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Catching The Torch: Cayden Primeau named MVP after Hockey East title

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

Icon Sportswire via 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.

Cayden Primeau continues to dominate. Every occasion he is given, he shows that he deserves his status as one of the top goalie prospects outside the NHL. He is a force for Northeastern University; a proven performer whom the team can count on when they step on the ice.

Primeau was awarded the William Flynn Award, given to the most valuable player of the championship, for his performance in the Hockey East tournament. The netminder stopped 38 shots, including 14 in the third period, in the final game and finished the first leg of the post-season with an incredible .967 save percentage. He helped carry his team over other strong college formations of the Boston area, standing victorious after the unforgiving single-elimination format.

Over the full season, Primeau now has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Continued strong performances would have him finish with better statistics than in his record-breaking freshman year, where he ended with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

The competition will only get tougher for the young goalie. Northeastern enters the primary portion of the Frozen Four tournament next week as the number-two seed of the East Region. Their first opponent will be Cornell University, the number-three seed. If they were to win the first round, they would face either Minnesota State or Providence.

Nick Suzuki, C, Guelph Storm

Nick Suzuki is a favourite of OHL coaches, or so it seems. It’s been three years in a row that he is nominated in a category in the annual coaches poll of the Ontario Hockey League. In his draft year, Suzuki got 26 votes for Smartest Player in the league’s Western Conference, comprised of eight teams and more than 160 players. The next year, as he continued to dominate Junior teams on the ice and established his status throughout his conference, Suzuki had the third-most votes for Best Playmaker, Best Stickhandler, and finished tied for second for Best Shot.

This season, Suzuki claimed the title of Smartest Player in the Western Conference with 32 votes, winning over Morgan Frost, who earned the accolade the previous year. Plus, OHL coaches again voted the Habs prospect as one of the best prospect stickhandlers and having on of the best shots, finishing third and second, respectively, in those categories.

Those nominations paint the portrait of the multi-threat offensive player that the Habs prospect has been throughout his Junior career, earning him recognition from his peers and the coaching staffs around the league. Suzuki is clearly a feared, and respected, opponent on the ice.

The Guelph Storm have started their playoff run and are already up 3-0 over the Kitchener Rangers. Suzuki has recorded five points in this opening series.

His best performance was on Tuesday, when there were multiple highlight-reel worthy plays from the prospect. He scored twice and added an assist in what seemed the closest match so far in this round.

Nick Suzuki wears #9 with Guelph

Suzuki showcased his powerful release on his first goal, as he picked a corner and let the puck fly off his stick to the top of the cage on the power play.

With Isaac Ratcliffe on the other side of the ice on the Guelph man advantage, Suzuki has turned into more of a passing threat than he was with Owen Sound, but that goal was a reminder that he can still wire pucks past the goalie when his feeds don’t end up working.

And his releases are not just hard, they are precise and smart. Take a look at this great camera angle of his second goal:

Suzuki is coming down the wing in the wide lane; a position that can be very hard to score from for the average player, even in Junior. But the centreman approaches it differently than most. Instead of attempting the typical high shot far- or short-side on the netminder, Suzuki arrives deceptively, takes a quick peek at the open holes in the net coverage, and picks a low five-hole shot.

The fact that he didn’t reveal where he was aiming until the last second — like good goal-scorers do — contributed a lot to his ability to score in that instance.

There were a few displays of speed from Suzuki in that game. The forward blew past a few defenders to take the puck to the net, and one of those sequences led to his assist.

The prospect still isn’t the fastest skater in his league and probably won’t beat the majority of NHLers in a race, but he is improving every season, and continues to move his feet and create with speed more and more in offensive sequences. A summer of work with a skating coach (which he has done in previous off-seasons) will be beneficial in his jump to pro hockey next training camp.

Barring an unexpected comeback from the Kitchener Rangers (which would require a massive effort considering they lost the first three games by a combined score of 17 to 5) Guelph should have time to rest and prepare their players for their second-round opponent next week.

Scott Walford, LD, Victoria Royals

After Victoria easily won their opening game, shutting out Kamloops, the other two games that followed were decided by one goal. It will not be an easy battle for Scott Walford’s team if they want to advance to the next round. The defenceman knows it, and is stepping up.

Despite having a bit of an offensive breakout this season, Walford still isn’t known for plays like these ones:

Scott Walford wears #7 with the Victoria

Taking the puck all the way from below his goal line to spring a teammate for a shot from the slot is unusual, but impressive, from the defensively oriented defenceman. Especially impressive when it results in the game-winning goal.

The second sequence in the above video (one of his assists on Saturday) is also another interesting one. Walford takes the puck in the zone, squeaks by a defender, and positions himself below the goal line to look for a pass target. He doesn’t rush his play, but waits for a good opportunity. After sliding the puck to the point, he even passes in front of the net to try to tip the blue-line shot, continuing to act as a forward down low. The shot bounces off the boards and is put in on the rebound.

Those plays are continued signs of growth for Walford, who is coming out of his shell to add more of a puck-carrying role within the Royals organization in his final moments with the team.

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

CHL Playoffs

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 10 8 9 17
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 4 0 3 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph Injured
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 11 4 4 8
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 11 10 10 20
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 8 1 3 4
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 6 0 5 5
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 10 0 7 7
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 4 0 3 3

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 64 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 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 32 5 14 19
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 36 8 23 31
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 39 1 12 13

Cayden Primeau 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 25-10-1 2.09 0.933 4