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) and collegiate (NCAA) level.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are one of the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League. Their current 47-7-1 record is the best out of any other team in the Junior league. With the Prince Albert Raiders looking more beatable recently, the Huskies could very well be the favourite for the Memorial Cup.
Joël Teasdale and Noah Dobson, acquired at the trade deadline, were the missing pieces for Rouyn-Noranda’s playoff run. The team needed a minute-eating defender and someone able to put the puck in the net, which Teasdale has proven he has knack for.
The newly signed Habs prospect has 14 goals in 16 games with the Huskies. To that total he has added 11 assists, which puts him on a 1.56 points-per-game pace. Over a full season, this production, with consistency, would have him put him above 100 points — half of that being goals, which is very impressive. With only a couple of months left to the season, Teasdale should only realistically push his production to around 80 points.
The prospect was only a hair above the point-per-game mark with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The increase in his point pace speaks to the impact of a strong supporting cast on a player’s numbers; with a better defence, you tend to play less in your own zone and get more opportunities, and with a better offence, those opportunities are extended and converted on more.
It’s a reminder that context matters when evaluating prospects. While the stat sheet is a very useful tool, it shouldn’t be the end-all of the evaluation.
Teasdale is a very effective player in Junior hockey. No one can deny that. The fact that he was sought after at the trade deadline and chosen by the Huskies for their upcoming post-season push is proof enough. But the question remains whether his production and overall game will translate to higher levels, making him a candidate for an NHL spot in the future.
An effective checker in the QMJHL, he is often used on the penalty kill and knows how to counter the opposition’s transitions. He uses his stick effectively to cut passing lanes and disrupt the rush. He can transform defence into offence, and has gotten his fair share of points while shorthanded.
He can also make defenders miss with his stickhandling abilities and is seen using the boards and even the back of the net to get through the lines of defence. He can protect the puck quite easily against back pressure, and uses some movement fakes to extend his possession time.
Getting to the slot and even to the blue paint is what Teasdale does best. Every chance he has he takes the puck to the net; it’s his number-one play. It’s where he first looks to go when he has possession in the offensive zone, and how he has scored a majority of his goals. His handling ability and strength helps him in his quest to jam pucks in. He is a hard to move in front of the goalie, acting as a screen and ready for rebounds.
But, like any other prospect, there are weaknesses in his game, and his biggest strength in Junior, his ability to find goals around the net, might be something he has to adapt to fit the professional world if he wants to keep being as effective there.
When players struggle, coaches often tell them to get to the hard areas and find dirty goals. Getting to the net seems to be the basis of offence — it’s where you put the puck in the net — so, logically, the closer you are to it, the easier it is to score. But there are some nuances.
In Junior hockey, it is much much easier to be forgotten around the blue paint or to stand there without being touched. Defenders are usually not as physically mature and their defensive game have lapses. Teasdale, in his fourth year in the QMJHL, is very strong, and like many others before him has learned to abuse the deficiencies of opposing defences to score in tight.
Watch the offensive shift from Teasdale below. There are a few sequences where he easily gains positioning in front of the net for a long time with his stick unchecked and on the ice, ready to capitalize on any friendly shot. On one occasion, he is even left completely alone with the goalie.
Joël Teasdale wears #24 with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
In the NHL, unless you are built like a 6’4’’ tank, it is much harder to stand around the net with enough free room to reach the puck and beat the goalie a few inches from the cage. Instead, scoring those goals relies on having great timing and angles to capitalize on shots and rebounds while avoiding being checked.
Brendan Gallagher is a master at this. His home is the front of the net. There, he angers goalies and almost enjoys getting whacked by opposing sticks. But even he, a player who seems to enjoy getting under the opponents’ skin, rarely stands there for more than a couple of seconds; most of his goals have been scored by passing through a shooting lane for a tip at the right time, or taking a few quick steps to the net to bang the puck in the half-second after a shot. He wouldn’t put up the numbers he has now if he was always in front of the blue paint with his feet planted for extended periods (unless he was playing the Anaheim Ducks all the time).
Teasdale has shown that he is capable of a more drive-by approach to his goal-scoring, but he will need to take more steps toward that as he transitions to professional hockey where time and space are limited.
What will be the most important for the prospect, perhaps even more for him than others, is developing a more diverse offensive game and a great sense of anticipation. The forward is not a dominant skater in Junior hockey, and will probably be at a slight disadvantage in terms of mobility when he faces the pros. He will have to rely on his strong core and hands to protect the puck and cycle it between teammates, and will need to fake out his checkers, get lost in coverage, and arrive at the right time to get scoring chances from the slot to find the puck. Otherwise, his offensive contributions could be scarce.
The same is true of his defensive game. Great positioning will be a requirement for Teasdale if he wants to continue having the same impact away from the puck, as his mistakes will be more costly and he won’t be able to catch them before they transform into scoring chances for the opposition. As his path to the NHL will probably come from being a reliable forward, this facet of the game will be very important.
All that being said, there are reasons to believe in Teasdale’s ability to develop his game to find a role in the NHL. The influence of Joël Bouchard with the Laval Rocket, where Teasdale is headed next year, should be instrumental in this optic. Bouchard knows him well, and will understand how to best use and transform the skilled player that the Habs prospect is, helping him carve out a path to the Montreal Canadiens.
Highlights from the Huskies game against the Armada this week.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL weekly stats
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||2||0||1||1|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||3||1||3||4|
CHL season to date
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||66||43||37||80|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||59||34||60||94|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||67||29||44||73|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||59||16||59||75|
NCAA weekly stats
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||End of season|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||2||1||0||1|
|Nikolas Koberstein||2014||RD||WCHA||Alaska-Fairbanks||End of season|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||0||0||0|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||37||4||11||15|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||32||7||23||30|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||34||1||11||12|
Cayden Primeau’s weekly stats
Cayden Primeau’s season to date