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Catching The Torch: Cole Fonstad records a career high in points

Moving to a new team was also the best thing for Rhett Pitlick’s progress.

WHL: FEB 08 Everett Silvertips at Seattle Thunderbirds Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

In each of the last two seasons, Cole Fonstad recorded 73 points. Those were respectable totals for a player who didn’t always get prime opportunities with the Prince Albert Raiders. Last year, the Raiders aspired to a Memorial Cup, and on many nights, Fonstad was relegated to the bottom of the lineup.

But now, we are seeing the fruits of more minutes and a better supporting cast. The Habs’ prospect has played much of this past season with two talented teammates on the top line of the Everett Silvertips. Overager Bryce Kindopp has just signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks after a second straight season leading the Tips in goal scoring, and Gage Gonvalves’s massive increase in numbers could very well lead him to be drafted this year as a second-year eligible.

Both of these forwards have surpassed the 30-goal mark this year, and it’s in no small part due to Fonstad — who currently sits in the top five in the whole league for assist numbers.

He grew into a more dynamic threat as the season advanced. He always has had a skating form conductive to generating speed: he bends his knees to an almost optimal angle, keeps his back straight and recovers his feet under his center of mass to maximize his pushes. But, even if he could beat defenders wide at times, Fonstad didn’t really use his speedy qualities as much as he could.

There are still times where the prospect could better put opponents on their heels, but we see him attack defenders head on with momentum a lot more now. He looks to get inside their space to slip the puck inside their sticks and skates, gaining the offensive zone in controlled manners before they can adjust to shut him down.

Fonstad also now moves on the periphery of the offensive zone in situations where he might have planted his feet on the half-wall in previous seasons. He looks to elude defenders and change the offensive picture. He knows that every step in a given direction can open up new passing lanes, as his movements forces defenders to consistently adjust.

And, while he is more at ease creating offence from the walls, Fonstad rushes the net to find more rebounds. A good part of his 13 goals have come from a few feet around the net. In the same way he finds occasions to collect goals on the doorstep, the forward uses all the space given to him to fire in the slot.

In the clip below, watch Fonstad hold off his release until he gets to the mid-point of the zone. To improve his shot location, he forces the defender to respect the threat of a pass to his defenceman who jumped down from the point.

You can see him take a quick peek across the ice and first angle his shoulders towards the passing target. The defender backs off and moves his stick to counter that play, opening up the necessary space for the forward to release on net.

It’s the kind of deceptive act that ties Fonstad’s game together. He doesn’t pull off any grand display of misdirection, but his game features enough little tricks to open plays for him that are not necessarily available on first look.

The prospect’s current production of close to 1.30 point-per-game with Everett had him finally surpass his previous 73-point ceiling on Sunday. With five games left to the season, it’s possible that Fonstad will join Cam Hillis as the second CHL forward to crack 80 points over the season.

Rhett Pitlick, LW, Muskegon Lumberjacks

Pitlick is another prospect who caught more fire after he was moved to a new team and has has been a bit of the same story: better opportunities meet more chemistry with talented linemates. In the past two weekends, the winger accumulated five points in four games for a total of 31 points in 28 games since the trade.

He scored by positioning himself in the slot, abusing the spotty coverage of USHL defences to become a one-timer option for teammates carrying the puck on the walls, and also by jumping on a shot rebound. It wasn’t an easy puck to get. It bounced about a foot in the air, and Pitlick managed to beat a defender to it by diving forward. He hit the ice, but in the process, also hit the puck with his stick towards the back of the net.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks currently hold a playoff spot, but they can’t slip in their remaining seven games. They have to distance the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in close pursuit if they hope to participate in the spring tournament. A lot of the pressure to carry the offensive load will fall on Pitlick’s line in the coming contests.

CHL Weekly performances

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 2 0 1 1
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 1 2 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 0 2 2
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 0 1 1
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

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 55 31 40 71
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 43 19 31 50
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 61 23 58 81
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 62 23 44 67
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

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 2 0 3 3
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern Injured
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 2 1 1 2

NCAA Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 28 2 5 7
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 36 19 17 36
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 35 5 25 30
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 21 3 7 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 33 3 18 21
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 45 17 25 42