game, closely following his forwards as they exited the zone to be a trailing shooting option.

His release is his main offensive weapon, as he is not known as a setup man. He can blast the puck in with relative precision and that skill earned him a spot on the Greyhounds’ power play. With how he started the season, and with the offensive opportunities he is getting, the latest fifth-rounder of the Habs is well on his way to beating his 2018-19 production of only 16 points.

CHL Weekly Stats

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 1 3 4
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 2 3 5
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 2 1 0 1
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 1 1 2
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 2 1 1 2
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 3 1 5 6
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 2 0 1 1

CHL Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 9 1 5 6
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 9 6 6 12
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 7 1 2 3
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 9 4 9 13
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 9 1 5 6
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 9 2 7 9
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 5 0 4 4

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 2 0 0 0
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 4 1 5
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 3 0 2 2
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern Injured
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 1 1 2