Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Montreal Canadiens prospects playing at the Junior (OHL, QMJHL, WHL, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.
Rhett Pitlick exploded for seven points this last weekend, making January his most productive USHL month of the season. His 16 points in the 10 games he played boosted his production, and have him flirting with the point-per-game mark. With the Lumberjacks, only Daniil Guschin, his linemate since joining the team, has outproduced him.
Once again, Pitlick’s strengths were on full display. His best sequence came when his team was down 4 -1 to the Lincoln Stars on Friday. He took possession of the puck after a turnover on the backcheck and elevated it above an opposing stick with his backhand. He then accelerated through the neutral zone with crossovers, a teammate on his right flank.
Only one defender stood between him and the net, but he didn’t attack him head-on. He moved toward the left boards to drag the opponent that way and give space to Guschin on the opposite side of the ice, then made a precise saucer pass that his teammate hammered into the net.
The play was a good demonstration of Pitlick’s handling ability. His hands are not as dominant a tool as his skating ability, but he can still pull off plays in tight like the one above. He processes his surroundings quite quickly, and if he has the right touch on the puck he can make it slip through stick and skates to escape with it.
He generated the rest of his offence through his pressure away from the puck. The winger can close the gap separating him from opponents in about a second. He barely left any time for Lincoln players to think about their play in their back-to-back games. He repeatedly stripped the puck away from their sticks to send it toward teammates.
His vision adds to his success in forechecking situations. Most of the time, he has already identified a passing outlet or space inside the offensive zone to use when he successfully gets the puck back. He’s an attentive thief, able to chain steals into scoring chances.
That being said, there are probably more opportunities for Pitlick to score on his shifts. Guschin is a proficient playmaker in his own right. He sometimes looks for a return pass to the Habs prospect in open spaces in the slot, but doesn’t find him since Pitlick stayed on the boards expecting a release from his teammate. It happened in one of the sequence in the video above, but fortunately the puck still found its way to the back of the net.
Despite perhaps leaving a few points on the table, Pitlick seems to have hit his stride, and is poised to continue earning points at a high rate in the second half of the season. His current 1.29-points-per-game average with Muskegon closely matches the pace of other top players in the USHL, and his actual production, which includes his more difficult stint with the Omaha Lancers, places him 25th on the league’s leaderboard.
Since acquiring the Habs prospect, the Lumberjacks have continued to alternate between short winning and losing sequences, but the solidifying chemistry of the top line he helps drive could carry the formation on a run to the playoffs.
Allan McShane, LW/C, Oshawa Generals
McShane has continued his hot streak. He now has 10 points in the last five games for the Generals. Some of those contests have been blowouts, like the matchups against the Peterborough Petes and the Kingston Frontenacs, the latter formation being especially known for hosting goal fests, but McShane also stepped up to deliver most of the offence for his team when needed. Over this same span of games he has participated in 43% of his team’s goals.
His performance against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday earned him the first star of the game. He set up the game-winning goal in overtime by putting on the brakes on a two-on-one, letting the defender’s slide carry him out of the passing lane, and then used it to connect with his teammate across the ice.
The centreman-converted-left-winger picked up his other points through his ability to steal or protect the puck on the boards and quickly find teammates from the position.
Let’s hope this recent surge is a precursor to a dominant second half of the season like he had last year, producing at 1.5 points per game from Christmas to the start of the playoffs.
CHL Weekly performances
|Jacob LeGuerrier||2019||LD||OHL||Sault Ste Marie||2||0||0||0|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Everett Silvertips||3||1||1||2|
|Gianni Fairbrother||2019||LD||WHL||Everett Silvertips||Injured|
|Kieran Ruscheinski||2019||LD||BCHL||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||4||0||1||1|
CHL Season to date
|Jacob LeGuerrier||2019||LD||OHL||Sault Ste Marie||60||6||25||31|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Everett Silvertips||60||15||59||74|
|Gianni Fairbrother||2019||LD||WHL||Everett Silvertips||37||5||20||25|
|Kieran Ruscheinski||2019||LD||BCHL||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||36||0||6||6|
NCAA/USHL Weekly performances
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||2||0||0||0|
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||2||0||0||0|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||Injured|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||0||0||0|
NCAA Season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||28||2||5||7|
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||36||19||17||36|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||21||3||7||10|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||33||3||18||21|