NHL Player of the Month: Cole Caufield
As he did last season, Cole Caufield started his campaign on fire, recording four goals in the opening nine games. He also registered six assists, currently tied for the team lead with Nick Suzuki in that category. For context, he had just 10 assists in the 48 games he was able to play last year. He’s showing more of a playmaking element through the opening month, and holding steady above a point-per-game pace.
Whole goal begins with an excellent play along the blueline for Cole Caufield pic.twitter.com/bycct0KI1H— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 18, 2023
We didn’t know how he would be affected by the shoulder surgery he underwent in February after an injury cut his season short, but so far there seem to be no ill effects. In fact, he’s putting more shots on target so far, upping his average from around three that he’d posted in his first three seasons to a current average of four. He’s doing it while playing over 19 minutes a night on a line opponents can key on, and sporting a +4 goal differential, near the top of Montreal’s leaderboard and without finishing a single game as a minus.
Honourable mention: Jake Allen
Those sparking goal differential numbers aren’t just due to Caufield’s play, but also with a major helping hand (and feet) from Jake Allen. Samuel Montembeault was the goaltender expected to hold the role as number-one starter this season, but Allen is keeping that conversation alive with a .930 save percentage and a 3-0-1 record, several of those results directly thanks to his play in net.
With an inexperienced defence corps and now both veteran blue-liners dealing with injuries, goaltending is going to be a big story of this season. Allen is playing his part to keep the team in games despite some errors from the players in front of him.
– Justin Blades
AHL Player of the Month: Joshua Roy
It was a surprisingly hard choice for the AHL player of the month as a rookie and crafty young vet both had a strong case for the award. At the end of the day, it’s rookie Joshua Roy who claims the honour for October.
Roy didn’t waste much time announcing his arrival to the AHL with back-to-back multi-point games against the Abbotsford Canucks, including a contest in which he tallied 10 shots on goal in a losing effort. His playmaking and vision were readily apparent and it looked like he was pacing himself for a solid start to the year, then he marked his territory in a big way.
With Laval needing an offensive spark to snap out of a losing streak, Roy tallied a natural hat trick and a pair of assists in an 8-4 blowout win over Rochester. His ability to manoeuvre through the defence to set up a goal for Lucas Condotta, and his patience to find a lane for Sean Farrell’s first of the year, in addition to his own nose for the net, make him a true dual-threat option in Laval.
Roy’s big month has him leading all AHL rookies in scoring, but more than that he’s second in the entire AHL for total points and fourth in goals. It’s been a great start for Roy and he’ll need to keep it up as the Rocket look to right the ship.
A special shoutout is also in order for Lias Andersson, whose seven goals are second in the AHL. Andersson has come in and done nothing but put pucks in the net when Laval needs a goal in any situation. He’s been a perfect replacement for the departed Anthony Richard, and if not for Roy would have been a runaway pick for POTM.
– Scott Matla
European Prospect of the Month: Oliver Kapanen
Oliver Kapanen had to struggle against the grain at the start of the season, but came into his own in October. On a struggling team — KalPa is ranked 12th in the 15-team league at the time of writing — Kapanen has been a stable presence with three goals and three assists. Two big losses for KalPa have hit his plus/minus heavily as he was a combined -7 in those games for a total of -9 for the month.
Interestingly, Kapanen has gotten better the longer the season has progressed and one has to wonder how he would have fared with better summer preparation. The National Service is important, especially for a country that borders Russia in these times, but it might not have been the best preparation hockey-wise.
Kapanen still struggles in the faceoff circle. With the defensive responsibilities that he is getting, this is one of the areas that he should improve in throughout the season as he acquires more experience and more strength. His play in on the penalty kill is strong, using his hockey IQ to great effect, but it is his offensive tools that really need to be sharpened.
Two prospects challenged for the honour. Both Adam Engström and Bogdan Konyushkov started September better, but with similar minuses as Kapanen, the defencemen lost out. Konyushkov is more of a Mattias Norlinder-type of player, and Engström has struggled due to his team being one of the most unlucky in the SHL.
– Patrik Bexell
North American Prospect of the Month: Cedrick Guindon
Guindon takes the cake as this month’s nominee after displaying an incredibly impressive level of consistency throughout his 12 games with the Owen Sound Attack. The Habs’ fourth-round pick of the 2022 NHL Draft amassed 13 points and was kept off the scoresheet in only four of those 12 matches, while cementing his role as the pivot of a solid line with Servac Petrovsky and Landon Hookey.
Engaged on and off the puck, Guindon has really impressed with his ability to create and exploit advantages off the rush, as well as his budding ability to find space away from the puck in the offensive zone. He has been attacking downhill after reloading above the puck much more frequently, which has been a refreshing and beneficial adjustment to his offensive patterns. His six goals in this 12-game sample so far have come from shorter possession sequences than his goals from last year, where he would hold onto pucks for longer and oftentimes carry them unimpeded right into dangerous ice for an in-stride wrister, a pattern that won’t be easy to emulate at the pro level. These shorter possession plays, where he separates from opponents below the hashmarks and takes two quick touches at most before shooting, will help him create at the next level.
Although the Boston University pair of Luke Tuch and Lane Hutson could very well have taken the title for this month as the two have been off to point-per-game starts, Guindon has separated himself from that pair with a level of consistency that they haven’t quite matched so far, and the clear improvements in the details of his game. Jacob Fowler deserves a proper honourable mention, however, with a 2.15 goals-against average and .919 save percentage through six games with Boston College. A larger sample will help in his case, but so far, so good for the Habs’ third-round pick of the 2023 NHL Draft.
– Hadi Kalakeche
Patrik Bexell is joined by Anton Rasegård, Jared Book, and Hadi Kalakeche as they discuss the October Players of the Month.