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Catching The Torch: Nikolas Koberstein finishes his college career

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Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

(Getty Images) Nikolas Koberstein 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, WHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Five years go by really quick.

Drafted out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League at the end of the 2013-14 season, Nikolas Koberstein was seen as a defenceman able to contribute over the 200 feet of the ice, bringing toughness in his zone, but also having transition and rushing abilities. The fact that he chose the college route, even playing two season in the USHL before joining the NCAA, gave him time to develop into a more finished product while Montreal retained his rights.

At least that was the plan for him. The defenceman ultimately did not evolve into the player Montreal had envisioned, but he still gave some solid seasons to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He finished his senior year as their captain, recorded 30 points in a 125-game career (including four goals), was a towering presence on their blue line, physical at right times, and a defensive presence the team could count on for hard minutes.

During Koberstein’s stay, the Nanooks were never one of the strongest teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, even if they did possess some talented players, which didn’t help the prospect’s success.

From 2015-16 to this season, Fairbanks competed hard each season — in the image of their captain — but ultimately fell in the first round of the playoffs in all four years.

At 23, Koberstein was the oldest prospect of the Canadiens organization not playing professional hockey, and was the last-standing member of the Montreal Canadiens’ 2014 draft class in this series. Jake Evans, who could realistically end up as the most successful prospect of that draft despite being selected in the seventh round, entered college earlier than Koberstein, and, because of it, left it earlier too. The rest of the players of that selection either found a place either in the American Hockey League or were traded away (Hayden Hawkey).

What’s in store for Koberstein’s hockey future remains to be seen. It’s unlikely that Montreal has a contract spot reserved for him, but it’s possible that a professional team could be interested by the tool set of the defenceman. He doesn’t fit the image of the modern blue-liner — a quick skater with puck skills who can play inside an ever-faster-paced game — but his reach, physicality, and good mobility for his size are interesting assets that could appeal to a defensive corps in one of the lower leagues across North America.

Cole Fonstad, LW, Prince Albert Raiders

Fonstad continues to intrigue with the Prince Albert Raiders. His shot wasn’t one of his strongest attributes in his draft year, but it has evolved into a true weapon for the prospect.

This week, in a game against the Swift Current Broncos that the Raiders easily won 8-0, the left-winger came down the wall in the offensive zone, saw that he had room, and rifled the puck past the goalie’s glove and into the net.

It’s true that the defender skating by him didn’t seem to have it in him anymore to even try to stop the shot, but it didn’t diminish what Fonstad showed. Given the space, he can have a deadly shot.

The fifth-rounder of 2018 used more of a snapped release in that sequence than the traditional wrist shot we have seen from him in the past. Coming down the wing, he needed a quick firing motion if he wanted to surprise the goalie, and his shot selection was then perfect for the situation.

Cole Fonstad wears #24 with the Prince Albert Raiders

Fonstad added two assists in that game. He picked up one in a transition play and the other with a between-the-legs pass to start a tic-tac-toe for the goal. That last play was also an example of what we should see more of from the prospect if he wants to produce at higher level. Right now, he can get by distributing the puck with one-touch passes, but he will need to become more elusive with possession; just like he was, moving against the defender trying to check him along the boards before he slid the puck over to Noah Gregor.

Fonstad missed his team’s last game, out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. With the playoffs approaching, it could also be a preventive measure. His current status is day-to-day.

Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals

McShane only recorded three points this week, but had a pretty dominant performance against the North Bay Battalion that could have earned him a lot more. He had a few chances alone with the goalie, burying one, but he missed the net or forced a difficult save on the others.

The prospect’s breakaway goal against North Bay was not his first such marker of the season. He has a knack for making the opposing defence forget about him so he can sneak behind them and receive tape-to-tape passes from his defenders or linemates to beat the line of the defence.

McShane also created a fair share of offence on Friday by forcing turnovers as the third man high on the forecheck and capitalizing on the opposing disorganized defensive structure.

Allan McShane wears #61 with the Oshawa Generals

The most impressive sequence for the fourth-rounder this week was his goal against the dominant Ottawa 67’s. A perfect one-timer launched from on his back foot while sliding backward from the net. The puck flew off his stick and hit the top of the net, past the 67’s goalie who couldn’t raise his glove high enough in time to catch the bullet.

McShane didn’t have a lot of angle or balance to pull the release off. But dropping one knee, feet pointed towards his target, he managed it precisely.

His 31st goal of the season was another testament to his potential, not only as a playmaking forward, but also as a shooter.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL weekly stats

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Rouyn-Noranda 3 3 0 3
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 0 0 0
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph Injured
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 3 3 3 6
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Guelph 3 1 4 5
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 2 0 1 1
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 3 1 2 3
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 1 0 0 0
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 3 1 3 4

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL BLB / ROU 66 43 37 80
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 65 16 27 43
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 33 10 12 22
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 62 34 35 69
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 59 34 60 94
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 67 29 44 73
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 41 8 22 30
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 62 9 38 47
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 59 16 59 75

NCAA weekly stats

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 End of season
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 2 0 0 0
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

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 37 4 11 15
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 25 6 12 18
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 32 7 23 30
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 34 1 11 12

Cayden Primeau’s weekly stats

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 2-0-0 1.00 0.973 0

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 23-9-1 2.05 0.935 4