Welcome to Catching The Torch, where we keep an eye on the Montreal Canadiens’ North American prospects and how their development is progressing week by week.
This time around, we’ll be looking at some news on Sean Farrell’s side regarding an injury he suffered after his return from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, and follow it up with updates on two red-hot QMJHL prospects in Joshua Roy and Xavier Simoneau.
Since most development leagues are gearing up for the playoffs, we’ll start looking at end-of-season report cards for each group of prospects in the next few weeks as their regular schedules come to an end, then follow those up with playoff updates and finish with an updated prospect tier list ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Sean Farrell, LW — Harvard University (NCAA-ECAC)
The Habs’ 2020 fourth-round pick has been out of the lineup since February 18, as he picked up an upper-body injury after being on the receiving end of a brutal open-ice hit from 22-year-old Joe Berg in a 4-3 win against Princeton, his first game back from the Olympics.
I believe this is the hit that injured Sean Farrell — the 2020 4th-round pick is set to return on time for the NCAA playoffs, which start on March 11th. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/wknHi4DbgA— Hadi K. Scouting (@HadiK_Scouting) March 4, 2022
The prospect hasn’t returned to play yet, but as La Presse’s Guillaume Lefrançois reports, Harvard head coach Ted Donato is confident that the 20-year-old will be available for the start of the NCAA playoffs on March 11.
It was a scary scene, however, as Farrell was laid out on the ice for a solid five minutes before being helped off the ice by his teammates, swaying concerningly in the process. If the head coach feels confident in a swift return, it must be because a medical evaluation has indicated as such. Rushing a 20-year-old back on the ice after what seems like a concussion, no matter how important he’s been to the Crimson, doesn’t seem like something a reputable University with state-of-the-art medical facilities would be willing to do.
I’ll keep a close look on his game upon his return, to see if there are any noticeable differences in his play which would indicate a partial recovery. The prospect has earned 19 points in 18 games so far for Harvard, despite currently going through a four-game scoring drought, and has been a staple of the team’s power play and top six despite playing his first games of NCAA hockey this season.
As for his signing, it seems that Farrell will play out his remaining years of eligibility for Harvard before making his way into the Habs’ system, although signing him at the end of next year isn’t entirely out of the question if his production skyrockets. There are things he still needs to improve in his game — keeping his head on a swivel and putting on some weight to better absorb contact are the main concerns, as evident from the hit — but his puck skills, defensive involvement, and pace of play will be welcome additions to the Habs’ system once he’s there.
Joshua Roy, W/C — Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Roy continued to put together consistently outstanding results for the Phoenix throughout the month of February, earning himself a mention in our Organizational Players of the Month article. He is currently on a 13-game point streak, with a total of 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in that span. He recently had a six-point game against the Victoriaville Tigres, earning a goal and five assists for his third multi-point game in a row.
Stay Joshua Roy— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) February 27, 2022
The #GoHabsGo prospect had a + last night. He now leads the @QMJHL with 73pts in 37 games (12 in his last 3). @PhoenixSherbroo | @CanadiensMTL pic.twitter.com/Ed56Ge6U7l
Roy has only been kept off the scoresheet in four of his 38 games this season, resulting in a tally of 74 points on the year. That puts him on pace for 128 points in a full 66-game season. Only six players have eclipsed the 120-point mark the year after being drafted since 2000-01, and among them are the likes of Anthony Mantha, Jason Pominville, and Conor Garland. His 1.95 points per game represent the fourth-highest production rate in that span as well, tied with Jonathan Huberdeau who earned 72 points in 37 games in 2011-12.
It’s been a long while since the Habs have had a prospect in their pipeline displaying the level of productive dominance that Roy has managed, and he was drafted 150th overall only last year. If he was only a month and a few days older, the forward would not have been available to pick until this off-season. His combination of processing speed and puck skills has been a weapon for the Phoenix this year, and with skills development specialist Adam Nicholas joining the Habs’ organization, Roy could be well-equipped to work on his skating deficiencies and become even more dominant moving forward.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a spot out of training camp next season, especially with him being able to play all three forward positions. He’s been that good. We’ll see how things shape up for him, but if he can continue growing his game and getting in shape during the off-season as he did after his draft year, I wouldn’t see why not.
Xavier Simoneau, C/LW — Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
The Habs’ sixth-round pick in last year’s draft has displayed a level of consistency which exceeds even Roy’s. Simoneau is currently on a 21-game point streak, earning 42 points in that span and looking like the best player on the Islanders roster on a nightly basis. In that span he put together six multi-point games in a row, a streak that started right before the COVID break in December and ended on February 17.
With 62 points in 33 games so far this year, Simoneau sits tied for first on the team, with seven games in hand on his teammate Patrick Guay. With only two games on the season in which he was kept scoreless, Simoneau is showing that he is simply too good for his current level. An entry-level contract must be imminent in his case, as he is on the verge of aging out of the QMJHL and could very well find himself playing for the Laval Rocket next season.
His intensity, his unrelenting motor, and his high-end offensive habits make him the type of prospect that Martin St. Louis probably can’t wait to work with. Learning under St. Louis might just be exactly what the prospect needs to take his game to the next level.
A lot of Habs fans seem to be turned off by his size and his age, but his game is hard to criticize. He can occasionally throw his weight around a bit too carelessly, but when you’re 5’6”, you have to play with a chip on your shoulder. His name is one I’d keep in mind when the Habs start their training camp in September.
Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for more on the Habs’ prospects, and to follow along with the rest of my scouting work!