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, WHL), and collegiate (NCAA) level.
Something unusual happened in the first game of the Clark Cup Final as the Chicago Steel faced the Fargo Force: the Steel were shut out. Not a single goal. Unthinkable for a team that averaged close to five per game over the course of their 54-game season. Don’t get it wrong; Chicago is still the favorite to take home the trophy — the team won Game 2 by a score of 4-1 — but they may have finally met their match. The Force might not have the same firepower, but they seem capable of containing the Steel’s offensive threat.
It is quite unusual to see Sean Farrell fall below the point-per-game mark. He only recorded one assist against Fargo in two games and he has five points in six playoff games. It is probably just a matter of time before the luck-pendulum swings the other way, however, as the scoring chances have been there. As good as the draft-eligible, main shutdown defenceman of Fargo, Jack Peart, is, he will have trouble limiting Farrell to 0.5 points per game for the rest of the best-of-five series.
I clipped some of the Habs prospect’s best passes in his first game against the Force and in his last one against Muskegon last week. The same great playmaking details that characterize Farrell were present in those games.
He attracted defenders and slipped the puck between the legs of defenders, underneath and above their stick. He placed his passes in the right spot, in front of teammates, allowing them to take the puck in stride and immediately start their next play. He also one-touched the disc to attackers in full-flight and worked give-and-gos to move around opponents and create scoring chances for himself. In that last give-and-go clip, the puck seemingly springs off Farrell’s stick. There is barely any tell that he is about to pass.
What impressed me the most over the course of those two viewings, however, was Farrell’s play in tight spaces. The prospect’s skating form limits his explosiveness and balance in tight quarters. Although he has improved in that aspect, he can’t really play off contact as well as some of the other players on the ice. But, once again, he can fall back on his passing skills when the defence collapses on him on the walls.
The first clip in the video is probably the most notable one. Farrell stands at the goal line and the puck is at the top of the zone about to be rimmed down to him. The winger keeps a safe distance between him and the wall, creating a pocket in which to escape after receiving the pass. As the puck slides down, his head turns toward the slot. He locates the first defender and his teammate in the slot. He turns his back to the opponent, catches the disc, and escapes below the goal line to feed a pass to that teammate.
He repeats the same formula in some of the next clips. You see him misdirect defenders by going one way before cutting back into space the other way, and also pass through defenders as they collapse on him. These skills represent strong building blocks of a professional wall game. With more strength and better posture (to improve his balance and puck-protection abilities) Farrell could become a dangerous playmaker not just in open ice, but also from the walls.
There is one more shift I want to highlight. It illustrates one of Farrell’s secondary skills that I haven’t talked about as much this season: his anticipation and timing.
The Steel’s offensive game flows up and down. Players move around, replace each other, circle out and circle in to create confusion inside the defence. After four years, Farrell has gotten quite used to this offensive ballet. He understands what play or movement will happen next and preemptively skates into a position to support that play. He also knows where his teammates will head next and can hold the puck an extra second to wait for them to arrive in the right spot and feed them the puck.
At around the 10-second mark, he surveys the play from the half-wall. As soon as his puck-carrying teammate, skating cross-ice, reaches the top of the circle, Farrell cuts to the slot, picks up speed, and receives a pass in flight. He moves through defenders to take on the goalie. His shot misses, but he fights to get the puck back and takes advantage of a timely pick from a teammate to gain the slot again. This time he doesn’t cut inside, however, as he anticipates that someone will pop open in the slot to support him. He circles the periphery, waits an extra second, and creates a high-danger shot.
There is no guarantee that Farrell will find the same free-flowing style of play when he arrives in Harvard next year. In fact, it is probable that the structure will be quite different. But the creativity he developed with Chicago will certainly continue to fuel his offence. He will be able to stretch and adapt his team’s system to fit his own strengths.
Chicago will play their last remaining games for the Clark Cup next week. They would have likely been the favourite for it last year, but were robbed of the occasion when the playoffs were cancelled. This is a chance for Farrell to win back what should have been his and put the finishing touch on a great USHL career.
CHL season to date
|Kaiden Guhle||2020||LD||WHL||Prince Albert Raiders||2||1||1||2|
|Gianni Faibrother||2019||LD||WHL||Everett Silvertips||23||1||16||17|
|Kieran Ruscheinski||2019||LD||BCHL||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||20||1||2||3|
NCAA/USHL weekly stats
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Smith||2020||C||USHL||Sioux Falls||0||0||0||0|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||0||0||0||0|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||0||0||0||0|
|Luke Tuch||2020||LW||Hockey East||Boston||0||0||0||0|
NCAA/USHL Season to date
|Cole Caufield||2019||RW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||31||30||22||52|
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||31||6||7||13|
|Sean Farrell (playoffs)||2020||LW||USHL||Chicago||6||1||4||5|
|Jack Smith||2020||C||USHL||Sioux Falls||47||7||6||13|
|Jayden Struble||2019||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||18||2||10||12|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||19||6||13||19|
|Luke Tuch||2020||LW||Hockey East||Boston||16||6||5||11|
Goalie Season to date
|Jakub Dobes (playoffs)||2020||USHL||Omaha||0-2-0||2.10||0.923||0|