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.
It took an eight-point week, including a five-point game plus three points yesterday, for Nick Suzuki to be back above a 100-point pace; what we have come to expect from the prospect.
Suzuki has had an up-and-down stint with the Guelph Storm. While he was pretty consistent with the Owen Sound Attack, we don’t know exactly what we will get from him week to week — and the same could be said for his new team.
Guelph edged out a win in overtime against the Flint Firebirds on February 18. It was a formation they should be beating a lot more easily considering Guelph’s status as contender and the fact Flint is yet again at the bottom of the OHL standings.
Following that contest, the Storm ramped up their play, and so did Suzuki. The team won convincingly against the Erie Otters, and the forward picked up two assists. When they met Flint for a second time on Friday, his production exploded. It was an extremely dominant performance by Suzuki, with a few highlight-reel plays.
For his second assist of the night, he received the puck off the rush and skated over the blue line in the wide lane. His speed forced the defender to pivot early, which Suzuki took full advantage of. He brought the puck over to the middle, now behind the defender, and slid it across to Isaac Ratcliffe with only one hand on his stick, a masterful display of his ability to stickhandle in tight.
Suzuki also scored twice using one of his most-used weapons in the past few months: the drag-shot. This release fools goaltenders by changing the angle and position of the release at the last second. It is very effective in Junior, but it should also work when he reaches the professional level due to how deceptive and fast his execution is.
The sequence below is his first goal of the game. You can see the defender going down to block the shot early and Suzuki moving the puck closer to him as he shoots to bypass the opponent. The motion also makes the goalie’s positioning slightly off, enough for the puck to enter the cage to the right of the netminder.
Suzuki picked his spot on that shot. He had his head up the whole time, and, after the dragged movement, sniped it home with a very quick release, dropping his knee and using his weight to flex the stick.
After this dominant showing against Flint, the Storm had a statement game against the London Knights last night. Their firepower, including Suzuki, responded to the challenge. Let’s hope it is the turning point for the team.
Josh Brook, RD, Moose Jaw Warriors
Who is back to being the most productive defenceman in the WHL? It’s Josh Brook!
Ty Smith, the previous holder of the point-per-game title, has slown down in his recent games while Brook continued to tear up the league with seven points in his last five games; enough to surpass his younger counterpart in the category.
The three Canadian Junior hockey leagues aren’t perfectly comparable, but it is worth mentioning that Brook’s current point pace also places him as the most productive defenceman (per game) when combining all of them.
Brook now has 65 points in 50 games.
On Saturday, he reached double the production of last year (32 points), and it only took him three more games to accomplish the feat. One more incredible stat on the Habs prospect: in the games he played for the Moose Jaw Warriors, he participated in 38% of the team’s goals. That would be amazing for a forward, but (needless to remind everyone) Brook is a defenceman.
The main goal this season for him was to achieve consistency, and I think it is mission accomplished. As of now, he has recorded points in 38 of his 50 games (76%). When it was expected that Brook would be slowing down, like in the second half of the season after his participation in the World Junior Championship, the Warriors’ quarterback continued to pick up points at the same pace as before. Playing close to half of each game definitely helps Brook get on the scoresheet, but it also requires impressive stamina and both physical and mental strength to maintain this level of performance.
We have talked at length about Brook’s offensive impact in the last two years of Catching The Torch, and especially his power-play prowess, but one that was less touched on is the defenceman’s ability to create quick-ups, a hockey term that means sending the puck immediately to forwards without going D-to-D on neutral-zone regroups. The play pushes the pace of the game and can sometimes catch opponents off guard in their defensive structure.
Brook’s assist against the Kootenay ICE was a good example of it.
He shoulder-checks a few times to locate his options, and directly upon reaching the puck slaps it up the ice to a teammate in between blue lines, which ultimately resulted in a breakaway, and a goal.
It is one more way Brook has managed to continuously get on the scoresheet this season.
Cole Fonstad, LW, Prince Albert Raiders
Fonstad, partnered up with Noah Gregor, continues to dominate the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. The team has a huge lead over the second-place club in the standings and is poised to easily finish at the top of the league.
The Habs’ fifth-rounder finished the week with five points in three games, thanks largely to a four-point performance against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday, including a beautiful breakaway goal.
With this performance, Fonstad now has 66 points in 60 games, only six away from the mark he had last season.
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