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.
At the start of the NCAA Division I hockey regionals, there were four Montreal Canadiens prospects competing to reach the Frozen Four. Ryan Poehling lost to American International College; Cayden Primeau and Jordan Harris lost to Cornell University; but Denver University and Brett Stapley rose to the occasion and earned a ticket to the Frozen Four.
The Pioneers successively shut out Ohio State University and American International College to embark on the last leg of the national tournament. It will be the 16th appearance in the tournament for the program, and this year is special for them. It was supposed to a rebuilding season. The performance of their freshman players, including Stapley, accelerated the program’s road to success and led them to where they are now.
Stapley didn’t record a point in the two games his team played last weekend, but was a contributor in other ways for Denver. With more attention paid to his two-way game, he made sure to catch-up to the opposing rush on the backcheck and close up the space in the defensive zone. He cannot be called a true two-hundred foot player just yet, but just like Jake Evans before him — another seventh round pick — his vision of the ice could help him become a key defensive contributor as he grows in Denver’s program.
Despite not recording any points, Stapley still created a few occasions for himself. Using give-and-go plays as a way to create space to handle the puck, he missed two great scoring chances over the weekend, and setup a fellow line-mate (Michael Davies) in front of the cage with a cross-crease pass, but AIC’s goalie made an incredible save on the play.
Brett Stapley wears #7 with the Denver Pioneers
Stapley’s standout ability in the offensive zone is how he can continuously extend possession for his team. He stretches the zone, cuts back on defenders and always has the awareness to find the nearest outlet if he is under too much defensive pressure; and, as soon as he finds a teammate open in a high-danger area, he launches the puck across the defensive box for a scoring chance.
His road in the Frozen Four will not be easy and, for that reason, very interesting to follow.
Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals
McShane hasn’t slowed down in the first round of the playoffs. He continued to pivot the successful first line of the Oshawa Generals, recording five points in the same number of games in the team’s series against the Peterborough Petes.
Like it was the case in the regular season, it was the line’s pressure away from the puck that often got the best of the Petes. There were a few good sequences of McShane transforming defence into offence in that series, knocking the puck away from opposing players in his zone, or on the forecheck, and passing the puck over to a teammate while he repositioned as a supporting option.
McShane isn’t the fastest player on his line, but he is the link that makes it work. With quick passes, sometimes even one-touch feeds, he connects with his teammates before opponents have any chance to reposition to defend his plays.
Allan McShane wears #61 with the Oshawa Generals
In his first assist in the highlight video above, McShane immediately capitalizes on a turnover by sliding the puck behind his back to Serron Noël, who then placed it in a shooting position before getting it past the Petes goalie — another display of good anticipation by the duo who continue to find each other routinely on the ice.
But McShane’s most impressive sequence was not a playmaking one. It was a great release from the slot. The prospect has shown how great of a shot he has at times this season and that specific play was another testament to how effective he can be as a shooter.
There is a few interesting elements that made this shot great.
When he received the puck, McShane scanned the ice for pass options. You can see him looking at play ahead of him to see if he can make a second pass that would maximize the chance of the puck ending up in the cage. But all his options are covered. So, without ever changing his grip or dragging the puck back— important aspects of the quickness of the release and its ability to fool the goalie — McShane wired the puck top net.
The Oshawa Generals will face the Niagara Icedogs in the next round. It will be a big challenge for Oshawa. The Icedogs score in bunches and have some players capable of taking control of the game. Plus, they are also a pretty sound defensive formation. The dual-threat capabilities of McShane, the fact that he can act as both a goalscorer and playmaker, will have to be on full display if the Generals are to get past the Icedogs.
Around the CHL
What was supposed to be an easy round one opponent, turned out into a hard-fought battle. The Shawinigan Cataractes were the last team to qualify for a playoff spot, barely squeaking in with a meager 33 points as the 16th seed in an 18-teams league. The Cataractes recorded 14 wins over the full season and accumulated 49 losses. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies only suffered eight losses through the whole season.
But it took six games, two more than it should have, for Joël Teasdale and the Huskies to get past their first opponent in the playoffs. The match-up was another example of what underestimating your opponent can cause for a team; it will give some pause to those who were penciling the Rouyn-Noranda to easily get a ticket to the Memorial Cup.
In the OHL, the Guelph Storm got rid of the Kitchener Rangers in four quick games. The contest was a first great test for the newly constructed team — who now have deadline acquisitions as their core pieces — and they responded in a great way. Nick Suzuki recorded seven points in four games, the Storm outscored their opponent 22 to six, and the formation will move on to face the scarier London Knights in round two.
Out West, both Scott Walford and Cole Fonstad will have chances to avenge fellow Habs prospects in round two. Walford and the Victoria Royals will face the Vancouver Giants who eliminated Jarret Tyszka, and Fonstad’s Prince Albert Raiders will face the Saskatoon Blades who won over Josh Brook.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||10||8||9||17|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||11||10||10||20|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||8||1||3||4|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||4||0||3||3|
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 season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||37||4||11||15|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||36||8||23||31|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||39||1||12||13|
Cayden Primeau season to date