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Catching The Torch: Gianni Fairbrother keeps racking up the points

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Cole Fonstand remains steady in the WHL, while Rafaël Harvey-Pinard is heating up the QMJHL.

Everett Silvertips v Seattle Thunderbirds Photo by Christopher Mast/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, QMJHL, WHL, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Consistency is the key to high production. It’s something Gianni Fairbrother seems to understand. The defencemen only failed to pick up a point in just five of the 18 games he played this season. This steady collection of points, along with his three-point performance when the Everett Silvertips met the middling Saskatoon Blades on Friday, launched him inside the top-10 producers in the WHL in points per game.

Fairbrother isn’t an offensive defenceman but his work on the power play, like his production, has been consistent. He’s a canon on which his team relies to create havoc in front of the net, manning the half-wall at the left of the goalie. He scored twice from this position by creating space for himself and then hammering the puck past the netminder.

Gianni Fairbrother wears #24 with the Everett Silvertips.

In the video above, watch how he looks to position himself right inside the top of the circles. He doesn’t waste shots from further away. The risk of the puck missing his target and bouncing to opponents, or out of the zone, is too high compared to the chance of his release going in. Fairbrother turns himself into a distributor until he can set up at just the right angle and in the spot he likes. Then he blasts on net any pucks sent in his general direction.

His passes can also be dangerous. His team barely missed a tic-tac-toe play he started from the opposite corner of the offensive zone by lifting the puck above a couple of defender’s sticks.

Numbers aren’t the best way to judge the play of Junior defencemen — that’s a given. But when they are coupled with solid defensive and transition play, which is what’s happening for Fairbrother, they become another positive sign of development.

It’s not like the Silvertips are this unstoppable scoring machine. Far from it. They picked up some scoring help in the form of Cole Fonstad a few weeks ago, but still stand 14th out of 22 teams in the goals-for category. They need all the offensive help they can get.

That means involving their defenceman in the attack. Something Fairbrother does quite regularly by jumping from the defensive zone in support of the rush and using the offensive tools of their back end, like his shot from the half-wall.

It could be a recipe for success if coupled with very strong defensive play. It bears repeating, Everett has only allowed 49 goals in 21 games, a low 2.33 goals per game — good for first in the WHL.

Cole Fonstad, LW, Everett Silvertips (WHL)

When it comes to Fonstad his production has also been steady. He hasn’t had a game without a point since joining the Silvertips, and generates his fair share of offensive looks in the team’s top-six. He is still adept at slowing down the game, resulting in some of his best plays.

On Friday, he picked up an assist by outwaiting the defence on the half-wall. The cross-ice passing lane wasn’t open at first. But, by continuing to threaten a shot, defensive sticks moved out of the way. He then connected with his teammate on the other half-wall for the goal.

He also had a typical Fonstad rush, where he skated up inside the offensive zone and drew the attention of multiple defenders, only to drop the puck to a fellow forward coming in a few steps behind. It gave that forward a great chance from the slot, which was deserted by the defence as a result of his play.

Cole Fonstad wears #42 with the Everett Silverstips.

Fonstad scores currently at 1.44 points per game. His place higher in the Everett lineup, compared to the depth role he sometimes played in the stacked 2018 Prince Albert Raiders, could easily see himself surpass his production from last year.

Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, LW, Chicoutimi Saguenéens

Harvey-Pinard scored a one-timer goal against the Saint-John Seadogs last Friday, but it’s really his assist that deserves highlighting (first clip in the video below).

Watch the forward’s work in front of the net as the puck cycles around the offensive zone. He stands his ground against bigger defenders and pounces on the loose disc when it bounces off of him after a shot from the point.

This is where the play turns interesting. Most would pivot to immediately get this puck back on net. But the goalie is set and the defender, who tried to box out Harvey-Pinard, still stands between him and the net-minder. It’s then two obstacles Harvey-Pinard would have to go through to slip the puck inside the cage.

So, he fakes turning to shoot. The defender goes down in a blocking position and Harvey-Pinard drops a pass to Félix-Antoine Drolet for one of the easiest goals he will score in his career.

It showed adaptability on the fly, distinguishing him from the other net-focused, crease presences in junior hockey. He battles for space, but he does it smartly. This helps his impact even as diminutive forward.

As the temperature outside drops to freezing level, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard seems to slowly get hot. He had 15 points in October (11 games) and is up to 13 with two games remaining in November. It is not quite up to his standards of last year, but Chicoutimi has a lot of talent and as they get healthy and gel, we should see his numbers ramp up.

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 5 6
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 2 2 4
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 2 2 4
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 2 2 4
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

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 31 15 23 38
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 31 15 27 42
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 26 10 29 39
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 27 11 19 30
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

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 1 1
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 2 0 2
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 2 0 1 1
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 1 1 2
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 0 0 0 0

NCAA Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 14 1 1 2
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 18 12 8 20
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 15 3 7 10
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 14 2 3 5
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 17 3 8 11
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 20 5 9 14