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, QMJHL, WHL, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.
After starting slowly this season, Hillis has pressed on the accelerator to rapidly climb the OHL leaderboard. He has been named OHL Player of the Week with seven points in two games (2G, 5A) and has produced at 2.4 points per game since October 18.
It is probably already too late for Hillis to catch the top point-getters of the OHL — his three points in seven games to start the season will continue to hold him back — but this recent pace equals those of some of the top names in the league; players like Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, and Connor McMichael.
There is a distinction to be made here as the Habs prospect is in his draft-plus-two year and doesn’t have the same skill or game-breaking abilities as those first-rounders, especially Byfield, who is totally in a league of his own and will be selected in the top two of the 2020 NHL Draft.
That being said, Hillis is also a special case. He lost a season to injury and his draft year was his first in the OHL, not his second like most CHL prospects. So even if he is months older than Kaliyev and McMichael, he played less overall games in the league.
Hillis’s newfound production is an encouraging sign on his overall projection. Now, it’s all about maintaining it. That will be accomplished through growing and diversifying his playmaking to consistently find ways to drive the play and write his name on the scoresheet.
Cole Fonstad, LW, Everett Silvertips
We haven’t talked a lot about Fonstad in this start to the season. After being traded to the Silvertips and chaining 11 points in five games, the left-winger injured himself in practice, missing almost a month of activity. This week was his first back on the ice. He recorded an assist in both of Everett’s games.
Fonstad pulled off his most dangerous looks through a good coordination between skates and hands. He isn’t the most deceptive dangler, but he can move around defenders quite easily with his edges.
Watch how he lifts one leg off the ice to tighten his turn, or uses the heel of his blade as a pivot point to abruptly adjust his handling and fire a shot.
The second clip in the video above is Fonstad’s assist against the Spokane Chiefs on Friday. The way he jumped up as the high forward to pick up possession as the Chiefs tried to break out left the defence out of position. Gage Goncalves was forgotten in front of the net and Fonstad rapidly connected with him after manoeuvring through traffic.
There are still some hurdles to overcome on the fifth-rounder’s path to professional hockey. The Habs prospect remains a slight forward, even in his fourth year in the WHL. Protecting the puck in board battles can be a challenge for him still. He also needs to up the pace of his game, taking advantage of a speed he rarely shows to the full extent to push back defences, catch them scrambling, and create the necessary open ice to be effective.
Fonstad’s talent and his ability to be equal parts shooter and playmaker could be of great help to Everett if he gels with their first line. Continuing to show his offensive upside would help him earn a contract at the end of the year.
Gianni Fairbrother, LD, Everett Silvertips
The last two games of the Silvertips this weekend revealed another facet of Faibrother’s effectiveness: he can be a great asset on puck retrievals on the offence, complementing what a forward like Fonstad can’t do as well.
Fairbrother stands just 6’0”, but he is heavy. More than anything else, his puck protection mechanics are strong.
In a sequence against Spokane, the defencemen found himself on the half-wall. Positioned there, he can make use of his hard shot, keeping it low for the two Silvertips forwards to attempt tip-ins in front of the net. Plus his quickness and the way he uses his body also makes him good at keeping the puck inside the zone — the primary goal of any blue-liner on the power play.
Watch how #24 of Everett immediately challenges #9 of Spokane at the start of this power-play sequence. He gets slightly in front of him and then pushes his back against the opponent before opening his hips and going 10-and-two to surround the puck and seal it from opposing access. After managing that, he kicks it down the wall to a teammate, effectively keeping possession for his team.
The sequence continues as Fairbrother hammers the puck on net from a pass to the point. Unfortunately, the puck is wobbly on the resulting shot and can’t be deflected by any friendly stick in front.
Fairbrother routinely moves from the point to the half-wall with a man advantage. His qualities make him effective in both positions. Compared to last year, he is also shifting laterally a bit more, which helps him find shooting lanes and get closer to the net to release.
He still has yet to find a goal in 14 games this season, but it should soon change with the amount of shots the defenceman has directed towards the net (2.21 per game).
CHL Weekly Stats
|Jacob LeGuerrier||2019||LD||OHL||Sault Ste Marie||3||0||1||1|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Everett Silvertips||4||2||4||6|
|Gianni Fairbrother||2019||LD||WHL||Everett Silvertips||4||0||1||1|
|Kieran Ruscheinski||2019||LD||BCHL||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||3||0||0||0|
CHL Season to date
|Jacob LeGuerrier||2019||LD||OHL||Sault Ste Marie||27||2||13||15|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Everett Silvertips||25||5||26||31|
|Gianni Fairbrother||2019||LD||WHL||Everett Silvertips||25||4||16||20|
|Kieran Ruscheinski||2019||LD||BCHL||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||30||0||3||3|
NCAA Weekly Stats
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||2||0||1||1|
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||2||2||0||2|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||1||1||2|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||0||0||0|
NCAA Season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||14||1||1||2|
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||18||12||8||20|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||14||2||3||5|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||17||3||8||11|